Europa League preview: Dortmund, Liverpool clash in quarterfinals

Liverpool visit Borussia Dortmund today (3:05 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) in a match with no shortage of story lines.

For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, it will be his first trip back to face his former club. He spent seven years in charge of Dortmund, winning a pair of Bundesliga titles and, at the risk of sounding corny, helping to restore the club to its earlier glory.

For the clubs, this is the first leg of a Europa League quarterfinal tie. The Champions League berth for next season that comes with winning this particular trophy may not matter as much to Dortmund, who look destined to earn a spot by finishing near the top of the Bundesliga.

But for Liverpool, currently sitting in ninth place in the Premier League table, winning the Europa League would be the real-life equivalent of finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.

While he treasures his time at Dortmund, don’t expect Klopp to be conflicted if Liverpool score a goal today.

“Of course I will celebrate,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I did it when I went back to Mainz with Dortmund, and I was there for 18 years. If after seven years they don’t know me well enough that my team should score and I will celebrate, what can I say?

“It depends. If it’s in the first minute I don’t know, I won’t go running down the line. But if it’s important, decisive, in this moment that’s what happens. It’s not that I plan this but I will not take some pills to stop me from celebrating a goal.”

Liverpool fans hope that comes up later today, but Dortmund has been in good form recently and have to be viewed as favorites today.

Since a 2-1 loss at Cologne on Dec. 19, the German side are unbeaten in its last 16 matches. This includes two wins each over FC Porto and Tottenham in Europa League play and a 0-0 draw with Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

Liverpool, on the other hand, hasn’t won a match since a 2-0 win over Manchester United on March 10.

Still, the Reds have the quality to pick up an away goal, which would put them in a good position when the tie shifts back to Anfield next week.

No matter how it plays out, it’s unlikely to be dull.

Other matches today

Athletic Bilbao vs. Sevilla — Like Klopp, Sevilla striker Fernando Llorente will make an emotional return to a former club tonight in this all-Spanish quarterfinal.

Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk — Braga will try to continue its unlikely run through this competition when the Ukrainian giants visit Portugal for the first leg of their quarterfinal tie.

Sparta Prague vs. Villarreal — Sparta Prague have yet to lose a Europa League match in 12 tries this campaign, but face a tough test against the Spanish side today.

About Randy Capps

South Carolina native, Fulham apologist, writer and sports fanatic.