Liverpool are quietly confident of slipping under the radar and springing a major surprise in the first leg of their Europa League clash against German high-flyers Borussia Dortmund on Thursday evening.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Reds midfielder James Milner says the attention that ex-Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp has been getting in Germany plays perfectly into their hands.
“It makes it easy for us, all the attention is on him, and we can just concentrate on playing football. You have to beat the best teams and Dortmund are one of those, but on our day we feel we can beat anyone,” Milner said.
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On paper, it looks a mismatch. Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel have been superb at home this season and they currently possess the only unbeaten home record in the Bundesliga and have lost only once in the Europa League to Greek side PAOK in the group stages.
They have not allowed Bayern to run away with the Bundesliga title this season, with the margin currently five points with six matches to play. They have played quality opponents in the knockout stages of the competition in FC Porto and Tottenham Hotspur but have dispatched them with a minimum of fuss.
In contrast, Liverpool have laboured through most of the Premier League season, currently sitting in ninth and only standing a slim chance to claim a top four berth. The one positive statistic coming into this contest is that they have been markedly better away from home, both domestically and especially in the Europa League. They are unbeaten in five games, although they have not played a team with the all-around quality like Dortmund.
In terms of how Liverpool will play in the first leg, Milner said there was no intention just to frustrate the hosts.
“I don’t think we have to score. 0-0 is a good result, but any away goal is always important and helps, as it will put us in a strong position. We will go out there and try and win the game, that is the way we play,” Milner said.
Firmino A Doubt
Liverpool is sweating on the fitness of forward Roberto Firmino, who is set to undergo a late fitness test on his injured hamstring. After a slow start to life at Anfield, the Brazilian has impressed in the second half of the season. The Reds will need Firmino and the rest of their stars to come together and put on a stellar performance.
Liverpool have shown they can produce a quality performance which they did against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium in November, but it has been rarely seen across the season. In truth, they will need to better that display in the tie against Dortmund.
Whatever happens the contest at the Westfalenstadion is going to be a occasion that Klopp is unlikely to forget in a hurry.
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