Fears were raised over the Champions League final pitch last night as it emerged it was only laid on Thursday because of tight scheduling caused by the late allocation of the game in February.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says he would willingly play the Champions League on a gravel pitch if needed, but he is surprised the surface at Stade de France is so fresh.
“Usually when I say the pitch looks new that is good news,” said Klopp.
“This pitch is new since yesterday, which is not the best news. But it will be the same for both teams. I saw the refs with their session and the good news is the ball drops normal. You can see the lines where they put the pieces of the pitch [together], which is what we aren't used to.
"That someone thought it was a good idea to bring the pitch the day before to the stadium is an interesting idea. But it didn't kill my mood a percent. I am really happy we are here, I would have played the game on pétanque.”
The frantic preparation is because of tight scheduling caused by the late allocation of the game after it was moved by Uefa from St Petersburg to Paris.That decision was made on Feb 25, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The new pitch was first used on Friday evening when Liverpool and Real Madrid trained on the surface as per Uefa convention the night before a competition game.
“We were originally ready to lay the new turf in four to five days,” said Benoit Lavallée, chief executive of iTurf Management which runs four stadiums in France including Stade de France. “With the Champions League final it became a little bit of a bigger challenge. We had to lay it in 48 hours.”
The first roll of the Stade de France’s new Champion League final pitch was laid on Tuesday at 2am and the groundsmen and women worked non-stop from there. The last roll went down at 1am on Thursday.
After that, Lavallée says, the job has been to make sure the joins are perfect and that the ball will run true. He is confident that the players will have a top-level pitch to play on. “Regarding the challenge, the pitch is already amazing,” he says. “If we had more time we could have a better pitch but in this case it is already a great pitch.”
Klopp said although the situation is not ideal, both sides would deal with the strange circumstances: “I think both teams are technical teams and you would wish in a dream world that the pitch is the best you ever saw in your life. That's obviously not the case. You will hear the same from Carlo. Definitely if you win you don't care about the pitch, that is easy to say.
"I don't know how bad or good it is, I only saw it. The refs were training on it and I saw the ball bouncing. Maybe it's perfect, but it looks not perfect. I hope no one makes a story about 'Klopp moaning about the pitch'. I'm fine.”