Liverpool must climb highest mountain - Klopp
Reds boss won't be distracted by 'homecoming'
Published 07/04/2016 | 02:30
It feels like a sentimental reunion neither side really wants.
Jurgen Klopp's return to Borussia Dortmund nine months since his departure has led to a wrestling match between the Liverpool manager's romanticism and professionalism. He wants to navigate a route to the Europa League semi-final, not marvel at whatever applause is coming his way down memory lane.
You could sense the apprehension in Klopp as he detailed every step from the team coach to the dressing room at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park, comparing the challenge of defeating his former club to "climbing the highest mountain".
It is not that he is afraid of a formidable opponent he helped create, but that he is stressed about meeting a "best friend" he wants to beat more than greet. And by the prospect of being cast as ringmaster in a football circus.
When informed a German television station planned to dedicate its first leg coverage to a "Kloppcam", Klopp was livid and put a stop to the discussion.
"You see how crazy the world is?" he said. "I am fine with the draw, with the game, with everything but I am not too happy with the stories around me personally. I don't need it but I can't avoid it."
That said, Klopp made a point of arriving 20 minutes early for his pre-match Uefa press conference so that he could be polite to old colleagues. "It's better to be here than North Korea," he quipped.
A mutual wariness is evident. If Dortmund's fans are excited by Klopp's return to a club where two Bundesliga titles secured his legend, former players know how their mentor relishes bloodying the nose of fancied teams.
Klopp and Dortmund must confront and conquer their past. "There's no fear from one or the other side, it's about knowledge and knowing they know that's how it is," Klopp said. "The players know my story with this team started with beating favourites.
"It was not clicking your fingers and happening overnight and becoming number one in the Bundesliga. We started making problems for other teams. Then we developed it.
"In this game, the only thing is I know a little bit more (about the opposition). That does not matter too much but it is better than nothing and they know about me.
"I don't think we are favourites but if we beat Borussia Dortmund we beat the strongest side in the competition and we become something like a favourite.
"Dortmund are in a better moment in the season but we've had some good moments. If we have a good moment, we have a chance. If we are not, it will be easy for Borussia Dortmund. We have the highest mountain to climb, but it is possible."
Klopp dismissed the idea he would not show his emotions should Liverpool win.
"I will not go there and take some pills that mean I won't celebrate a goal," he said.
"I will celebrate of course. I did it when I came back to Mainz with Dortmund, and I was there for 18 years. After seven years they know me well enough.
"I did everything for Mainz, I did everything for Dortmund and now I do everything for Liverpool - it is like it is. It's a game, even if people are not always aware of it.
"We all started playing football against our best friends and I can't remember a moment where because it was my best friend I did not want to win against him.
"That is absolutely bulls***. For me, the private personal stress will be when I meet people who I know and I like and I don't have time to speak with them. It is nice to see them but it is the wrong moment. I can't handle the situation perfectly for them - I go in, do my job and go home.
"I have no problem if someone wants to hug me if I know him! I had no bad moment in my relationship with Dortmund."
Klopp knows Dortmund are more finely tuned to his philosophy than Liverpool and acknowledges his replacement Thomas Tuchel's evolution. He rates Dortmund "100pc one of the best five teams in the world".
Liverpool have more in common with the Dortmund of 2008 than 2016. They are years behind in their development, but Klopp is sure the gulf can be bridged over two legs.
"They have a good manager but I don't think I should go there thinking I have to win 5-0 so everyone can say: 'Oh look what he can do.' I'm really fine with the situation," he said. "Let's go there, play well, see what we can do, fly home, and then invite them to Anfield." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Borussia Dortmund v Liverpool,
Live BT Sport Europe 8.05pm