There were a fair few sides Liverpool wanted to avoid heading into the Europa League draw, headed by Borussia Dortmund. While many Liverpool fans would be happy to see Jürgen Klopp facing off against his old club eventually, and the media would certainly love it, with four rounds to go before the finals most will have been hoping for a club with a lower UEFA coefficient to start.
In the end, Liverpool managed to avoid not only Dortmund, but also all of the other toughest—at least on paper—opponents. Valencia, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasaray, Fiorentina, Sporting CP, Anderlecht, Marseille, and Villarreal, along with Dortmund 10 of the 16 sides Liverpool could have potentially drawn and all ranked higher than the Reds based on European results over the past few seasons. All avoided.
Liverpool instead got Augsburg, ranked the fourth-worst side out of the 32 remaining clubs in the competition. Which doesn’t make the match easy, of course. But on paper at least it’s a kind draw, and one that gives the Reds a rather short trip to a well maintained Bundesliga stadium. It also gives new manager Jürgen Klopp an opponent that he’s already well familiar with from his Dortmund days.
"The anticipation of facing Liverpool is huge," said Augsberg manager Markus Weinzierl following the draw, who headed in today knowing they would be underdogs against any potential opponent bar surprise Group A winners Molde. "Everyone was happy. Liverpool are a cult and Jürgen is a huge name in Germany, so I’m happy for the whole club. We will do everything we can. This game is something special."
Weinzierl will be hoping that some of the excitement of the matchup will lead to good things for his club, and not just in Europe. In Germany, Augsburg are mired in 13th today, with a mere 16 points to show for their first 16 league games so far this season. They are just two points clear of the relegations places. In the Europa League, the were fortunate to beat Partizan to second in their group on goal differential.
They will be clear underdogs when Liverpool arrive for the first leg of the Round of 32 tie on February 18th, but it’s a role the German side relish. And Weinzierl knows that beyond the differences between the two clubs’ in the standings, it will be additionally difficult because Jürgen Klopp isn’t going to take Liverpool’s lower-ranked opponents lightly. Now there’s just the small matter of two months to wait.
"We will be underdogs against Liverpool, but this is a role we like to assume," added Augsburg’s manager. "We have courage and confidence. Jürgen Klopp knows us and will not underestimate us."