Jurgen Klopp’ will make his much-anticipated emotional return to Borussia Dortmund with Liverpool in the Europa League on Thursday.
Thursday’s quarter-final first leg at Signal Iduna Park sees Klopp return to a club where he won consecutive Bundesliga titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, before reaching the 2013 Champions League final, where they lost to rivals Bayern Munich.
After Klopp’s final season ended in far from fitting fashion – Dortmund were bottom for large parts of the campaign, including throughout the mid-season break – Thomas Tuchel has taken the club back to the top, and they sit five points off Bayern with six games to play.
Tuchel has beaten Klopp just once in the coaches’ 10 meetings, losing seven of Mainz and Dortmund’s meetings between 2009 and 2014.
And Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke admitted concerns that more mental warfare could be waged by Klopp if he were to tug on the heartstrings of his adoring Signal Iduna Park public.
Watzke told Bild: “Most of all I fear that Klopp is trying to lull us into a false sense of security and that he will try to get our fans on his side to ensure that the match feels like a friendly.”
He added to Welt am Sonntag: “I would like to see that our fans pay their respects to Jurgen after the game but not before and not during it.
“We must stand together to be able to beat a club like Liverpool.”
Dortmund have lost just twice in a Europa League campaign that began all the way back in July, and has encompassed 14 games so far, although they showed few signs of fatigue in dispatching Tottenham 5-1 on aggregate in the previous round.
Liverpool have drawn six of their 10 fixtures in the competition, but remain unbeaten, and James Milner says Klopp has instilled a fearless mentality around his new team.
“We don’t fear anyone and we’ve proved this year we can beat anyone,” he told Liverpool’s official website.
“We have to make sure we’re on our game and if we do that we’ve got every chance of going through to the next round.
“Although we want to score – I think that’d put us in a strong position – you have to be tight at the back and make sure you’re not too aggressive in doing that.
“With us being away first, the away goal would be nice, and then we come back and that gives you a bit of a cushion at home where you want to keep a clean sheet.”
Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan returned to training after almost a month out with a foot injury on Tuesday, while Mats Hummels is set to be reinstated into a defence missing Neven Subotic through thrombosis in his arm after the Dortmund skipper was rested at the weekend.
Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke remain injury doubts for Liverpool.
Key Opta stats:
– Jurgen Klopp took charge of 319 competitive games as Borussia Dortmund manager, winning 180 (56.4%).
– At Signal Iduna Park, Klopp won 96 of his 155 competitive matches in charge of Dortmund (61.9%)
– The Germans have won all four of their Europa League matches in the knockout stages so far this season; 2-0 & 1-0 vs FC Porto and 3-0 and 2-1 vs Tottenham Hotspur.
– Liverpool have conceded just six goals in their last 12 Europa League matches.
– This will be the 18th time that Liverpool have played a European away game in Germany (incl. East Germany) – they have only won two of their previous 17 trips (D9 L6).
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