Preview: Bayern Munich vs Liverpool
Running out 4-2 victors against Burnley, the Reds will now have to contend with European duties. A trip to Germany awaits them, with Bayern Munich eager to inflict misery on their visitors. On the right side of a 6-0 scoreline at the weekend, the Germans will be highly confident heading into the tie. Ahead of what’s promises to be an intriguing clash, here’s the preview for both sides.
When the final whistle blew, for the first leg at least, Liverpool will no doubt feel a little disappointed with the result. Being the home team, they’ll no doubt have wanted the home advantage to count. Which is why there is an argument to be made that Bayern will be the happier of the two sides to secure a clean sheet away from home. With their own set of fans to cheer them on, the Bavarians will no doubt be optimistic of securing a result at the Allianz Arena.
That being said, Liverpool have reasons to be optimistic heading into Wednesday’s game. An away goal would leave the home team reeling and needing to score two to progress. Judging from the chances created in the reverse fixture, the Reds have every right to believe that they could achieve just that. And with a defence that sturdy, the Merseyside can be contend with soaking the pressure if they do take an early lead.
Both teams have reasons to believe in themselves, and it’ll be hard to confidently predict who’ll come up top. Nothing is set in stone, and all that the match can promise is that it’ll be highly entertaining.
Target The Wide Areas
Part of the reason why Bayern was able to leave Anfield with a clean sheet was the presence of Joshua Kimmich. The young fullback was thoroughly impressive, reading the game with a high degree of intelligence. If it wasn’t for him, Manuel Neur would surely have been much busier in goal. Complementing his defensive skills is his willingness to pour forward, with him linking up well with Serge Gnabry. The only pity coming out of the clash would be his yellow card. Being the third booking that he’s picked up in the tournament, it means he’ll join Thomas Muller on the sidelines.
Kimmich’s absence will be a blow for the Bavarians. For they’ll miss his thrust down the right, with his likely replacement Rafinha not having much game time this season. With David Alaba a doubt on the other side of the defence, not mentioning Kingsley Coman’s injury, Bayern are undoubtedly weaker in the wide areas. They may be forced to field Jerome Boateng in an unnatural left back position, and deploy the aging Frank Ribery on the wings.
Against a side depleted on both flanks, Liverpool simply have to attack both areas. Salah and Mane on the wings would no doubt terrify the pair of fullbacks. Add Robertson’s and Trent’s (fitness permits) commitment to support the attack and Bayern will be fighting a losing battle on either side. Overloading the wide areas in the final third will thus be Liverpool’s best way forward. It’ll be easy to envision the all important away goal being the product of a cross, or a third person run into the channels.
Following Adam Lallana’s impressive performance against Burnley, there was hope that another fringe player could make a difference against Bayern. Alas, the player in question is ruled out with an injury. Eager eyed fans who noticed that Naby KeitaNaby Keita wasn’t in training had their fears confirmed when Klopp announced his 21-man squad. Left at Melwood, Liverpool’s No. 8 will play no part in the Red’s second leg clash with Bayern.
Returning to the very country where he’d made his name, there was hope that Keita could be the difference. His outing in the home leg had only served to stoke expectations, but the Reds now have to consider alternative options. They’ll need someone that’s able to break the line, something which the current available midfielders lack. Still, Klopp will have to decide which midfield combination to field. Will he opt for the safe route by fielding the likes of Henderson, Milner, and Wijnaldum? Or would he try something different? Perhaps an ex-Bayern player could be the key, with Shaqiri being the creative outlet that the Merseyside team so often lack in recent outings.
Regardless, the gaffer has a big decision to make on Wednesday night. Up against a world class midfield that has Thiago Alcantra and James Rodriguez, whoever’s chosen is in for a tough job. And while the wide areas are Bayern’s likely weakness, one suspects that Bayern’s biggest strength is down the middle. Cutting off the supply lines to Robert Lewandoski will be key to stopping Bayern, which is why Liverpool can’t afford to lose the midfield battle.