Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is delighted his new side will take on his former club Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League, calling it “really special” and “a story only football can write.”
Klopp made a name for himself at the Signal Iduna Park, where he guided Dortmund from the depths of the Bundesliga standings to the domestic title and 2013 UEFA Champions League final.
He joined Liverpool in 2015 and will face Die Schwarzgelben for the first time during the first leg of their quarter-final tie.
Per David Maddock of the Daily Mirror, Klopp can't wait for the tie to kick off:
I think the whole world will watch. I am really happy with the draw. I am really happy to introduce my new team to Dortmund. I am really happy to show the boys this wonderful stadium and a great city. We’re all happy.
It is a story only football can write, and it’s going to be really special, 100 per cent. It’s football at its best and how it should be. Playing in Dortmund is one of the best things you can do in football.
The German manager will likely receive a standing ovation when he returns to the Signal Iduna Park on Thursday, April 7, one week before Dortmund travel to Anfield.
He previously told reporters he didn't want to meet his former club in the quarter-finals, per Sky Sports News HQ, but only because of their obvious quality:
Per Maddock, he showered his former side with even more praise after the draw:
I said why should I wish to get the strongest team in the tournament, but obviously if you want to win the Europa League, then you have to beat the strongest teams.
Probably in most of the leagues in the world, they would be champions this year. But we are not bad too! Everybody knows our best games have been made against really strong sides.
Dortmund cruised to an easy win over two legs against Premier League title hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur, who were thoroughly outplayed by the Germans. With eight teams left in the competition, they're the favourites to lift the trophy this year.
In the Bundesliga, they trail Bayern Munich by just five points, which speaks volumes of their quality―Bayern have looked like an unstoppable machine for much of the season.
Liverpool's domestic form has been less impressive, although the Reds have turned things around in the last few weeks. And with the clubs sitting ahead of them in the standings all dropping points left and right, an unlikely top-four finish suddenly seems possible.
They play each other and 100 per cent I will use this in the meeting and say "they will take points from each other". That makes sense but there is still a long way to go.
We will try to close the gap a little bit on Sunday. But there are situations where we could have played better – there are so many things more we need to do to get points in a row. If we can do this then we can win games.
Southampton is an important game, we know this.
But while a late surge up the Premier League standings would be an impressive achievement, Liverpool's best chance of qualifying for the Champions League will come through its little brother, the Europa League.
Dortmund field a number of star players, like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but those are all players Klopp is familiar with. He knows their impressive strengths, but he's also well aware of their few weaknesses, and this is information the Reds can use.
Die Schwarzgelben will deservedly be favourites entering the first leg, but Liverpool have a better chance than most clubs of finding and exploiting their weaknesses.