Only an English Premiership and a FIFA Club World Championship winner's medal are lacking from Sami Hyypia's impressive honours list at Liverpool FC. The Finnish defender has won the FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Community Shield with the Merseyside giants - not to mention the UEFA Champions League, secured in dramatic fashion against Italian giants AC Milan in Istanbul last May. For those that missed the memorable match, the Reds, who were trailing 3-0 at half-time, amazingly fought back to take the game into extra-time and won 3-2 on spot kicks.
Now the 32-year-old is hoping to win it for the second successive year, becoming the first team since Milan in 1990 to repeat the feat. But first the Merseysiders have to get past the group stages - and a tricky tie with Real Betis on Wednesday evening. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com the experienced defender recalls that famous night in Turkey and looks ahead to the visit of the Spanish side to Anfield.
FIFA.com: Looking back to Istanbul - was there a moment when you gave up hope?
Sami Hyypia: Yes, I think that at half-time not many people believed that we stood a chance and if I am being honest, I don't think the players did either. But we decided as a team to work hard and give something back to the supporters. I think at first we were just looking for a consolation goal, to give the fans something to celebrate at least. But the turnaround was exceptional - it was indescribable.
When did you start to believe?
I think when we scored the second goal, I started to think: 'We can win this.' Then the third one came quite quickly after that.
Was there a moment in the qualifying rounds when you thought: 'Our name is on the cup?'
No, not really. However, looking back, perhaps the Olimpiacos night was a sign of things to come. It was great that we got through as it was such a difficult game. They scored first, which meant that we needed three goals to go through and we did it in the last minute. But I can't say that it was the moment when I thought we were going to win the competition, because there was still a long way to go. Even when the penalties were being taken in Istanbul, I thought that there was still a long way to go! For the first time in my life, as I was standing on the halfway line I was asking for some help from upstairs. Fortunately, the help was given!
Are you confident that you can successfully defend your title?
Yes, I am always confident. You have to set yourself big targets and do your best to achieve them. It is going to be difficult to win the Champions League again. Nobody expected us to win it at the start of last season and probably no-one expects us to retain it, but we are going to do everything we can to prove people wrong again.
Liverpool have achieved much better results in the group stages this year than last year - do you think that is because of the experience you gained as a team last season?
Possibly. We have done well in Europe so far this season. I suppose when you consider that we lost to Monaco and Olimpiacos away in the group stages last season; then we have done better this time around. This season we have played much better. I think it may be due partly to experience, but I think it is down to the manager. When he came last season, he used a different system of playing. That took a bit of getting used to and maybe that is why we lost those matches. Now we have adapted to his system, we are getting better results.
What impressed you about Real Betis in the first match of the UEFA Champions League?
They are a quality side, with a lot of quality players, especially going forward. They have skilful wide players who I think could walk into any of Europe's top teams. However, I think they are a little vulnerable at the back, which we could exploit. We know their strengths and their weakness and we are looking forward to playing them again.
You won quite comfortably in Seville, but do you expect a tougher game at Anfield, given that Betis have been improving with each match?
Yes. It will not be an easy game. I have to say that I found it very tough in Spain. We were lucky that we managed to go ahead in the first half, but in the second half they dominated the match. They put pressure on us and we were hanging on in the last few minutes. With the experience they have gained in the Champions League since then, I am expecting a difficult game. I think they will be coming here, hoping to defend deep and looking to score on the counter attack. That will make it hard for us.
Real Betis will be without Ricardo Oliveira - is that good news for you?
I suppose so. He is an excellent player, but now they will pick another talented player from their squad who will want to take his place and show the manager what he can do.
Did you see any similarities between the fans - they are both quite passionate and vocal aren't they?
Yes, there was a great atmosphere in Seville. I am sure that the atmosphere at Anfield will be just as special on Wednesday, as both fans like to make a lot of noise. That's great for the players. The European nights are wonderful at Anfield and I hope the Real Betis fans enjoy the experience, but not too much!