There can’t be many visitors to Anfield this season who will be happier at the lack of a crowd than Thomas Tuchel.
The Chelsea boss makes a third different visit with a third different club on Thursday evening having suffered more than most on Merseyside in the past.
Spectacular, last minute defeats with Borussia Dortmund in 2016 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2018 surely still stay with the Blues boss, and those matches also serve as pretty important moments in the evolution of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Tuchel did get some revenge the last time he faced the Reds though, but even that game served as a valuable lesson for Klopp’s side on their route to success.
Here are the stories of behind the last three times Tuchel came face-to-face with Klopp.
Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund – April 14, 2016
They say the secret to good comedy is timing, but that can also be the case for good sport too.
And sometimes the two can mix. Take Mats Hummels for example.
It is 12 minutes from the end of the Europa League quarter-final second leg tie at Anfield when the experienced German defender responds to the concession of a corner by telling his Borussia Dortmund teammates to focus. To really focus.
They are 3-2 up on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, and they have weathered the initial storm caused by Philippe Coutinho’s fine strike 12 minutes earlier. Liverpool still need two goals, and surely they won’t get any if Hummels’ message gets across to the Dortmund defenders?
Then just as the camera pans away from him a low corner swings in, and Mamadou Sakho simply stoops and heads the ball into the net. 3-3.
“It was not logical,” said Tuchel after the match, and after Dejan Lovren’s header had won it for Liverpool in stoppage time, crowning an astonishing comeback and really forging the belief between the Kop and Klopp just six months into the new manager’s reign.
“If you expect an explanation, I probably have to disappoint you because an explanation would mean that things are logical or tactical or at least in moments you see where a game goes to the other side.
“None of this happened.”
What did happen would come to serve as Liverpool’s tipping off point.
This was the night Klopp truly arrived on Merseyside, and his great Liverpool project began to get off the ground.
Liverpool 3-2 Paris Saint-Germain – September 18, 2018
But what about the trophies though?
As he came up to three years in the job, Klopp was seen as a manager who could take Liverpool to the dance but still see them go home empty handed.
Defeats in the League Cup, Europa League and Champions League finals had raised doubts over whether or not they could ever go the whole way, and so a victory over a European big boy would be welcomed as a sign of progress, even if it was in the Champions League group stages.
And what a victory it was.
A header from Daniel Sturridge and James Milner’s penalty had Liverpool 2-0 up against PSG, with Neymar being twisted by Sadio Mane and later turning over and over as he span to the ground when bodychecked by Milner.
PSG came back through a Thomas Meunier strike and then Kylian Mbappe’s late equaliser, only for Roberto Firmino to win it with a stoppage time strike that was greeted with the type of celebrations usually reserved for European knockout stages at Anfield, and Tuchel knows all about them.
“Maybe the score did not really tell the story of the game,” said Tuchel after the match.
“For me, the score was not logical or correct.
“We conceded two in the first half but never did we lose our confidence. We showed a lot of bravery and mental strength. Maybe in the second we started to give the ball away a little easily, but this is Anfield.”
That it is, and it was an Anfield that now believed Liverpool really did belong back in Europe’s elite.
Tuchel trotting out the “not logical” claim for the second time in two-and-a-half years could have served to remind the home crowd of the resource they had at their disposal.
The only way was forward.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Liverpool – November 28, 2018
But first, a return to earth and another lesson in the ‘dark arts’.
Klopp’s side were becoming renowned on the continent by now, but after the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid a year earlier had served as a crash course in game management and utilising nefarious means to get what you wanted, then came their trip to Paris.
Tuchel’s PSG were up for this, their backs were against the wall and they would stop at nothing to get the win they needed to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
They managed it, 2-1, but it was the antics of Neymar and his teammates which were much of the focus post-match.
“It’s a tight game in a very important competition,” said an angry Klopp after the loss. “How many yellow cards did we have – five, six, seven? It was crazy. The holding of somebody is the same colour as Verratti’s foul?
“The little hurdle was then the 500,000 interruptions in the second half. The ref still thinks he did everything right.
“I think two or three times in a row, we are the fairest team in England. Tonight we look like butchers because we were constantly down. It looks like we used elbows and everything.”
Tuchel unsurprisingly disagreed.
“I did not feel like it was such a big issue. We had five minutes overtime, we suffered a lot of fouls,” he said.
“You don’t have to do fouls if you’re one goal down and you do 10 fouls in five minutes.
“When I lose big games I am angry and I sometimes talk about stuff just to bring the attention to something else and away from my team.
“I do this also but it’s not my issue. You’ll have to ask Jurgen for that and I heard he has his opinion to that and that’s fine. I’m talking about the game.”
Masterfully handled, and a lesson in how to seemingly rise above any issues in pursuit of the mantle of winners.
Liverpool didn’t have that yet, but over the next two years they would develop a ruthless and a celebrated mentality – avoiding the term of “butchers” – that would drive them to winning both the Champions League and Premier League.
They wanted to make sure they’d never feel inferior to the likes of a PSG again.