Profile: Madcap Klopp to bring dash of daring to Liverpool

“Klopp, unmistakable with his stubble and glasses, built Dortmund’s game around the principle of gegenpressing, or counter-pressing. It soon became a buzzword in European football and fans in Germany grew accustomed to the sight of Klopp’s yellow-shirted hordes asphyxiating their opponents with high pressing and quick transitions. It was an approach that reached its apogee in a 4-1 demolition of Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the 2012-13 Champions League semi-finals, when Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals. Dortmund ran out of puff last season, finishing seventh in the league and losing to Wolfsburg in the German Cup final, but Klopp has had time to fine-tune his philosophy during a five-month sabbatical.”

Me and my AFP colleague Ryland James have had a look at how Liverpool manager-elect Jürgen Klopp is likely to approach the challenges facing him at Anfield. You can read our piece here.

Pitchside Europe: European Team of the Season

“Zlatan Ibrahimović enjoyed his most prolific season to date with Milan, Bayern Munich’s Mario Gómez plundered goals with remarkable consistency, and Falcao shot Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory, but Huntelaar outscored them all. The Dutchman’s sparkling partnership with Raúl fired Schalke to Champions League qualification and with 29 goals, he trailed only Messi, Ronaldo and Robin van Persie in the running for the European Golden Shoe.”

Pitchside Europe signed off for the 2011-2012 campaign by selecting a team of the season from players plying their trade outside the English Premier League. You can see the team (and then vent your spleen about my preposterous selections) here.

Pitchside Europe: What’s gone wrong for Bayern Munich?

“The absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger — out since early February with torn ankle ligaments — has been keenly felt, but Bayern’s most pressing problem is a perplexing lack of bite in attack. Having plundered 16 league goals in the run-up to Christmas, Mario Gómez has scored just twice since the winter break, while both Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben are struggling for form.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column, on how Bayern Munich’s arresting slump in form since the winter break has gifted the initiative in the Bundesliga title race to defending champions Borussia Dortmund, can be read here.

Pitchside Europe: Smash-and-grab Gladbach return to fore

“The Foals had begun their campaign with a shock 1-0 win at Bayern’s Allianz Arena in August, but the context then was very different. Gladbach started the season as relegation candidates, having narrowly escaped the drop last term, and the win was only their second away success over Bayern in the league in the club’s history. Five months later, they are just a point off top spot and chasing a place in the Champions League.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe blog for Eurosport examines how Lucien Favre has transformed Borussia Mönchengladbach from relegation fodder to Bundesliga title contenders in the space of just 11 months. You can read it here.

Pitchside Europe: Götze keeps Germany guessing

Having successfully prised Manuel Neuer from Schalke in the summer, Bayern – who host Dortmund in their next league game – see Götze as an ideal long-term replacement for the increasingly injury-prone Arjen Robben and, characteristically, they have made no attempt to disguise their admiration. The problem for Bayern, however, is that the object of their affections does not seem to concur with their lofty self-regard.

My latest Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport, on Borussia Dormund’s Mario Götze, can be read here.

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