Jurgen Klopp’s toothy smile to Borussia Dortmund
The Reds boss returns to his former club Borussia Dortmund as a giant, but his Liverpool side are up against it in their Europa League quarter-final glamour tie
For once, Jurgen Klopp’s toothy smile wasn’t the chief element in lighting up a room.
On Wednesday afternoon, when he returned to the Westfalenstadion for the first time 312 days after departing Borussia Dortmund and sat at their top table, one he delivered viral soundbites from for seven years, a sea of photographers were almost falling over each other as their flashes worked overtime on him.
The minutes prior to the press conference were dominated by the incessant flickering of the intense beams, and there were 28 video cameras trained on the Liverpool manager during the entire briefing.
There was no surprise to learn that the viewership figures for Klopp's pre-match thoughts ahead of the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final against his former club dwarfed those of his successor at Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel.
The Reds boss returned to his old ground as a giant - “like a God,” as one description went, but there was a knowing smile in the audience when he referenced Liverpool’s status as underdogs in the tie. Klopp may be blockbuster, but his side are firmly second favourites on Thursday night. It is a scenario he specialises in.
"My story with Dortmund started by beating favourites, it was not clicking your fingers and happening overnight and becoming number one in the Bundesliga," the 48-year-old said of his impressive tenure, which brought two championships, a DBF-Pokal, as well as a runners-up finish in the 2013 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
"We started making problems for other teams. Then we developed. Before the game if the Dortmund players are alone in their room, perhaps they start thinking ‘we started like this, no one had big expectations.’
"That’s the truth. But they are really strong, they are a really good side and they are the favourites for the [Europa League] title, that’s how it is.
"They are second in the Bundesliga, still in two or more competitions, they can still be champs in Germany.
"They can be champions, they can win the cup, that’s all true but now they play against us and that’s all we need to know.
"If we can show a few of the things we have showed in the last few weeks plus a few more good things then we are in the race."
Liverpool became the first English club to knock Manchester United out of a European competition in the previous round and they have the chance to topple the undisputed favourites in this one.
Klopp has spent hours trawling through footage of BVB's recent fixtures, despite knowing Dortmund intrinsically, as he plots another slaying.
"Since Sunday I’ve seen five games of Dortmund. Each 90 minutes. And obviously they are full of confidence and playing really good, but as always in football it is up to the opponent how good you really are," he said.
"We hope and we think we can be a real challenge, but they have a team that has been together for two years which only had a bad experience at the first half of last season which made them stronger, it’s obvious.
"They have changed their style in part but the biggest thing, and the most positive thing, is that the players haven't changed at the end of the season.
"On the negative side of transfers, in terms of having to sell a big player, the last time they didn't have to do it was 2010. In 2011 Nuri Sahin left, in 2012 Shinji Kagawa left, 2013 Mario Gotze left, 2014 Robert Lewandowski left and in 2015 nobody left. So they have the same team together until now.
"This season they started with players who were all tuned-in which, of course, is an advantage.
"They have changed the rhythm a little bit, but still pressing and counter-pressing really good, with more possession and they change their formations. But that is all. It is quite successful.
"We have the highest mountain to climb – Borussia Dortmund. But it’s possible, it’s absolutely possible and that’s all we need.
"So let’s play football and talk about it afterwards. It’s a real challenge, hopefully for both sides."
Klopp will still command the attention of the cameras at the Westfalenstadion on Thursday night, but he'll expect Liverpool to fully occupy Dortmund's as he targets another unforgettable night for the underdog.