Share this article

print logo

Liverpool fan Rasmus Ristolainen will never walk alone

There's disagreement in the Sabres' locker room, but the quarrel has nothing to do with what happens on the ice.

The Manchester United vs. Liverpool rivalry is fierce, and the effects ripple all the way to Buffalo's professional hockey team, where Red Devils fan Johan Larsson and Reds supporter Rasmus Ristolainen can exchange banter from across the locker room.

[Read the interview with Larsson on Manchester United]

United-Liverpool may not have the neighborly appeal of the Merseyside Derby, but the match-up pits two successful clubs who find themselves jockeying for position toward the top of the English Premier League table year after year.

There's an added element in 2016, as United and Liverpool were paired in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. Jurgen Klopp's team dealt the first blow, blanking United, 2-0, in the first leg on March 10.

Ristolainen has a bright future on the Sabres' blue line. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Ristolainen has a bright future on the Sabres' blue line. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

The return leg is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. March 17 at Old Trafford. Ristolainen and Larsson have an undisclosed bet riding on the tournament result, which may be both teams' best chance at reaching next year's Champions League.

Here's BN Soccer's chat with Ristolainen about the background of his fan-hood, his thoughts on Mario Balotelli and Jurgen Klopp, as well as an unlikely Sabres coach who shares his affection for the Reds.

*How Ristolainen fell in love with Liverpool:

"When I was young my dad was watching Liverpool's games on TV -- it was probably because Sami Hyypia played there. He was watching every game, and I started watching them with him, and I became a Liverpool fan and try to watch as many games as I can. I try to watch one game a week. I hope they make the Champions League next year."

Ristolainen's father was a fan of Finnish countryman Sami Hyypia, a Reds defender who appeared 464 times for the club between 1999 and 2009. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Ristolainen's father was a fan of Finnish countryman Sami Hyypia, a Reds defender who appeared 464 times for the club between 1999 and 2009. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

*On Ristolainen's brief playing career in Finland:

"I played soccer until I was 12. I played striker and then defender -- so I played both."

*On his favorite players across the world:

"I like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli -- those two are my favorite players. They both are persons and very good players. [Balotelli]'s kind of crazy and kind of interesting -- when he wants to play he can be a difference-maker, like you saw in the World Cup."

Italian international and former Red Mario Balotelli remains one of Ristolainen's favorite players. (Getty Images)

Italian international and former Red Mario Balotelli remains one of Ristolainen's favorite players. (Getty Images)

*Have you been to Anfield to see a match?

"I haven't had a chance, but I hope I will be there watching a game soon, maybe. Maybe after our season ends here and they actually might have some games left."

*On what remains of the English Premier League campaign for Liverpool:

"Big games left -- top four teams are in tight for the title, and I think Liverpool is in the mix there. I hope they play against one of those big teams so they can catch them. It's going to be interesting, eh?" [As of March 16, Liverpool sit seven points back of Manchester City for the final Champions League spot]

*On Jurgen Klopp's appointment as Liverpool manager:

"That was great -- that was very nice they got him. he's a person too, and he shows his emotions there and he's a really good coach. I'm kind of excited about next year, as he can bring some of his players."

*On what players he'd sign if he were Klopp this summer:

"I like the signing [Joel] Matip...from Schalke -- maybe he brings [over] some German guys, from maybe Dortmund."

*On his most hated EPL side:

"I hate Manchester United. It's kind of a big rivalry, so I really don't like them. It's nice to have European guys who watch soccer, so it's nice to talk about those games with them."

Sabres assistant coach Dave Barr is also a Liverpool fan. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

Sabres assistant coach Dave Barr is also a Liverpool fan. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

*On Sabres assistant coach Dave Barr, who also follows the EPL intently:

"That was surprising to me. Earlier in the year we were talking about soccer and [Barr] asked me who I supported, and I said Liverpool and he said, 'Me, too.'"

*Who are some of your favorite Reds, past and present?

"Steven Gerrard. Right now, Firmino, I like him -- I kind of like Emre Can. He's young, he'll be good. It's not right now one player who I like. I have a couple jerseys back home in Finland, Balotelli's and Suarez."

Like many Liverpool fans, Ristolainen counts Steven Gerrard as his favorite player. (Getty Images)

Like many Liverpool fans, Ristolainen counts Steven Gerrard as his favorite player. (Getty Images)

Email Ben Tsujimoto, who doesn't understand the fascination with Emre Can, at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

Story topics: / / / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment