Liverpool and Bayern Munich lock horns in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie on Tuesday, in what promises to be a mouthwatering contest.
The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the second phase of the Round of 16 first leg ties. The marquee contest of the week will pit two former European champions against each other as Bayern Munich pay a visit to Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, in what is a hotly anticipated encounter.
Liverpool reached the Round of 16 by the skin of their teeth, having finished level on points with Napoli in Group C. Their overall form in recent weeks hasn’t been too promising, with the Reds failing to win four of their last seven games, although they will come into Tuesday’s clash fresh and raring to go after a ten-day break which included a warm weather training camp in Marbella.
Bayern Munich, on the other hand, are starting to find their feet after a sketchy start to the season, although their recent 3-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen will still be fresh in everyone’s minds. Die Roten progressed to the knockout stages on the back of an unbeaten group stage campaign, with only Ajax denying them maximum points.
The two sides last met at the 2001 UEFA Super Cup, with Liverpool narrowly beating Bayern 3-2 at Stade Louis II. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jurgen Klopp does not have many of his first-team stars missing ahead of the visit of Bayern Munich on Tuesday. But, the Liverpool boss has a central defensive crisis on his hands, considering as many as three centre-backs could miss out for the hosts.
The most notable absentee for Liverpool will be Virgil van Dijk, who has been a rock at the back and the biggest reason why the Reds boast the best defensive record in the Premier League this season. The Dutchman misses out due to suspension, after picking up his third yellow card in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage against Napoli.
In addition to van Dijk, Joe Gomez also misses out due to his leg injury, while Dejan Lovren will be subjected to a late fitness test to determine his availability as he struggles to return from a hamstring complaint.
Lovren though, might be unable to make it, meaning Fabinho could be starting at the heart of the Liverpool defence alongside Joel Matip, the only recognised centre-back who is fit. Fortunately for Klopp, almost all of his other regulars are fit and available to face Bayern, with Roberto Firmino the only one whose starting spot is in doubt.
Firmino missed training on Monday due to illness. But, it has been widely reported that the Brazilian forward could be named in the starting lineup, just like Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner were last time out against Bournemouth, with Wijnaldum even starring with a beautiful goal. If unfit, Daniel Sturridge could get a rare start.
Speaking of Wijnaldum, the Dutch midfielder is now fully fit after recovering from a bout of illness and should join Jordan Henderson and the in-form Naby Keita in the middle of the park. The rest of the regulars – Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – are expected to start in their respective positions.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Matip, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Like Klopp, Niko Kovac does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for the trip to Liverpool either. On Tuesday, the Bayern Munich boss might only be without five first-team players due to injuries or suspension.
Thomas Muller misses out due to a two-game ban, incurred for his dangerous challenge on Nicolas Tagliafico in Bayern’s 3-3 draw against Ajax. In addition to the German forward, the likes of Jerome Boateng (illness) and Arjen Robben (thigh) are unavailable due to their respective injuries.
Corentin Tolisso has returned to training but is not part of the travelling squad to face Liverpool as he continues making his way back to peak fitness after returning from a long-term injury. Finally, Leon Goretzka’s availability is in doubt due to an ankle injury that forced him to train individually on Monday.
There is some good news, however, with Kingsley Coman fit and available after giving a scare last week against Augsburg, when he seemed to have picked up an ankle injury. The Frenchman should start on the left flank, with Serge Gnabry lining up on the opposite flank.
James Rodriguez is likely to be the attacking midfielder who will have much of the creative onus on him, while there is no looking past Robert Lewandowski to lead the line for Bayern. In midfield, the absence of Goretzka and Tolisso means Thiago Alcantara ought to be partnered by Javi Martinez.
At the back, the likes of Mats Hummels, David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich are certain starters, with Niklas Sule also set to start owing to Boateng’s absence. Manuel Neuer will be the Bayern Munich captain, although he needs to step up after what has been a largely forgettable campaign for the legendary goalkeeper.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Thiago; Gnabry, James Rodriguez, Coman; Lewandowski
- Liverpool have lost only one of their seven matches in European competitions against Bayern Munich (W2 D4).
- Bayern Munich are yet to score a single goal against Liverpool at Anfield after three games.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 19 consecutive European matches at home (W14 D5), last losing at Anfield back in October 2014 against Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage. It’s their second longest unbeaten streak at home in European competitions after their 40-match run between September 1974 and December 1991.
- Bayern Munich are on a run of eight consecutive Champions League away matches without a defeat (W6 D2), with their last loss on the road coming in September 2017 against PSG.
- Robert Lewandowski is the leading goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League so far this season, having scored eight goals in the group stage.
Player to Watch
With Virgil van Dijk unavailable due to suspension and Dejan Lovren struggling to recover from his hamstring injury, the onus will be on Joel Matip to be the defensive leader against Bayern Munich. The Cameroonian has largely been solid this season and comes into Tuesday’s match full of confidence after a solid showing last time out versus Bournemouth.
With the versatile, yet unseasoned (in the position) Fabinho set to line up alongside him at the heart of the Liverpool defence, Matip will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. The most important game of his Liverpool stint beckons for the 27-year-old, and his performance will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
Liverpool 2-1 Bayern Munich
Arguably the most eye catching fixture in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Liverpool and Bayern Munich ought to be standing on an even pedestal over two legs, largely due to the injuries and suspension to key players.
Virgil van Dijk will be sorely missed by the hosts, with the Dutchman’s absence handing Bayern a big chance to grab a major foothold in the tie. Die Roten though, have been poor at the back this season, and with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane starting to slowly regain top form, Niko Kovac’s men could be in for a long night.
As things stand, it looks like Tuesday’s clash is unlikely to be short of goalmouth action, but Liverpool should have enough quality to clinch the first leg. Bayern Munich though, should score their first ever goal at Anfield, although The Hard Tackle predicts Liverpool to narrowly beat the German champions 2-1.