After the miracles produced against Dortmund in the Europa League quarter-final, Jurgen Klopp and his band of merry men will once more be trying to harness some of the magic that surrounds Anfield on a European night as they attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Villarreal.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool seem to becoming a match made in heaven, as the German embodies crucial elements of what Liverpool fans want to see. Passion, forthrightness and openness with the fans that any Liverpool seeks in a manager.
As seen during his time with Borussia Dortmund, Klopp is more than aware of the importance of the link between fans and players both on and off the field. Dortmund was very much a wounded giant when Klopp took to the helm, and whilst his last season was difficult, he emerged untarnished – a hero of Westphalia.
Liverpool and Dortmund, Anfield and the Westfalenstadion have foundations built on history, atmosphere and the bond between the terraces and the pitch. In Liverpool you have the Kop whilst in Dortmund you have the truly vast expanse of the Gelbe Wand (the ‘Yellow Wall’), when on match day in the Bundesliga 25,000 fans form one of the greatest spectator spectacles in football. German football certainly knows how to put on a spectacle.
Admittedly on a slightly different tangent, this article from the Indendepent in 2010 highlights how different German football culture is from the money making Premier League;
“The cost? A season ticket for £150, and individual games for £9 to £11. You can drink beer, eat sausage, be raucous, watch the footy and then, at the final whistle, take part in a ritual that helps to bind the team and the fans. The players line up to applaud in homage to the Wall. The Wall en masse gives the “We’re not worthy bow” with flailing arms.”
The Independent, 15th September 2010
Whilst the pricing is oh so much cheaper (made even more evident in this comparison when you consider Liverpool fan’s protest earlier this season over ticket prices), Klopp’s influence over both clubs is apparent once more when he first led the players to celebrate the 2-2 draw with West Brom.Embed from Getty Images
Goaded as a tactic, Klopp was clear that whilst the moment may appear insignificant, the relationship between player and fan is not and that is what made Liverpool’s defeat of Borussia Dortmund all the more poetic. As ‘You Never Walk Alone’ bellowed out around Anfield (fittingly a song sung before every Dortmund game), Jurgen Klopp was the unifying factor of two of European football’s most ardently supported clubs. And once more Klopp needs the magic and the emotion of Anfield as the Germans look to secure a second final appearance since taking the helm.
A lot of English press seemed to feel that after the Dortmund game, any opposition Liverpool would face next would be comparatively easy, they had done the hard work and Champions League football would be almost a given but that couldn’t be further from the truth. With Dortmund beaten, Liverpool got arguably the hardest tie of the semi-final in the form of Marcelino’s Villarreal.
This is a very different Villarreal side than the one managed by Manuel Pellegrini that he guided to 2nd in the 2007-08 season. That was a side built on attacking, ball retention and sprinkled with a little bit of flair in the final third. This was a side littered with some sensational players like Santi Cazorla, Diego Godin, Robert Pires, Giueseppe Rossi and Marcos Senna.
Today Villarreal are styled more on Simone’s Atletico Madrid. They are hard to break down; they are tenacious and play with heart. An underdog, punching far above their expected level of achievement.
Having recently secured Champions League football next season, Villarreal are having in the midst of a truly brilliant season, and their Europa League campaign has been no different. Whilst their group was a simple affair, losing only one game on the opening gameweek, Villarreal have knocked out the likes of Bayern Leverkusen and Napoli since (their victory over Napoli, who were easily the strongest team in the Europa League was particularly impressive). With a slender 1-0 lead after the first leg at El Madrigal, Villarreal are more than capable of mustering their own mighty performance if their backs are to be against the wall.
So Klopp will once more be required to summon the magic of Anfield on a European night. It is hard to imagine that the game will match the intensity, the narrative and the drama of the Dortmund game but Klopp will be seeking a performance from each and every one of his starting XI come Thursday evening.
The bond between a Klopp squad and fan may well be in its embryonic stages but it is nights like this that both Klopp and Liverpool seem to thrive upon. And Klopp is more than aware that seizing these opportunities in front of Kop to produce something magical is central to building his Liverpool.
Will Liverpool win the game? It is a hard one to call but even in defeat, the Europa League has provided Klopp with a perfect foundation to develop upon next season.
Match Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Villarreal (Villarreal win on away goals)
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog