Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has stressed that his side cannot afford to rest upon the away goal they grabbed at Borussia Dortmund last week as they prepare for the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal matchup. Divock Origi gave Liverpool the lead in Germany before Mats Hummels headed in an equalizer with the 1-1 aggregate score ahead of Thursday’s return match.
It was a hugely creditable outcome for Liverpool against a side widely considered favorites for the competition ahead of the encounter. It was also a particularly pleasing night for Klopp, on his return to the club he led for seven memorable and hugely successful years. The result means that Liverpool can now progress with a goalless draw at Anfield, although Klopp insists it would be foolhardy to aim for such an outcome.
“You can defend with seven men but you have got three men spare then as well,” he said in his pre-match press conference Wednesday. “Forget about last week’s game. We face the game tomorrow night with a lot of attitude and we certainly won’t be flying a white flag.
“We are aware of the quality of Borussia Dortmund and perhaps Borussia Dortmund can play a lot better, but so can we. We know that we’re facing a good opponent and we perhaps have to do better in tomorrow night’s game against Dortmund.”
Klopp’s main selection dilemma concerns whether to again opt for Origi up front or to go with Daniel Sturridge, or potentially both. Aside from his goal in the first leg, Origi has been stellar, scoring two goals as a substitute in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Stoke City. The victory came despite Klopp making seven changes to his starting lineup from the draw in Germany in a clear signal of the importance the Europa League now holds for the Merseyside club.
And Dortmund took a similar approach when returning to Bundesliga action on Saturday. Despite taking on Schalke in the fiercely contested Ruhr derby and trailing Bayern Munich by only five points at the top of the table, coach Thomas Tuchel made eight alterations to his team selection. And, although they twice took the lead, Schalke secured a 2-2 draw to effectively end any hopes Dortmund had of landing the Bundesliga title.
What it does mean is that both teams will be rested for a game that has their full focus. And Tuchel believes that focus could be crucial, having suggested that the atmosphere surrounding Klopp’s return to the Westfalenstadion last week may have impacted his players.
“We seemed inhibited,” Tuchel said ahead of his team’s final training session at Anfield on Monday. “I think the return leg allows us to take a completely new approach with the focus back on football as it should be. I believe the players will completely immerse themselves in this Anfield experience.
“We don't just want to score one goal, we want two or more. We're here to attack, to take risks. We need to play our best game–and we're ready to do so.”
Prediction: Liverpool gave one of their finest performances under Klopp in the first leg, an illustration of both his desire for intense pressing without the ball and smart, incisive play when in possession. At the same time, Dortmund were subdued, and it is unlikely they will be so far below their brilliant best once again. It promises to be an engrossing and finely balance occasion at Anfield and it could well go all the way to extra time and even penalties. Ultimately, though, Dortmund may just prove too strong.
Predicted score: Liverpool 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Kickoff time: 3:05 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes