In Dortmund return, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp can expect gratitude but maybe not longing

Ian Hawkey writes Borussia Dortmund are refreshed and reinvigorated in Jurgen Klopp's absence, though that will not be cause to dampen the Yellow Wall's appreciation.

Now-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shown during his managerial tenure at Borussia Dortmund for a German Cup match last season. Ralph Orlowski / Reuters / May 30, 2015
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The south stand at the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund is Germany’s mirror of the Kop at Anfield. The colours are distinct, of course, but, as on Merseyside, decibel-levels regularly reach a mark that other arenas in northern Europe struggle to match.

These are supporters, of Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, who know noise and feel a weight of nostalgia when they take their places in their favourite grandstand.

Last May, the Dortmund “Yellow Wall” – as a full, loud south stand, its regulars dressed in replica shirts, waving their bumblebee striped scarves is known – was a yellow wail, united for a poignant goodbye.

Dortmund's dynamic coach of seven years was leaving, by mutual agreement, and fans gave him fabulous serenade. Jurgen Klopp was moved to tears by the affection shown him by supporters, the gratitude for what had been a rollercoaster ride, one that took in two Bundesliga titles, a Uefa Champions League final, and some terrifically exciting football. Dortmund had been recovering from near-bankruptcy when he took over.

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The Yellow Wall will express its thanks again to Klopp at some point Thursday evening, when he occupies the away manager’s technical area, in charge of a Liverpool he joined last October partly because he saw a familiar atmosphere about the place, a proud club, experienced, like Dortmund, in the ups and downs that come with being on the fringes of the monied elite of the modern game, concerned the glory days of Champions League finals are stretching further into the past.

The semi-final his team and Dortmund aspire to is in the Europa League. Both clubs have won and finished second in the more elevated continental competition in the past 20 years.

Dortmund are more entitled than Liverpool to feel it is in the company of Champions League contenders that they currently belong. They are second in the Bundesliga, where they have outperformed everybody, including leaders Bayern Munich, in the second half of the season so far.

Much credit for that goes to Thomas Tuchel, at 42 six years younger than Klopp, his predecessor. Tuchel has, in the words of Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, “not just met our expectations, he has exceeded them”.

“There were some critics who feared everything would go wrong when Klopp left. That has certainly not happened. Thomas has got the maximum out of the squad.”

When Tuchel was asked to fill Klopp’s very big boots, it was easy to style him as Klopp’s doppelganger: He came from the same club, Mainz, from which Dortmund lured the young, charismatic Klopp in 2008. Tuchel had dogmas, and demanded much of his players. What he has done is draw greater consistency from a squad who weathered with Klopp a disastrous first half of the 2014/15 campaign, when Dortmund were in the relegation zone, the energy and aggression so associated with Klopp’s coaching fading and the club and their favourite manager deciding the alliance had run its course.

Since August they seem refreshed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the quicksilver striker, has been far more effective under Tuchel; Henrikh Mkhitaryan, playing just behind Aubameyang, has had the best season of his three so far at the club.

In short, there is not too much that Dortmund miss about Klopp right now, in terms of the football they watch. The Yellow Wall is every other weekend witness to the highest-scoring team in the German top flight. They see Dortmund's muscle flexed in Europe, where their last tie was a 5-1 aggregate demolition of Tottenham Hotspur.

But what “Kloppo”, as he is fondly known to his former constituents, will not hear in Dortmund is indifference. “What I want to see is our supporters paying their tributes to Jurgen Klopp after the game,” said Watzke, “not before or during it. We need to pull together to take on a strong team like Liverpool’s.”

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