Before our upcoming europa league fixture, we did an interview with Latortillablanca at The Liverpool Offside to get some useful knowledge about our opponents. TT may have sent a scout to Anfield but I doubt he'll tell us what they told him, so we have the next best thing for y'all.
BM: Liverpool have used a range of attacking players this season. Who do you think Klopp will choose as the forward in our upcoming match?
TLO: The short answer is Daniel Sturridge, but it is a more nuanced decision than it may seem on first blush, in particular across two legs.
Studge has not yet flashed quicksilver explosiveness this season after coming back from 63,479 days out injured, and there has been some discussion from fans and pundits that he's out of form. Never mind that, he has scored a goal and recorded an assist in the last two games, respectively.
Divock Origi is probably our most in form striker in terms of running channels, keeping defenders occupied, and linking up with progressive intent. However, he is also coming back from injury, and is a fledgling yet.
A curveball option could be Roberto Firmino, who is arguably our player of the year, and was deployed at the position flanked by Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho in a couple of our best attacking performances under Klopp. Again, the issue there is he's coming off the official team injury for the 2015-16 Liverpool season, a pulled hamstring.
Klopp could get even more unconventional and start Danny Ings, although he's still recovering from a shredded knee. There's always the option to start Martin Skrtel up top. That's about it, though. No other options in this entire squad that come to mind.
BM: And speaking of Klopp, how has the Liverpool fan base received him as a coach and personality? In England it seems it's looked down upon for a coach to be very active on the sideline. Do the fans accept his antics?
TLO: How do we love Jürgy? Let us count the ways. We love to the depth and breadth and height (of his celebrations). Or shall we compare him to a summer's day? Whatever poem one picks to model one's love of Klopp after, one thing has become fairly clear for Liverpool fans: he is perfect. The honeymoon has been everlasting, all pants have been burned, and his meteoric impact on the great red ocean of support this club floats on, has enticed a tsunami of hope that will surely end in delirious celebrations coated in silver. Please let it end in delirious celebrations coated in silver.
BM: Klopp has been known for finding and developing very good young talent. What young players on the squad and in the academy do you see being some of Klopps main pieces going forward?
TLO: Philippe Coutinho has always been our pug-loving unicorn of jaw-dropping footballing magic, and considering he's still only 23 he's worth the shout for the youth frame we're using here. As is Roberto Firmino, who is only just entering his mid-career years, and was basically created in a laboratory for the explicit purpose of playing as a gegenpressing forward.
Divock Origi is practically unrecognizable from the player that annoyed the Lille faithful to no end last season. It has become clear over the course of the season that he has been a special project for Klopp, and has benefited greatly like Lewandowski, Reus, and Aubameyang before him.
Down the road, the Klopp effect on players like 18 year old centerback Joe Gomez, 19 year old winger Sheyi Ojo, 19 year old midfielder's Allan and Marko Grujic, and 22 year old winger Lazar Markovic are likely to be the focus of much interest as they get their chance at a full offseason of Klopp hugs.
BM: Going back to the squad, Liverpool's defence has been plagued by injury this season. Who's going to play in the back on Thursday and are you nervous about their performance?
TLO: Expect actual alien Nathaniel Clyne at RB, the rehabilitated Dejan Lovren continuing his bromance with the classy (and fit) Mamadou Sakho as the CB pairing, and the always lovable, sometimes maddening burner Alberto Moreno at LB.
It's interesting to hear the outside perspective point to injuries as a culprit for poor form, because from the far too close for your own good perspective of a fan, the real answer for our poor defensive record has been something along the lines of THE TERRIBLE FOWLER-AWFUL EXCUSE FOR PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS THAT ARE SIMON MIGNOLET AND MARTIN SKRTEL AND MORENO, TOO!!
Suffice to say the topic has been a flashpoint around TLO threads since before Klopp arrived. Liverpool can score goals on their day. Hell, on their day, Liverpool can score more goals than they know what to do with. But too many times they have shown a maddening inability to see games out. At worst, things like set piece defense, transitional defense, and maintaining possession to protect leads are almost comically out of reach for the Reds. And while Jürgen has come in an accomplished some remarkable feats where it concerns the group confidence, individual development, and threatening tactics, he's got plenty of work to go on the defensive side of things.
BM: Liverpool just played against Tottenham Hotspur, a team that uses a high press very well. How do you think Liverpool will play against the BVB pressing game? Who can play well under pressure and who makes those silly mistakes the press tries to draw out?
TLO: In a really interesting way, it feels like the Dortmund ties tuned Tottenham up for the encounter against Liverpool last weekend where they did so many of the same things Liverpool try to do, only better, and more consistently. In turn, Reds fans will be hoping the Spurs game will be a nice tune up for the encounter with Tuchel's lads.
To answer the first questions, we will press and counterpress in nicely shaped squares, and pentagons, and triangles. Sometimes we will flash a strong press that never comes in an attempt to coax the lads in yellow to show their cards a bit. And we'll try to maintain close enough lines to enable off this harrying in such a way that doesn't expose the flanks, or what can be a frighteningly soft gut.
In short, we will bring the full pressing game. There will be tweaks here and there, and hopefully Klopp's intel on your players will be critical, but expect us to set up for the game that both fanbases dream of watching. To be honest, we expect the same from your side. What a wonderful tie to be a part of, eh?
As far as which players are susceptible to the pressure, Mignolet is at the top of the list. If Skrtel finds his way into this match, he'd be one to target, as well. Quietly confident in our ability to deal with the press, though. The Spurs game could have easily resulted in a Reds victory, even if that hypothetical result would have been mildly against the grain. A big part of that victory would have been Liverpool's ability to soak up that pressure and still get their knocks in on the other end.
It's your sheer pace and ability to hit from more benign possessional situations that feels more concerning, at this point
BM: Christian Benteke was Liverpool's marquee signing this past summer after having a great season with Aston Villa. Since Klopp took over, he has barely played. What went wrong with Christian Benteke?
TLO: No, you are quite right, if Danny Ings hadn't gotten injured like that, he would have been in line to really profit from Klopp's system and tutelage. Really counting down the days until that be-tatted fivehead jogs his shortly trimmed roadkill locks back onto the field for the Reds.
But who knows? Don't forget about Mario Balotelli! Maybe the sun starts rising in the West, shines off his mohawk just right, and he rescues Marc Klopp from choking on a rogue bratwurst with an deftly executed heimlich, which convinces Jürgy to give him that one last chance, and the two hit it off, and he scores a couple goals next year! Crazier things have happened.
BM: Are you getting Gotze, we getting Gotze, or neither?
TLO: If it's all the same to you, we've got Mario's room prepared already, and he's rooming with Phil, and everything. We promise he'll brush his teeth, and no sweets after 10pm, nor speedos before 10am. Sure, he'll probably get a few bumps and bruises, you know how Jürgy is! But that's why we keep the never sleeping, timeless adult presence of Zeljko around. He'll be fine, we promise! Pleeeeeeaaaaaassee.