Liverpool will welcome Borussia Dortmund to Anfield on Thursday for the second leg of the Europa League quarter-finals.
The first leg saw Borussia Dortmund only managing a 1:1 draw against a defensively well marshalled Liverpool side at the Signal Iduna Park, in which the Reds scored a vital away goal, meaning the visitors will need to score at least one goal to make sure they don’t fall to Liverpool with a draw.
It was more or less a disappointing first leg for Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel, as his side didn’t manage to get past a strong Liverpool defense.
However, Tuchel revealed his intentions against Liverpool as he made eight changes in their big derby match against Schalke 04. Big names like, Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Gonzalo Castro, Lukasz Piszczek and Ilkay Gündogan, just coming back from injury were all luxuriated for the match against Liverpool. In addition, Mats Hummels was taken off due to cold but will be fit and ready against Liverpool.
— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) April 11, 2016
Jürgen Klopp on the other hand, will be hoping his defensive pair of Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren achieve the same defensive performance as they did in the first leg. Both Lovren and Sakho didn’t feature in Liverpool’s convincing 4:1 win over Stoke City on Saturday. Along with the defenders, a few other key players including Coutinho also got rested for the midweek clash. Even though their centerbacks played the key role in the first leg, former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Steffen Freund, who won two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund, thinks Liverpool’s centre halves are the “weak links” of Liverpool.
Midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, who missed the first leg due to injury is fit against Liverpool, his return will sure to be a sigh of relief for Thomas Tuchel as Castro and Sahin didn’t blend properly in midfield in the first half.
Conversion of chances would be a huge problem for Tuchel and his team. Borussia Dortmund were left to rue to key misses and a fairly poor performance from Shinji Kagawa (despite of the goal), “Lord” Ramos, and even Aubameyang, scorer of 36 goals in all competitions this season, failed to convert a glorious opportunity as Dortmund drew level 2:2 against Schalke on weekend.
There’s no doubt that Thomas Tuchel will go full throttle against Liverpool. Although we can expect Dortmund to play a bit static game early on but as the game progresses we would see both the fullbacks move forward to provide more and more width to the attackers. Don’t be surprised to see Marcel Schmelzer, the left back, operating in the wing position right from the start. The orientation of the full backs could be the key here for die Schwarzgelben. The first 10 mins is always the best time for Dortmund to snatch the goal and make the tie Even-Stevens.
Team News and Predicted Lineups
Thomas Tuchel will have the luxury to select his playing eleven from whole squad except for Neven Subotic against the Merseyside giants. Right back Lukasz Piszczek, who has been the main component of their defensive improvement in the Rückrunde , is expected to start ahead of Matze Ginter.
Predicted Dortmund lineup: 4-2-3-1 with Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer; Weigl, Gündogan; Mkhitaryan, Castro, Reus; Aubameyang.
Jürgen Klopp will have a tough task in hand of replacing club captain Jordan Henderson, who is reported to have suffered a damage to a ligament in his knee. Henderson is joining the likes of Danny Ings, Christian Benteke and Joe Gomez on the long term injury list of Liverpool. Joe Allen is set to replace him in midfield.
Belgian forward Divock Origi is expected to start upfront ahead of Daniel Sturridge which might prove to be a good idea, as the Dortmund defense seems to struggle against physically stout forwards. Players like Raul Bobadilla, Pierre- Michel Lasogga, Robert Lewandowski etc. have caused a lot of problems in the past for the black and yellow defense.
Predicted Liverpool lineup: 4-2-3-1 with Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Allen, Can; Lallana, Coutinho, Milner; Origi.
Keys to Thursday’s Match
1) How Liverpool copes without Henderson would decide their performance in the middle of the park because it’s so hard to dominate against the duo of Gündogan and Weigl.
2) The key team selection between Kagawa and Castro would be exciting. The Japanese midfielder started the game against Schalke on the weekend, scoring a beautiful goal but was awful in some key moments of the game. Castro on the other hand, has been in good form recently but some say that he will not be ideal against Liverpool.
3) Jürgen Klopp also has selection dilemma as there is a lot of heat going through behind the selection of the forward. Who gets selected between Origi vs Sturridge will be interesting.
4) Can they replicate? Liverpool’s defensive performance in the first leg really gave them this advantage going into the second leg but the big question is, Can they replicate? Can they keep out the stellar attacking talents like Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus, Gündogan once again? We’ll wait and see.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund). Arguably the best player for the black and yellows this season. Mkhitaryan has been the main catalyst for Dortmund going forward, directly contributing to a whopping 48 goals(20 goals and 28 assists) in 46 games all competitions this season! He also boosted the performance of Dortmund when he came on in the second half in the Revierderby on the weekend. Importance = 8/10.
Ilkay Gündogan (Borussia Dortmund). It’s no secret how Tuchel missed this midfield maestro in the first leg. The usual Dortmund play revolve around Gündogan and Tuchel would hope Gündogan along with Weigl could dominate the Liverpool midfield, which means more and more chances for Der BVB. Importance = 9/10.
Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren (Liverpool). As said earlier, Liverpool defense needs to replicate their first leg performance if they are to have any chance of beating them through aggregate. It’ll be exciting to see how Sakho manages to mark Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this time! Importance = 8/10.
Coutinho and Divock Origi (Liverpool). “Attack is the best form of defense” and it will be important for Liverpool to attack Dortmund and not to let Dortmund go all over them. That’s where Coutinho and Origi comes into play, the comined creativity and pace that these two players offers should be enough to keep Dortmund defense occupied and hopefully for Kopites, snatch in a goal too. Importance = 7/10.
Of course all of the players will be important in this crucial tie but these players will always have that extra burden of work when these sides collide against each other at Anfield. Nonetheless, whatever the result might be, we are in for some delightful football experience as two different coaches have completely different style of play.
Watching Borussia Dortmund’s tweaked possession based play and Jurgen Klopp’s famous gegenpressing would be treat for the football fans and also two of the best fans of Europe will once again meet other so it’s not just a battle within the pitch but off it as well.
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