Statistics can tell the tale of Liverpool’s recovery over the past 12 months – Jürgen Klopp’s team suffered a sixth successive home league defeat one year ago on Monday and host Internazionale on Tuesday aiming for a 13th straight win in all competitions – but Fabinho’s Panenka in the Carabao Cup final paints it better. There is no clearer expression of the confidence flowing through Liverpool than the high-risk plan the Brazilian hatched 24 hours before going eye-to-eye with Kepa Arrizabalaga at Wembley.
“The day before I tried to do a Panenka,” the midfielder recalls of his impudent penalty in Liverpool’s shootout success against Chelsea. “It was just me and Luis Díaz, with no goalkeeper in the goal. I told him: ‘Tomorrow if it goes to pens, I will shoot it like this.’ He didn’t believe me. But when I was walking to the box to take the penalty, it was in my mind to shoot a Panenka. When you shoot a penalty like this you know that, if you miss, when you come back to the dressing room everyone will kill you. But it was in my mind that I would take it like this and that I could do it.”
Fabinho’s self-belief stands in stark contrast to Liverpool’s confidence level of 12 months ago. Fulham left Anfield with what appeared a precious win in their attempt to avoid relegation, condemning Klopp’s side to the worst home run in Liverpool’s history in the process. It was Fulham’s last Premier League victory of a doomed campaign. It was also the last time Liverpool lost at Anfield.
“I remember this game,” Fabinho says. “The confidence of the team was really low, it wasn’t the only game we lost at home. The moment wasn’t good but we won the next game against Leipzig and we started to change it around. Since the start of this season some of the players came back from injury and other things changed as well – I didn’t play centre-back any more! We’ve not had many injuries this season and we’ve won almost every home game, which is important. If you want to fight for the league you have to perform, not just at home, but at home is really important.”
The 2-0 win at San Siro three weeks ago flattered the visitors but Liverpool are not complaining. They have never lost a European tie after winning the first leg away from Anfield and have been knocked out of Europe only once when holding a two-goal first-leg advantage. That was against Inter in the 1965 European Cup semi-finals, when Bill Shankly’s team were controversially beaten 3-0 at San Siro having won the first leg 3-1 at home.
Klopp, who has Roberto Firmino, Thiago Alcântara and Joël Matip available after recent injuries and illness, said: “It’s a much better result than I would have expected before we played there. The game didn’t look like we’d win 2-0 for most of the time, it was a really tough tie and really difficult game to play.
“We knew before they have quality and after that we knew they have real quality. They come here having won 5-0 [against Salernitana on Friday]. It was against the bottom team but it was still really impressive. [Lautaro] Martínez scored, [Edin] Dzeko scored and when I saw the game I’m really happy that [the suspended Nicolò] Barella isn’t playing as he set up three or four goals. That’s a really experienced team and they don’t come here as tourists. They want to chase the game and that’s what we want to do. We aren’t a team that defends results – we want to attack the game again.”