When Liverpool were drawn to face Borussia Dortmund away in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final, excitement reigned. Jürgen Klopp was returning to the club that he took to magical levels, Reds fans would be facing the notoriously noisy ‘Yellow Wall’ and Anfield has at least one more big European night in store for the season. However, take away the romantic elements and this was a nightmare draw. The Germans are comfortably the best side left in the competition and it will be a huge ask for Liverpool to advance and is a real test of how far these Liverpool players have come under Klopp.
With a lot of players seemingly playing for their future under the German manager, the chance to beat Dortmund would really send a message. Not that the bookies think it’s likely, Betway have Liverpool priced up as 15/8 outsiders to qualify from the tie, and it looks a tough ask. The Germans have been in scintillating form, especially at home, where they remain unbeaten domestically, so ensuring the tie is still in the balance must be a priority for the Reds’ when they return to England. It’s something that both Porto and an admittedly weakened Spurs side failed to do in the last knockout rounds, leaving Signal Iduna Park with 2-0 and 3-0 defeats respectively and those ties effectively over.
Although it is worth pointing out it is not an ideal draw for Dortmund. Liverpool have looked rejuvenated in recent weeks, minus the second half collapse against Southampton, and have started to find the right formula in front of goal as Klopp begins to stamp his influence on the side. The comprehensive victory over Manchester United was pleasing, only the excellence of David De Gea kept the result respectable over the two legs. Add to that Phillipe Coutinho performing near his top-class best and Daniel Sturridge thankfully stringing games together then the Reds will have a potent threat going forward. However, the big issues remain further down the field, and the Dortmund game will give the players a chance to prove to Klopp that they are worthy of staying at Anfield.
Every players’ future will be monitored as we count down to Klopp’s first close season as Liverpool manager. Even skipper Jordan Henderson was linked with a move away recently, seemingly demonstrating how Klopp will get rid of anyone who doesn’t fit into his plans, regardless of status. So what better way for Henderson, and the heavily criticised defensive unit to secure their future at Anfield than by beating Dortmund over two legs. It is a game of the stature that Liverpool crave and deserve, and a starting block for Klopp to build as he tries to make England’s most successful European club a European powerhouse once again. So, for the players the message is simple, if you want to be part of the ride, start consistently performing.