Band Richard Tanner
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s coverage of the final day of the 2021/22 Premier League season, as Liverpool hope for a Manchester City slip-up to keep hopes of a historic treble alive.
Jurgen Klopp expects the gap between the top two and the rest of the Premier League to narrow next season, with Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United – under new manager Erik ten Hag – offering a challenge much bigger to his Liverpool side and title favorites Manchester City.
While just one point separates City and Liverpool on the final day of the season, there is an 18-point gap with third-placed Chelsea and a 21-point advantage over fourth-placed Tottenham. United trail an embarrassing 31 points behind their Merseyside rivals.
But Klopp expects these three clubs to go from strength to strength over the summer and predicts that if the remarkable consistency of City and Liverpool begin to wane, others will come into play.
Liverpool needed penalties to beat Chelsea and win both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, after two titanic draws at Wembley, and have also drawn twice in the Premier League with Thomas Tuchel’s side. Tottenham also held them to two draws in the league.
Klopp’s side didn’t have such problems with United, however, beating them 9-0 on aggregate, but he expects their new Dutch manager to spark a major improvement.
“Can I see other teams challenge the City/Liverpool dominance? Yes. I see it when we play at Chelsea,” Klopp said.
“In the FA Cup final I was delighted with the way we played in the first half hour because it was the best half hour we’ve ever played against them because they are very hard to beat.
“We’re all learning and we’ll see what teams look like next year. But do you know that Erik ten Hag is coming to Manchester United? And they’re not waiting five years now or anything – they’ll get big.
“And then you have Tottenham. Obviously Antonio Conte is very, very ambitious and they already have a good squad. If they will play in two competitions [Premier League and Champions League] they may need a few more players, but they will bring them.
“Nobody has to worry that the [present] the gap will remain forever. It was the hardest job to get here, so if we ease off the gas a bit, the 18-point gap is immediately three points – or nothing.
“We have no real influence on the rest. It’s about making sure we can be as good as we can be. We have a talented group now, and we will have a talented group next year. But we have to make it a proper, proper machine and then we’ll start over and see.”
Even if Liverpool are beaten to the title by City today for the second time in four years, it won’t spoil Klopp’s enjoyment of a superb season in which his side have quadrupled their hopes of a trophy so far. in the final two weeks of a grueling campaign – after today’s home clash with Wolves, they will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday, their 63rd game of the campaign.
Klopp said he learned to make the most of setbacks in his first managerial job at Mainz when they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Bundesliga in his first two full seasons in charge, but had progressed in his third.
“Out of 365 days in the year, 364 days in Mainz were better than ever in our lives as footballers,” he said.
“And the last one was particularly bad. It is up to us to judge what we do with it. And I’ve always done that, ‘OK, let’s try and make it 365 [next time].’ And that’s how.
“But for that you also need the other 364. And that’s what we’ve always done. “At Mainz, life gave me another shock because we didn’t get promoted by a point and then a goal, so it was a real test. And then we got promoted. So things work out if you stay on track, if you stay in the right mood, and that’s what we’ll do.
“So I learned that early. It’s the only way I can actually do it. I’m enjoying the trip a lot and anyone who wants to do it too is invited. And if not, I can’t change that. .”
Besides promotion with Mainz, Klopp made a name for himself guiding Borussia Dortmund to the league and cup double before taking them to the Champions League final.
But he admits his time at Liverpool, where he has now won all six major trophies – Club World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup – was the most exciting of his career.
“Certainly,” he said. “I was lucky to have had some exciting moments. If you ask my wife, she asks why it always comes down to the last game day. It happens incredibly often.
“It’s the most exciting because I’ve seen how good the boys are and seen the milestones we’ve reached with just two games to go. It’s unbelievable. I feel like there’s at five minutes it was seven games. Now wham, here we go, two ‘finals’. We’ve been playing ‘finals’ for ages but now really two finals. That’s absolutely huge and, yes, it’s is the most exciting period of my career.
Klopp must decide to risk top scorer Mohamed Salah and key defender Virgil van Dijk – both injured in last weekend’s cup final – for fear of aggravating their injuries ahead of the rematch clash with Real .