Dortmund blueprint serves Klopp in Liverpool rebuild

 13 Apr 2016 - 12:36

Dortmund blueprint serves Klopp in Liverpool rebuild
Liverpool's manager Juergen Klopp (L) reacts with Alberto Moreno (C) and Kolo Toure (R) during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at the Anfield, Manchester, Britain, 10 April 2016. (EPA / Peter Powell)

 

London: It was perhaps inevitable that Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool would produce their most Borussia Dortmund-like performance at the home of his former club.

In last week's Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Westfalenstadion, Klopp watched his Liverpool players press and harry like the Dortmund team he steered to the highest echelon of the European game.

If historical precedents are to be believed, the 1-1 final score gives Liverpool a 74 percent chance of progressing, and the nature of their display revealed the extent to which Klopp's methods have taken hold.

"I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought we would lose 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0," said Klopp, whose side tackle Dortmund at Anfield in Thursday's return leg.

"But at some moments we had Dortmund, and around our goal we were brilliant."

The sight of Klopp on the touchline -- squawking at his players, pumping his fist in celebration of Divock Origi's first-half goal -- will have been immediately familiar to Dortmund's fans, who granted him a touching send-off at the final whistle.

So too the tactics employed by his team, whose aggressive, front-foot approach prevented the home side from settling into any kind of rhythm and whose counter-attacks kept the Dortmund rearguard on constant alert.

While Dortmund have become more of a possession-based team under Klopp's successor, Thomas Tuchel -- the legacy of the new status his seven-year tenure left them with -- Liverpool are exhibiting the same underdog mentality upon which he built his success in the Ruhr valley.

Speaking earlier this season, former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson said the team's best performances were "reminiscent of Borussia Dortmund at their best under Jurgen Klopp".

Klopp readily bestowed trust upon the players he inherited at Dortmund, with seven of the 18 players he called up for his first game, a 3-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in August 2008, featuring in the squad that faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final five years later.

- 'High-intensity games' -

He seems similarly determined to extract every ounce of quality from the Liverpool players at his disposal.

The occasionally maligned centre-back pairing of Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren performed with sturdy resolve in the first leg, while Origi is flourishing after a difficult start to his time at the club.

"He always believed in me and he believes in the group also," said the 20-year-old Belgian striker, who followed up his goal at Dortmund with a brace in Sunday's 4-1 defeat of Stoke City.

"The fact that I'm on the pitch gives me confidence and I just try to play my game and enjoy it."

Hard-working players like Adam Lallana, Emre Can and James Milner have also earned Klopp's trust and are striving to show that they can become to him what hardy perennials like Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer and Jakub Blaszczykowski were at Dortmund.

Milner, captain in the absence of the injured Jordan Henderson, is relishing the challenge of playing teams like Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur, held 1-1 at Anfield recently, who play with a similar high-tempo approach.

"It's nice to keep getting the games," Milner said of Liverpool's busy schedule. "They have been high-intensity games as well -- Dortmund and Spurs play at a high tempo.

"That's good for us as it keeps us at that intensity we want to play at. We know if we play at that intensity, that's when we have our best matches."

If Dortmund are to prove themselves worthy favourites for the trophy, Tuchel must find a way to withstand the red tide when the teams resume hostilities on Thursday.

Dortmund's supporters will know exactly what is coming their way.

AFP