As draws go in the Europa League, Liverpool have been handed a fairly kind one.
The competition is growing in strength as each year passes. Despite the Reds topping Group B and being in the seeded pot for Monday’s draw, they could have ended up facing a host of top teams including Fenerbahce, Fiorentina and Villarreal.
There was the possibility that Jurgen Klopp could have returned to Borussia Dortmund much sooner than he expected.
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Liverpool vs FC Augsburg
It was not to be the case but the German does return to his motherland. Liverpool will face FC Augsburg for a place in the last 16 of the competition and it will be a fixture that will have delighted Klopp.
Facing a top European side that you are not too familiar with requires a significant amount of time in the office planning for the match. Instead, Klopp has to be prepare to face a team who he put to the sword five times whilst in charge of BVB.
Fuggerstädter have had quite a turn around over the past decade. Ten years ago they were competing in the third tier of German football. The club almost went into administration in 2000 but local entrepreneur Walther Seinsch fuelled the reverse of fortunes.
Augsburg enjoyed their best ever season last campaign, finishing fifth. They were two places ahead of Klopp’s Dortmund, who spent the most part of the term flirting with the idea of relegation before a revival after Christmas.
It may not be the most lucrative of clashes, but Kopites cannot be disappointed. They’ve avoided one of the big boys, unlike when they drew Besiktas at this stage last year, and have a great chance of advancing to the last 16.
Klopp generally got things right when Dortmund faced Augsburg. From eight meetings, BVB won five, drew two and lost just one, which came last season and he’ll be relishing a repeat of the fixture now at the helm of the Anfield club.
The 48-year-old will be familiar with the Bavarian outfit’s chief protagonists and playing style, and will already have a rough estimation of how to once again beat them.
The city is also just 100 miles from Klopp’s native Stuttgart. He’s likely witnessed Augsburg’s rapid rise first hand and will be excited to meet a team who’ve made great strides whilst the Reds have suffered somewhat of a decline.
Augsburg’s form has not been as strong as last season and they currently sit 13th in the Bundesliga. They advance courtesy of a battling 3-1 away win against Partizan Belgrade in the final match of Group L which saw them only advance to the last 32 on goal difference.
Awkward Fixture List
When Liverpool face Augsburg in the first leg of the clash on February 18, it doesn’t exactly come at the greatest of times. Just days later, the Reds could have an FA Cup fifth round match and may have less than two days to prepare by the time they travel back to Merseyside.
The five-time European Cup winners play host to Markus Weinzerl’s men on February 25 for the second leg, which will certainly have its hindrances. That weekend Liverpool are scheduled to face local rivals Everton, but they could possibly instead be travelling to Wembley for the final of the Capital One Cup if they beat Stoke City in the semi-final in January.
It’ll be a grueling run of fixtures for Klopp’s side so meeting a team in Europe he’s familiar with makes his job all the easier, and means he can spend more time on preparing for those domestic matches.
For any travelling Liverpool fans, Augsburg looks to be an away day dream.
Whilst some may choose to stay in the third biggest city in Bavaria, it’s likely most will base in Munich, just one hour away from Augsburg. Given the excellent German public transport system, Kopites should be able to get to and from the game with ease.
Getting a ticket for the 30,600 seated WWK Arena may be a problem for travelling supporters, especially as home fans will want to witness a prestigious team like Liverpool in action. However, it’s likely most who go to Germany will be pleased to watch from nearby bars with a Bavarian beer.
Liverpool fans: Are you happy with the Europa League draw? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!