TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders assistant coach Djimi Traoré was walking off the field after practice Wednesday having done some extra work with with left back Nouhou, and he was in a pretty good mood. The former centerback for the Sounders had just returned to the team after a week in Europe, where he was working on his coaching license.
Unfortunately his timing was a little off: if his scheduled study abroad had been one week later, he might have been able to find some time to head to Madrid to catch the Champions League final between Tottenham Hotspur and his beloved Liverpool.
Traoré is a member of one of the most famous Liverpool squads in modern history. In one of the most memorable Champions League finals in memory, the 2004-2005 team shocked AC Milan by overturning a 3-0 deficit, before winning the Champions League title in penalties. It was Liverpool’s fifth European title, and first in 20 years. The final on Saturday will provide Traoré and Liverpool fans another chance to celebrate a trophy, having lost the Champions League final last year, and narrowly missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City this year.
“It’s a massive game,” Traoré said after practice. “To lose the league on the final game of the season was tough for them, but it shows they have character because they are now in the Champions League final.”
Unlike last year, where Liverpool was not expected to win against the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Real Madrid, most pundits see the Reds as the favorites against Tottenham.
“I hope they will gain from the experience from last year as they played against Real Madrid.” Traoré said. “Real Madrid was the favorite so now it’s a different game now as I think Liverpool is the favorite against Tottenham as they’ve been there before.”
While being anointed the favorite can put pressure on the team to perform, Traoré thinks the quality in the team and the mentality won’t allow them to take Tottenham lightly.
“That kind of final [as the favorite] is tough to predict; my advice is to play as they have all year,” he said. “They have the front three that is capable of scoring against any defense. I hope they will do the job because they are a very strong team, have a top-class goalkeeper, centerbacks are top class and there is a massive advantage for the final.
“Liverpool has been there for before, most of the starting 11 has been there before and hopefully if we can keep everyone healthy for that final and and start with the strongest starting 11 it will make the difference.”
Given the disappointment of the last two years, and Liverpool’s somewhat infamous league trophy drought since the Premier League came into existence, Traoré recalled how the 2005 trophy etched that team’s place in history.
“For us, there was even more pressure because back in my time, we know we want to bring the cup back home and celebrate with the fans,” Traoré said. “When you win it, you’re forever in the heart of the fans. Even today, people stop me to talk to about the final, because it means a lot for them. Liverpool is on the DNA of the club; you need to win that cup because it’s something special.”
The date of the final is unfortunate for Traoré, given he had just returned from Europe. That said, he didn’t push to get some extended time off. “I just came back from Europe doing my coaching license,” he said with a smile. “I just came back from one week [there], so I can’t ask for two weeks because people will start thinking I’m going on holiday.
“We play on the same day against Dallas, so it will tough to watch both games but I will do my best and hopefully they will win the cup.”
While Traoré doesn’t think that Liverpool will take Tottenham lightly, he is pretty confident of a Liverpool victory. “They will not underestimate Tottenham; they did what there were supposed to do to get into the final,” he said. ”Everybody will think I’m pretentious, but I think Liverpool will win the game 3-nil.”