Home, sweet home: Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp relishing Europa League return to Germany
German manager is back in his native country for the first time as Reds boss hunting a Europa League win at Augsburg
Juergen Klopp is back in Germany for the first time as Liverpool manager on Thursday hunting a Europa League win at Augsburg in his quest to quench the Reds’ thirst for silverware.
Klopp returns to the touchline of a Bundesliga ground for the first time since the 48-year-old quit Borussia Dortmund last season, before he replaced Brendan Rogers as Liverpool boss in October.
Fans have clamoured for tickets for the round of 32, first-leg clash at the WWK Arena in deepest Bavaria to see Liverpool, who are unbeaten in their six European games under Klopp and buoyed by Sunday’s 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa.
Augsburg received 5,000 applications for just 2,000 away tickets for the Liverpool game, which will be a 26,160 sell-out.
The return leg is at Anfield on February 25, just three days before the Reds play Manchester City in the League Cup final.
While he is glad to be back in his native country, the Liverpool boss is focused on the job in hand.
“It’s nice to come back, but it’s not as though I fled Germany. I only left to work,” he said, having ordered German specialities for his squad to eat at the hotel.
READ MORE: Gimme a break: Klopp rages as Liverpool add to workload by failing to see off lowly Exeter
Around 60 journalists and 20 television cameras packed into the press room at the WWK Arena to listen to Klopp.
“During the draw, I wasn’t thinking ‘please let it be a German club’. At that point, I’d only been away for four months,” he admitted.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Germany, but it’s work and it’s not as though I’ve been waiting for it.
“Nothing much has changed apart from the fact that I may now answer the questions here in German.”
Liverpool arrive in Bavaria buoyed by their drubbing of Villa which left them eighth in the Premier League.
After a mid-season injury glut, Liverpool are getting back to a fully fit squad.
Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi all played in the drubbing of Villa after recent injuries.
Sturridge, who scored the opener at Villa Park, made his first start since early October, while it was Coutinho’s first start since January 5.
Klopp is expected to name a strong side, as Liverpool do not have any games between the two legs after being knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham United earlier this month.
After the League Cup, the Europa League presents Klopp with a second chance at silverware in his first season as he looks to bring some European glory back to Merseyside.
“I have never said that we have to win a title, but people here make it clear how important silverware is,” said Klopp.
While the Reds are on the rise, hosts Augsburg are battling to stay up.
They are 14th in the Bundesliga, just a point from the relegation places, after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at home to runaway league leaders Bayern Munich, but the Germans want to show what they can do.
From his Dortmund days, Klopp knows all about Augsburg, who qualified for the Europa League by finishing fifth last season, the highest placing in the club’s history.
Klopp has faced Augsburg 10 times while in charge of either Dortmund or Mainz and has lost only once in five games as a coach at the WWK Arena.
The Bavarians have struggled with their key playmaker Daniel Baier out with a fractured ankle since the start of January.
“They have a good counter-attacking game and are very physical,” said Klopp, who said he expects Augsburg to attack his side to prove themselves at this level.
“They haven’t got much of a big cushion in the Bundesliga, so you could understand it if they had wanted to say: ‘We’ll be saying goodbye to the Europa League’.
“But this is a competition where they want to be seen, that was always very important from the very beginning for them.”