Liverpool vs Bayern should provide fascinating viewing
Liverpool return to Champions League action on Tuesday when they host Bayern Munich at Anfield.
The Reds booked their progression to the last 16 earlier in the campaign after finishing second in Group C behind Paris Saint Germain.
They come into this game after returning to winning ways with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth last time around. Draws with West Ham United and Leicester City in January had threatened their title challenge and saw doubts start to creep into Jurgen Klopp’s side.
A 10-day gap, however, has given them a much-needed break and chance to reset ahead of the final few months of the campaign.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, travel to Merseyside in middling form themselves. The German giants have endured a difficult first season under Niko Kovac and currently sit two points behind Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga table.
They have fared better in Europe, though. They were unbeaten in Group C, finishing the group stages undefeated with four wins from six and 15 goals scored. Only PSG and Manchester City scored more.
Liverpool will head into this game in the middle of a defensive crisis. With Joe Gomez out injured, Dejan Lovren half-fit and Virgil van Dijk suspended, Joel Matip is their only fully-fit recognised centre back.
There is hope that Lovren will make a recovery in time for the game, but Jurgen Klopp has admitted that will be touch and go. If the Croatian does not make it, it is likely Fabinho will start at centre back once again.
That is not an issue for the Brazilian given he has played there before and impressed but is less than ideal nonetheless. Liverpool’s only other absentee is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Bayern Munich will be without Corentin Tolisso, who is a long-term absentee with a cruciate injury picked up in September.
Arjen Robben is also out injured while the Germans will have to wait on a late fitness test for Kingsley Coman. He limped out of the win over Augsburg and looks unlikely to feature. Thomas Muller will also be absent as he’s serving a suspension.
What the managers said
Despite Bayern not being at their best this season, Klopp still believes the German champions are a quality opponent for his side to be facing:
“Over the years I have watched a lot of Bayern games and this season as well, five or six,” the manager told Liverpoolfc.com.
“You watch always the results and goals, but full games it’s different. [I’ve watched] five or six and now we have the more detailed analysis, and it’s just quality. It’s a mix of quality and experience.
“They were six times in a row champions of Germany, which is not easy, and they were one of the teams in the last 10 years who were pretty much all the time in the quarter-finals, semi-finals, final of the Champions League.
“These players are still all there, with a few nice add-ons: Goretzka, Gnabry, Coman. They have different roles in the team but they are all still there and it’s just a really good football team.”
Niko Kovac, meanwhile, has admitted he is worried about his team’s defensive problems heading into the game:
“Every shot is a goal at the moment,” he said.
“When we have the ball, we don’t play like I expect the team to play. Their (Augsburg) second goal is a good example.
“The second ball with all that room in the back is something that can’t happen. Liverpool would punish us for that sort of mistake.
“Defensively, we need to be better working backwards, and that is something that will be going into my analysis.”
This is the first time Liverpool have faced a German team in the Champions League was 14 years ago. They went on to win the competition that year. In fact, they’ve beaten a German team on their run to winning the competition in four of their five successes.
The Reds have won just one of their five meetings with Bayern, drawing three and losing the other one.
Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have a great record against them either. He’s faced Bayern 29 times as a manager, winning 9, losing 16 and drawing the other four. He’s lost more games against them than any other club.
Bayern, meanwhile, have won 22 of their 51 games against English clubs in their history.
If Liverpool win this game it will be just the second time an English side has beat a German one in a knockout game since 2011. Tottenham were the first to do so with their win over Borussia Dortmund.