Borussia Dortmund are set to meet Barclays Premier League side Liverpool FC in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, tomorrow at Signal-Iduna-Park.
BVB hope to continue their campaign as favorites to lift the trophy as they attempt to over come a twist of fate, pitted against club legend and former Bundesliga title-winning manager: Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp stepped down from a successful seven year stint as Dortmund manager at the end of last season, and after a brief sabbatical, took the reins at Anfield in October. By taking Liverpool further into the Europa League then anyone would have thought, the bespectacled German has tested his luck and, most would say, has come out on the losing side.
"The tie with Liverpool is one where we are simply desperate to beat Klopp," Captain Mat Hummels told ZDF, "Of course, he will get a warm welcome and a warm farewell. But I hope to drive him mad in between."
This is probably a sentiment shared by the majority of the BVB squad, as most of them are remnants of the Klopp era, but the story of Kloppo's surprise return has over shadowed some of the more interesting points in this tie, most notably; BVB are clear favorites here, but how far can an improved Liverpool side push them?
Dortmund are obviously flying high at the moment having failed to lose a game in 2016, and on top of that, they have received an extremely important boost to the squad on Tuesday.ilkay Gundogan, and centre-back pairing Mat Hummels, and Sokratis have all stared training with the team again.
It is unclear the role Gundogan will play as he has been sidelined with a foot injury since BVB's March 5th clash with Bayern Munich, but it is likely that one of the two, if not both, centre-backs will start as Dortmund's lack of players in the position was obvious in their recent 3-2 win vs SV Werder Bremen.
This is just poor timing for Liverpool as their front four of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana, and Daniel Sturridge, would have loved to run at Matthias Ginter and Sven Bender in a centre-back pairing. Regardless, Liverpool still maintain their two biggest weapons, the Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Firmino.
The latter, who has seven goals and four assists in 2016, picked up a muscular problem in March but was eligible to play this past weekend in Liverpool's league match against Tottenham Hotspur. He was instead rested with this clash in mind. Coutinho on the other hand, has scored three goals in Liverpool's last three games, and will relish being back on the pitch with his compatriot.
But this is where Liverpool's advantages stop. On a good day, extra stress on good, their attack is fluid and decisive and can more or less trouble a lot of teams better than them.
However, Liverpool's inconsistent back-line will most likely crumble before the attacking prowess in Dortmund's line-up. Marco Reus, Aubameyang, and Mkhitaryan are a world class front three supported by a strong midfield, especially with Gundogan and Julian Weigl thrown in, going up against a team who is relatively new in the pressing game, and a back-line who are perennially inconsistent.
Expect Thomas Tuchel to throw a pretty high powered line up at Liverpool on Thursday. There will be some variation and resting up front and in the midfield since a question mark remains over Gundogan's fitness. Dortmund face the all-important Revierderby on Sunday, but Tuchel knows his team can lift the Europa League trophy in May, so he won't go easy on his esteemed predecessor.