Thomas Tuchel says Jurgen Klopp is the reason for Borussia Dortmund’s modern-day success – but rejected the Liverpool manager’s claims that his former club are the “runaway favourites” in the Europa League.
Klopp returns to Dortmund on Thursday for a quarter-final first leg against the second-placed side in the Bundesliga, who dispatched Tottenham in ruthless fashion in the last round.
Tuchel – who took charge when Klopp stepped down at Signal Iduna Park at the end of last season – expects the former Mainz boss to receive a hero’s welcome, but is not interested in any suggestion as to who should be considered favourites to progress.
“Borussia Dortmund is what it is now because of Jurgen Klopp,” he told a media conference. “Anything but a great welcome would be a surprise. If it’s eight months or eight years, Klopp’s input will still stand.
“He’s one of the most competitive guys I know. He deserves a welcome, but he’s as eager to win as are we.
“What he says doesn’t factor in for us. Who is favourite does not play an important role. It doesn’t affect how we play. It doesn’t interest me.”
Tuchel has experience of coaching Klopp’s old teams against him, having faced his Dortmund side while in charge of Mainz, and he believes the 48-year-old will be happy to support Dortmund away from the Europa League tie.
“For me, it’s no different. It’s the sixth time I’ve welcomed him back to his old club so it’s a routine for us!” he said.
“I look at my time at Mainz and I’m still happy when they win, so I think it could be the same for Jurgen with us. I’ve never got the impression he wouldn’t be enjoying our success this season.”
Tuchel expects a stern test against Liverpool and has warned his players that they will likely be hugely motivated to win the tournament and secure the Champions League qualification spot on offer.
“We haven’t prepared anything differently for this game. We’ve been calm since the draw was made, we’ve had scouts watching them play,” he added.
“We have had the same focus as the Tottenham game. We find that Liverpool have improved from game to game. They defend very intensively and have superb individual class.
“It’s going to be hard to beat Liverpool. This is now their only realistic route to the Champions League and we’re aware of that.”
Dortmund could welcome back midfielder Ilkay Gundogan for Thursday’s game, with the Germany international nearing a full recovery from the foot injury which saw him miss both legs of the Tottenham tie.
“Gundogan was able to train intensively today so we’ll see how he reacts tomorrow. It could be very tight,” Tuchel continued.
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