DORTMUND, Germany: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says there will be no place for sentimentality when he faces his former club Borussia Dortmund in Thursday’s (Friday in Manila) Europa League quarterfinals, first-leg.
“I want to beat them, even though they are all my friends here. No question,” said the Liverpool boss who quit as Dortmund coach last May after seven years with Borussia.
But the 48-year-old showed he had lost none of his humor in England since taking charge of Liverpool last October when asked how it will feel to walk out at Dortmund’s stadium.
“It’s better to be here than North Korea, or so,” he quipped on his first press conference back at the Signal Iduna Park.
He wasted no time in handing Dortmund the favorite’s tag with Borussia second in Germany’s top flight while Liverpool are ninth in the English Premier League.
“They are playing a better season, they are more stable,” said Klopp.
“They could even win an historic treble,” he added with Dortmund five points behind Bayern Munich in the league and in the semi-finals of the German Cup.
“But we’re only playing in the Europa League against them and we want to have our say.”
Klopp insisted he will have his emotions in check when he walks out at the Signal Iduna Park: “I do not think I’ll have big mood swings.
“Now in theory, we could talk about football,” he added sarcastically.
But Klopp’s return has created huge hype here and even city officials got in on the act as banners appeared around Dortmund poking fun at the Reds manager.
“Dear Jurgen Klopp, on the pitch at home is the best place to deal with an away defeat,” they read.
Klopp’s successor Thomas Tuchel says Dortmund’s Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is struggling to be fit with a persistent foot injury.
“We’ll have to see how the foot reacts. It will be very close,” said the Dortmund coach.
Tuchel says the Liverpool boss will get a warm welcome at Dortmund’s sold-out stadium — until kick-off.
“Anything but a very, very warm welcome would be a big surprise. No one has forgotten what he has done here. But as soon as the whistle blows, we both want to win,” Tuchel said.
This is not the first time Tuchel has had to deal with headlines heralding the return of Klopp, who won two league titles and one German Cup with Dortmund.
Tuchel followed on from Klopp as Mainz coach in 2009 before taking over from him at Dortmund for the start of this season.
“It is certainly something extraordinary for Jurgen and also for the fans. He marked an era here,” said Tuchel.
“It’s been clear since the draw that this is a special game, especially as there is a great tradition which goes beyond ‘Jurgen Klopp against Thomas Tuchel’.
“The Liverpool team has improved week on week under Jurgen – which was to be expected.
“So we are now about to take on the best Liverpool team in recent memory and great is the challenge.
“Jurgen is a very, very competitive kind of coach – one of the most competitive guys I know.
“It’s a special game for him as well.”