Europa League: Liverpool head to head with Borussia Dortmund


Yet those expecting an outpouring of emotion from the Liverpool manager – who between 2008 and 2015 guided Dortmund to one of the most successful periods in their history – were left disappointed.

Putting the sentiment of the occasion to one side, Klopp was sober in his assessment of the size of the task facing the visitors in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg. “We’ve said Borussia Dortmund are favourites in this competition and I don’t think there’s anybody that really disagrees with that,” he said. “If we are not good [on Thursday] then it will be easy for Borussia Dortmund.”

Indeed, since Klopp’s departure last summer, successor Thomas Tuchel has revitalised last season’s seventh-placed Bundesliga team, turning BVB into one of Europe’s most feared outfits. Still unbeaten in 2016, the Schwarzgelben – currently second in Germany – underlined their strength with home and away wins over both Porto and Tottenham Hotspur in the knockout rounds.

“Dortmund have a cool way of playing, courageous going forward and aggressive, so it won’t be easy but we’re well prepared,” said Klopp. “If it was easy [to beat Dortmund], one or two teams might have discovered it earlier.”

The return of Klopp, however, presents a new challenge for Tuchel’s men both off and on the pitch. While Tuchel was quick to downplay the off-field significance of his predecessor’s homecoming – “it’s not the first time I’ve welcomed Jürgen back to his old club” – the city of Dortmund seems delighted to have one of its favourite adopted sons back where he made his name.

“[Klopp was] a great coach, perfect for Dortmund,” said Ilias, a Greek who has lived in Dortmund for 27 years and works in a city-centre restaurant. “Everyone loves Klopp. My favourite memory is that game against Málaga in the Champions League [2012/13 quarter-finals] – it was phenomenal.”

Three seasons on and Klopp will tread a familiar path to lead a young, vibrant set of players out at the BVB Stadion Dortmund for a European last-eight tie. This time, though, he heads a Liverpool side showing early signs of embracing the counter-pressing style pioneered by his BVB teams.

As midfielder Gonzalo Castro – one of four players in this Dortmund squad not to have played under Klopp – warned in the pre-match press conference, it is a style that could damage BVB’s hopes of lifting this trophy for the first time. “Plenty of people know how Klopp likes to play and how he played at Dortmund. They’ll attempt to press us early: ball and man.”

Tuchel echoed that caution, saying: “Liverpool have got stronger over the last few weeks, in large part due to Jürgen’s input. They’re very difficult to play against – they defend very high and have outstanding individual quality, particularly going forward.

“Jürgen is a very, very competitive kind of coach, one of the most competitive guys I know. From the moment the whistle blows he wants to win.”

Or as Klopp put it: “During the game nobody has to think about how I feel. Ever since the beginning of our lives we have played against our best friends and have always wanted to beat them.”

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