Jürgen Klopp believes his side can win the Champions League after learning from last year's poor performance
Jürgen Klopp has already conquered Germany. His Borussia Dortmund have won the league the past two years and last season set a Bundesliga record for the number of points won in a season: 81. The following week they walloped Bayern Munich 5-2 to win the German Cup and the Double for the first time.
That Klopp can walk on water the Borussia Dortmund supporters are already sure. But can he march on in Europe? We may find out this week.
On Wednesday the 45-year-old manager takes his young and almost preposterously attack-minded side to the Etihad Stadium to play Manchester City in an attempt to put a huge dent in Roberto Mancini's European ambitions. Dortmund won their first Group D game against Ajax two weeks ago and the English champions can ill-afford to drop more points after their defeat at the Bernabéu.
But which Dortmund will turn up? The swashbuckling side that beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-0 at the weekend or the side that shipped three goals at Frankfurt in a 3-3 draw during which the manager was sent to the stands and afterwards described the performance as "shit"?
There is unquestionable talent in the side, even after the loss of Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United last summer and Nuri Sahin (now at Liverpool) to Real Madrid the previous year.
The striker Robert Lewandowski scored 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches last season and will be fresh for Wednesday night having been rested at the weekend. His Polish compatriots Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek have a sublime understanding down the right and on the left Marco Reus is showing why he is considered the most talented young player in a very talented generation. The 23-year-old joined from Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer and his choice of Die Schwarzgelben ahead of Bayern Munich shows how far Klopp has taken the club. They – not Bayern – are now the team to join and the team to beat.
And, as if that was not enough, there are also the effervescent Mario Götze (a long-standing target of Arsène Wenger), the defensive midfielder Sebastian Kehl and, at the back, the elegant centre-back Mats Hummels, who made such an impression for Germany at Euro 2012.
However, despite the calibre of the players at his disposal and the impressive results domestically, Klopp has struggled in Europe. Last season's Champions League adventure was a huge disappointment with the German side finishing last in a group containing Arsenal, Marseille and Olympiakos. The previous year they failed to get out of their Europa League group.
In pre-season, when Klopp was asked what his aims for the Champions League were this campaign, he said simply: "To win it," adding: "We don't ignore our quality and even when we won the league for the first time we didn't think that that was a one-off. Now we think that the Champions League is a realistic target.
"That doesn't mean that we will actually do it. It is just that with the quality we have that seems a fair enough target. If you get a great team together, then good football is also possible. And we have a great team. Together we have also created a relaxed yet incredibly results-oriented working environment.
"Everything can't come to you at once. We have to be patient as well. Our football works on the international scene, there is no question about that. And we will play our way in Europe. We won't change. And hopefully we can do it with more consistency than last season."
Klopp's players seem to be on message. Talking about the Champions League before the first game against Ajax, Ilkay Gundogan said: "We won't be as naive this time as last season," while Hummels added: "We are just that bit cleverer this time around."
Klopp would smile at his players' comments. He has got them exactly where he wants: confident yet aware of what went wrong last season. "The Champions League has something special about it and that can, initially, inhibit players," he said recently, before adding: "but this season we feel as if we belong. Bring it on!"