Despite the German juggernauts having their credentials frequently questioned this season, they’re far from an easy mark. They come into this clash after a frankly orgasmic 6-0 win against Wolfsburg last weekend which pushed them back to the league summit for the first time since September.
Having been crowned Bundesliga champions for the past six years running, disquiet is inevitable when you’re knocked off the top perch. Their domestic monopoly has created a fervent hunger for success on the bigger stage. A win on Wednesday will see them through to an eighth consecutive Champions League quarter-final, a run only bettered by Barcelona.
Liverpool also have the weight of history to contend with: 31 sides have drawn the first leg of a home UCL knockout game 0-0, but only ten have progressed beyond the stage.
Boasting a favourable record against English teams, the Germans will be more optimistic than bagging the best poolside-sunbeds on holiday - they’ve won their last four home matches against British outfits.
Travel Sick Redmen
Liverpool are certainly due a big showing on the road. Including that cataclysmic night in Kiev, the Scousers have lost their last five games played on the continent. They endured a woeful group stage and scraped through by the skin of their teeth, pipping Napoli to the post by netting twice more than the Italians overall.
After suffering humiliating defeats in Paris, Naples and even Belgrade, it seemed like the Reds would be crashing out of Europe in an even bigger mess than Boris Johnson could muster if he tried.
They simply have to score in Munich to stand any chance of going through. Sadly the single measly goal they did manage on the road in Group C certainly won’t fill them with much confidence. Add to that the average of two goals conceded, it means you have some very nervous Englishmen heading to Bavaria.
Absent due to suspension in the first leg having already picked up three yellow cards, Virgil van Dijk’s return will be a huge relief to his coach and his team.
Fabinho was tasked with filling the diligent Dutchman’s boots, a role he executed faultlessly in fairness, managing to deny Bayern a shot on target in a European game for the first time since Barcelona did in 2015.
But having the Brazilian stationed at centre half forced the midfield three to play much deeper, thus starving Liverpool’s feted forwards. Ginny Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson will now be encouraged to bomb on, safe in the knowledge that not only is Van Dijk is casting a watchful eye over Bayern’s omnipotent attacking force but their strongest holding player is screening him.
And it’s not just in defence that Liverpool’s pony-tailed pacifier can be expected to put in a shift. He’s increasingly striking at the other end too just as he did, not once but twice against Germany in the Nations League last year. He’s scored three in the Premier League since then. Add to that his two goals for Celtic in the Champions League and two for Southampton in Europa League, and you have the Swiss Army knife of defenders.
The teckers of this injury time effort to draw 2-2 with the old enemy...can't teach that.
Klopp and Bayern know each other only too and he’s faced them more than any other club in his managerial career. Remarkably, Klopp’s managed a game involving Bayern more times than the current Bayern manager, Niko Kovac, has.
Unfortunately for the Anfield faithful, that wealth of experience hasn’t always translated into positive results. In 30 matches against Bayern, Klopp has managed a modest return of nine wins. Dig a little deeper however and his record at Allianz Arena is more ominous, with just four victories in 15 attempts.
The reverse leg was the only ever game between Klopp and Bayern that has ended goal-less. In fact, historically these matches have been high scoring affairs, averaging 3.2 per game. For reference, the EPL average last season was 2.68.
It’s not beyond him, however. Liverpool’s gurning gladiator did once preside over a run of five consecutive wins whilst lifting back to back Bundesliga titles for BVB. How Scousers need him to locate that form once again.
The first leg was an edge of your seat thriller which, as far as 0-0’s go, was bloody decent. As usual, a key feature were the Red’s full-backs Robertson and Alexander-Arnold weren’t shy in bombing forward. Central to how Klopp plays, in the 5-0 win against Watford recently, the marauding duo fashioned all five assists between them.
Healthy competition in the ranks between the troublesome twosome.
The second leg would normally see that scenario flipped on its head with Klopp adopting a more conservative approach to defending to counter Bayern’s flying flankers. But it won’t have escaped his notice that left-back Alaba remains an injury doubt while Kimmich, who netted in last weekend’s 6-0 league win, is ruled out through suspension.
Should both miss out, Rafinha and Jerome Boateng will likely fill in, greatly nullifying Bayern’s threat out wide and offering Liverpool chance to dominate those areas with pace.
Tale of Two Bobbies
Klopp has overseen the development of more than one Robert in his time. And both have seemingly had their scoring boots literally nailed on by hook or by crook (but most likely by Klopp).
At Dortmund he nurtured Lewandowski into becoming the hottest attacking prospect in the country. At 25, he was snapped up by the brash Bavarian’s to become by far their highest earner, in return helping them to every Bundesliga title since.
The predatory Pole recently credited his former Dortmund boss with “releasing that striker’s instinct” within him. It’s quite the compliment from this season’s UCL top scorer (8 goals).
But his most notable accolade is reserved for his jaw-dropping five-goal haul within nine minutes in 2015 after coming on at half time to single-handedly overturn a 1-0 deficit. Some things don’t change and just this weekend he bagged a brace against the same team, Wolfsburg.
In the other corner, Bobby Firminio, who Klopp brought to Merseyside after seeing first-hand his talents on show at Hoffenheim.
Their Samba dandy has been a revelation for the Reds, dragging his side to last year’s UCL final with ten goals, the tournament’s joint top scorer with Salah. Whilst his form has tailed off a smidge this season, he roared back this weekend with a double against Burnley.
He’s summed up Liverpool’s European frustrations recently, having only netted twice in this season’s Champions League campaign. He’ll be keen to get that figure flowing, however, his record against Bayern is hard to be optimistic about. In eight games, he’s scored once but, significantly, never won.
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