Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is praying for a different experience of a Champions League Final following the heartache and despair of last season’s defeat to Real Madrid as he seeks to banish the painful memories suffered from Kiev.
12 months after being withdrawn to tears due to a shoulder injury inflicted by Real Madrid club-captain Sergio Ramos, the Reds Egyptian King is relishing at the chance to make amends and inspire his club towards the biggest prize in European club football.
Salah believes this record-breaking Liverpool side that recorded it’s best ever Premier League points tally of 97 is a much stronger force compared to the team that fell short last season and says there is a formidable determination in Jurgen Klopp’s squad to right the wrongs of last season when they face Tottenham Hotspurs in Madrid on June 1.
“I am so happy that I have the chance to play another final. I hope I can play the full game this time,” he said.
“I am very excited for that. I hope we can right what happened last season, get a good result, and win the competition.
“We are very excited. Of course this is our second final in a row. We lost the first, but everything feels better this time around and we have more experience than the last time.
“We had a good preparation period in Spain. Now we are back in Liverpool and we are feeling very motivated as players and coaching staff. I hope we can win it this time."
Salah desperate to make European 'dream' a 'reality'
Asked whether he dreamed of scoring the goal that secured Liverpool their sixth European crown, he replied: “Not just dream. I hope it becomes a reality and I score in the final, then win the African Cup of Nations [being played in Egypt next month] too.”
Following on from his dazzling debut season that saw the Reds striker net a staggering 44 goals in his inaugural Liverpool campaign, Salah has scored 26 goals across all competitions this term.
His 22 goals in the Premier League meant that Salah retained the Premier League Golden Boot for the 2018/19 season, as he shared it with team-mate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Salah also believes that last season’s heartache could serve as valuable insight in how to get over the line this time around when they line up against a Spurs’ team making the club’s first appearance in Europe’s biggest match in club football.
He told BeIN Sports: “This is our second final in a row. We lost the first but everything feels better this time around and we have more experience than last time.
“We are all looking forward and we had a good preparation period in Spain. We are back in Liverpool and we are feeling very motivated as players and coaching staff. I hope we can win it this time.
“We had great preparations in Spain and it was a good time to prepare there. The team is now at the best level physically. So I hope this stop was an advantage for us in the final.”
Liverpool’s preparations for the club’s ninth European Cup final were given a gargantuan boost following the news that Roberto Firmino has recovered from a groin problem in time for the final with the Brazilian having already scored on both occasions against Tottenham this season.
“Roberto is very important for us and helps us so much in all our games,” Salah told beIN Sports.
“I'm so glad that he's back, especially for him personally. I hope he can help us again to achieve something good.”
The highly anticipated second-ever all-English final will provide an unfamiliar scenario for Liverpool who, in contrast to a year ago, will go to Madrid as the favourites to lift the trophy.
The Reds recorded a Premier League double over Spurs (both 2-1 victories) and also finished 26 points ahead of the Lilywhites. However, Salah understands the threat that Mauricio Pochettino’s side oppose following Tottenham’s ability to brush aside Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax during the knockout phase of the competition.
“I think it will be tough,” Salah added.
“But at the end of the day, this is a final and no opponent would have been easy. It would have been the same if it was Ajax - a team that beat Real Madrid and Juventus.
“Now we only think about Tottenham. It is harder because it is an English side, but we needed to win whether it was against Ajax or Spurs. That is the most important thing we want to do.
“All we have to do is stay focused. Who is favourite and who isn't will not change what you have to do on the pitch.
“It could give us a bit of a boost but it won't be the main reason why a side wins a game."
Squad to arrive in Madrid day before final
Salah and Liverpool will make their way to Madrid a day before the final itself and the players are fine-tuning their preparations at Melwood following a long training camp in Marbella.
Speaking about the trip to Spain, Salah added: “It was actually good. We had great preparations in Spain and it was a good time to prepare there.
“The team is now at the best level physically. So I hope this stop was an advantage for us in the final.
“We will head over there a day before the final and train. I hope we can acclimatise quickly. It was hot in the training camp in Spain so we got used to it a bit. I hope this also helps us in the final."
Following another season that has seen the most competitive title race in recent memory, another surge towards a Champions League final and an African Cup of Nations awaiting the Egyptian, Salah’s second season at Liverpool hasn’t let up in the slightest.