Bayern Munich and Liverpool are set to lock horns on Wednesday night, with progression to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League at stake.
Bayern Munich will welcome last season’s finalists Liverpool for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night. The tie hangs in the balance after the first leg at Anfield last month ended in a goalless draw and both teams will be gunning for a victory to progress to the quarterfinals of Europe’s premier footballing competition.
After a rather indifferent start to life under new manager Niko Kovac, Bayern Munich have found their groove again and have been in unstoppable form since the turn of the year. The Bavarian giants have lost just one of their ten games across all competitions (D1) in 2019.
The German champions warmed up for the Liverpool encounter in fine fashion as they thrashed Wolfsburg 6-0 in the Bundesliga this past weekend. In fact, Die Roten come into the game on the back of three consecutive wins, during which they have scored 12 goals, while conceding just once.
Liverpool too have been pretty solid in recent weeks, despite talks of pressure of the Premier League title race getting to them. Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten since their back-to-back defeats to Manchester City (Premier League) and Wolves (FA Cup) back in January, winning and drawing five each of their ten matches.
Liverpool’s latest game saw them come back from a goal down to defeat Burnley 4-2 on Sunday. With the Reds’ defence in fine form and the attackers also looking to have regained form, they will go into the midweek encounter backing themselves to come out on top and qualify for the next round.
Team News & Tactics
Thomas Muller will be absent for the game as he serves a two-match suspension, as will Joshua Kimmich. Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso are absent due to injuries, but Bayern have been boosted by the return from injury of full-back David Alaba and winger Kingsley Coman.
Manuel Neuer is the guaranteed starter between the sticks for the German champions. In Kimmich’s absence Rafinha is set to start as the right-back, while the fit-again Alaba should return to the line-up at left-back. Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule should start at the heart of the defence, ahead of Jerome Boateng, who hasn’t been in the best of form of late.
The Spanish duo of Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara should form the two-man midfield pivot for the home team. The former will be tasked with providing a defensive screen to the backline, with the latter looking to launch attacks from the middle of the park. James Rodriguez should pip Leon Goretzka for the No. 10 role, owing to his recent superior form.
Threat from wide areas will come from Serge Gnabry and seasoned campaigner Franck Ribery, with Coman providing an option from the bench. Spearheading the attack for Bayern will be star striker Robert Lewandowski.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Thiago; Gnabry, Rodriguez, Ribery; Lewandowski
Liverpool will welcome back defensive mainstay Virgil van Dijk, after the Dutchman missed the first leg through suspension. Joe Gomez remains sidelined, however, along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and teenage forward Rhian Brewster. Naby Keita also misses with an injury for the visitors.
Alisson Becker is the undisputed choice between the sticks for the Merseyside outfit. Trent Alexander-Arnold should start at right-back, despite having come off against Burnley with an injury scare. Andrew Robertson is a definite starter out on the left. The returning van Dijk will pair up with Joel Matip at the heart of the defence.
Fabinho, who started as a centre-back in the first leg, should move into the Liverpool midfield, starting as the No. 6. The Brazilian will be key in ensuring James Rodriguez doesn’t have much of an impact on the game. Club captain Jordan Henderson played his best game of the season in the first leg and should return to the team, with the third slot in the midfield set to be occupied by Georginio Wijnaldum.
There is no looking past the first-choice attacking trident of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Firmino and Salah scored a brace each in the win over Watford, but Salah’s dry run in front of goal is a bit of a worry for Liverpool heading into the midweek clash.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- History is on Bayern Munich’s side coming into the match as 21 of 31 teams to have drawn 0-0 away from home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie have ended up progressing to the next round.
- Liverpool and Bayern Munich’s only previous encounter in the European Cup/Champions League before this season came in the 1980-81 semis. Liverpool progressed on away goals (1-1 on aggregate) – they would go on to beat Real Madrid in the final (1-0).
- Bayern Munich failed to have a single shot on target in the first leg against Liverpool, a first for the Bavarians in the Champions League since their semi-final first leg against Barcelona in May 2015.
- Liverpool’s only goal in their three away Champions League games this season was a James Milner penalty against Paris Saint-Germain.
- If Manuel Neuer features, this will be his 100th game in the Champions League. He would also become the 6th goalkeeper to reach that landmark after Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech, Victor Valdes and Oliver Kahn.
Player to Watch
The Senegalese superstar has been Liverpool’s in-form player in recent matches and will be their biggest threat in attack, going into the crunch tie against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night. After his double against Watford on Sunday, Mane reached the 50-goal mark for Liverpool and has now scored eight goals in his last nine appearances for the Reds.
With Joshua Kimmich suspended, Bayern will be relying on Rafinha to keep a check on the former Southampton speedster, which isn’t the most ideal situation. Should Mane come up trumps in the battle against the Brazilian, Liverpool could be well on their way through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Bayern Munich 1-1 Liverpool
Both the teams come into the game high on confidence, having registered heavy wins in their respective league matches this past weekend. Bayern’s attack has been firing on all cylinders in the last few games, but the Liverpool defence has been solid and hard to break down. Add to it, the return of Virgil van Dijk, which makes them even more formidable.
On the other hand, the Reds’ misfiring forward line seems to have found their mojo back as well, as was witnessed in the last game against Watford. And with neither of Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba returning from injury just ahead of the game, the Germans could find themselves under intense pressure from the Liverpool attackers.
It promises to be a nail-biting contest at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night and an incredibly tough one to call. We, at The Hard Tackle, are predicting the encounter to end in a 1-1 draw, with Liverpool qualifying to the next round on away goals.