Liverpool welcome Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night for the second leg of the Europa League quarter final. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, leaving it all to play for at Anfield.
The First Leg
In the first leg of the tie, Liverpool produced a good performance, soaking up sustained periods of pressure from the home side before offering a threat on the counter attack. The defensive partnership of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho impressed once again, making key interceptions and tackles to keep the likes of Marco Reus and Aubameyang at bay.
The forward had scored a total of 32 goals in the Bundesliga prior to the match but left the field with 15 minutes remaining, reflecting how Lovren and Sakho dominated in Germany. Along with Marco Reus and Henrik Mhkitaryan, the trio had 43 goals in the league alone and more than 60 in all competitions before the Europa League meeting, further highlighting how far Liverpool have come defensively from their frailties last season.
However, Dortmund’s equaliser highlights the work that still remains for Jürgen Klopp. The German will be hoping to avoid a similar story on Thursday night and I’m sure prior to kick off most of the work would have revolved around improving defending from set pieces. Let’s hope that Matts Hummels won’t be left free inside the six yard box at Anfield.
The performance of Divock Origi in the first leg was a huge plus point for Klopp and the Belgian continued where he left off with a brace against Stoke City. Origi came on in the second half, replacing Sheyi Ojo who made his first start for Liverpool in the Premier League and it didn’t take long before the 20 year old made an impact. His first goal came after a brilliant cross from James Milner that allowed Origi a simple header into the back of the net.
His second was a brilliant curling effort from the left hand side that was initially meant to find Daniel Sturridge before finding its way into the bottom right hand corner. Fans and manager alike will be hoping for a similarly impressive performance from Divock Origi against Dortmund on Thursday night and the Belgian could be key to the final outcome of the match.
Liverpool have progressed from 11 of their last 12 European ties in which they have drawn the first leg away from home, only failing to do so against Celtic in the 2002/2003 UEFA Cup. The Reds have never lost at home to German opposition in European competition (W10 D3), conceding just one goal in those 13 games.
Thursday night marks a make or break moment in Liverpool’s season with the Reds set to miss out on a top four finish. Therefore, the only chance of bringing Champions League football back to Anfield next season lies with the Europa League; winning the competition would give them entry into the Champions League, which could be crucial to Klopp’s summer transfer plans.
With the likes of Mario Gotze and Granit Xhaka linked to Liverpool, the lure of Champions League football could be make or break in terms of the Reds getting their desired targets. With Liverpool out of the FA Cup and a poor season in the league set to peter out, despite the top four being mathematically possible, Thursday is a crucial game for everyone involved with the club.
In his pre-match press conference, Jürgen Klopp stated:
“If all players play like this then I have to make hard decisions. That’s not my hobby but that’s the best thing to do as a manager and hopefully we have to mark hard decisions for Thursday. Any player wants to play in the big games and the best atmospheres. European nights at Anfield are definitely right up there with anywhere on the planet.”
“That’s going to be massively important for us no matter what happens. Even if the worst happens and they get an early goal, the fans can roar us on to get back into the game. We managed to nullify their fans – which is a great atmosphere as well – and got a good result. Hopefully we can use our atmosphere.”
Borussia Dortmund made sweeping changes to his team for the Ruhr derby clash with Schalke in the Bundesliga on Sunday. Thomas Tuchel, much like Klopp made his priorities clear with his starting eleven, thus adding further importance to Thursday’s tie. The Germans have been eliminated on five of the six occasions they have drawn the first leg of a European tie at home.
Matthias Ginter, the scorer of Dortmund’s second goal in the 2-2 draw against Schalke, stated that “Liverpool are a very strong team, which was clear from the first leg. It could go either way once more. Of course we hope that it goes our way.”
Liverpool head into the game on good form following their impressive 4-1 win against Stoke City. The Reds have sustained just one defeat in their last six games in all competitions and as a result confidence will be high heading into the game. However, Dortmund themselves are on terrific form, winning four and drawing two of their last six games. The Germans drew 2-2 with Schalke at the weekend as they warmed up for Thursdsay’s crunch tie.
Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson who suffered a knee injury recently while Emre Can is back from suspension and set to start for the Reds. Philippe Coutinho is available for recall after being named on the bench against Stoke. Borussia Dortmund will be without Neven Subotic at Anfield with the defender suffering from thrombosis. Aside from that, they will have a fully strengthened side to face Liverpool and will field the strongest eleven possible after resting a number of key players against Schalke.
Predicted Line Up
Simon Mignolet is set to start in goal having produced a series of solid performances for Liverpool in recent weeks while Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho will once again have a key role to play in nullifying the threat of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus. Failure to stop the Dortmund pair could be detrimental to Liverpool’s chances of progressing into the semi-final of the competition. Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno impressed at the weekend against Stoke City, with the latter getting a goal to start off the scoring and thus the duo will retain their places.
Emre Can will be a welcome boost in midfield after missing the league game through suspension while Joe Allen is likely to partner him given Henderson’s injury. The Welshman has been in good form of late and Klopp will hope he can stabilise the midfield and control possession for the Reds.
Klopp has some tough decisions to make regarding whether to go with two out and out strikers in Origi and Sturridge or play both Firmino and Lallana to add extra padding to the midfield. Both forwards impressed in the Premier League in the 4-1 win and will be vying for a start.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Borussia Dortmund