Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp has put bitterness with Bayern Munich behind him
Manager relishing reunion with Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels who helped his Dortmund win back-to-back Bundesliga titles
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If it was one of the defining rivalries in German football in the past decade, Jurgen Klopp insisted his feud with Bayern Munich is in the past as he prepared to face the club that considered appointing him in 2008 and which cost him the Uefa Champions League in 2013.
Bayern beat Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the final six years ago, a game played to the backdrop of Mario Gotze leaving the Westfalenstadion for the Allianz Arena. Klopp’s most prolific striker, Robert Lewandowski, made the same journey the following year.
But the Liverpool manager was adamant he does not harbour any grudges.
“When they bought our players, how can I be happy and say ‘good idea’? That was not nice for us at Dortmund, but it is part of the business and was a long time ago,” he said. “I was never able to be angry for a long time.”
Instead, he is relishing a reunion with Lewandowski, Bayern’s 25-goal top scorer this season, and defender Mats Hummels, another who helped his Dortmund win back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
“I work together with these two boys and I loved them, two fantastic players,” he said. “I have to [be] really thankful because without them, probably my career would not be the same. We all benefited from each other.
"I remember my first phone call with Mats Hummels. That is part of my history. I really like them but [on Tuesday night] we will try everything to make sure they don’t shine.”
Both teams are second in their respective leagues, with Bayern two points behind Dortmund, but Klopp stressed the differences between a club who have won six successive titles and one looking for their first in 29 years.
“We want to make history, but completely different,” he reflected. “Maybe we achieved more so far than people expected and maybe Bayern achieved less than people expected but in both situations there is a long way to go.”
Bayern, he feels, have regained the hunger after an early-season slump.
“To be the champions, you have to have the desire of a newcomer, combined with the quality of a real contender,” he elaborated. “At the beginning of the season maybe that didn’t happen but now they have it back and from my perspective that makes them even more dangerous.”
Lewandowski may prove still more threatening against a makeshift defence. Liverpool are definitely without the suspended Virgil van Dijk – “a massive miss", according to captain Jordan Henderson – and the injured Joe Gomez.
Dejan Lovren’s hamstring problem renders him a major doubt and Klopp added: “I actually have to wait minute by minute [to see] if there is a chance or not.”
Should the Croatian miss out, Liverpool will be without three of their four specialist centre-backs and midfielder Fabinho will be pressed into service at the heart of the defence.
“Fabinho, if in the Champions League against Bayern Munich, it is not an easy job,” Klopp added. “But we try to make the best of the situation.”
Henderson stressed the importance of the rest of the team helping out the back four. Klopp looked to Liverpool’s 12th man: a crowd who have attracted attention in his homeland.
“A lot of people in Germany are speaking about the atmosphere at Anfield, they are saying we are maybe the most emotional club in world football,” he said. “Emotion for me is a good thing. We have to play very passionate football.”
Klopp is invariably touted as a future Bayern manager but under contract until 2022, he is savouring his love affair with Liverpool.
“Very much, much more than I could have expected because you never know,” he said. “The welcome was outstanding and since then it became better and better.”
Over three years, he has taken his adopted club to a Champions League final and into title contention, without yet winning silverware. “We are a real competitor again,” he said.
“That is not enough but it is a real step.”
Updated: February 18, 2019 05:59 PM