Klopp's belief rubbing off on Reds at last

More quick-pressing, aggressive play will serve underdogs well against his former side

LONDON • It was perhaps inevitable that Juergen 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, the German watched his current players press and harry like the 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 per cent 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 tonight'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.

ALL SYSTEMS GO

I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought we would lose 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0. But at some moments we had Dortmund, and around our goal we were brilliant.

JUERGEN KLOPP, on his Liverpool side's battling display in Germany last week.

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, Liverpool are exhibiting the same underdog mentality upon which he built his success in the Ruhr valley.

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 who faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final five years later.

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.

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, who play with a similar high-tempo approach.

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

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 today.

In the meantime, Liverpool have lined up Bayern Munich's fitness coach, Andreas Kornmayer, to become their head of fitness and conditioning next season.

Klopp has admired his work at Bayern for several years, albeit reluctantly as he believes their fitness levels were a factor in Jupp Heynckes' team winning the treble at Dortmund's expense in 2013.

Kornmayer, who will take up his post at Anfield in the summer, replaces Ryland Morgans, who ended a four-year stint last month.

AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

LIVERPOOL V DORTMUND
Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, tomorrow, 3am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Klopp's belief rubbing off on Reds at last'. Print Edition | Subscribe