Liverpool will be hoping for another memorable Anfield European night when they return to action against Bayern Munich in the Champions League tomorrow evening, despite a defensive crisis currently marring the game.
With Virgil Van Dijk suspended after picking up a yellow card in the final group game against Napoli, while Joe Gomez and likely Dejan Lovren are set to miss out through injury, Klopp is left with Joel Matip as the only fit, senior centre-back at his disposal — a daunting prospect against Bayern’s daunting attack.
Although Liverpool have fared extremely well in the Premier League this season, the Champions League has proved to be somewhat more of a challenge, with the Reds just narrowly scraping through their group with 3 wins and 3 defeats.
However, home ties don’t appear to be the problem, with all 3 victories coming at Anfield — a fact which is bound to give the team a lot of confidence, having failed to lose at home in Europe since Real Madrid visited in 2014 and not once under Klopp’s management.
With the defensive situation and Bayern’s immense quality, it is far to be a straightforward occasion however and Liverpool will need to obtain every advantage before the second-leg trip to the Allianz Arena.
In spite of a difficult start to life under new boss Niko Kovac, Bayern have looked back to their usual selves since the climax of the winter break and now sit only 2 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and should now arguably be considered the favourites to lift yet another league title.
With Bundesliga glory looking likely again, it is the Champions League that Bayern will be prioritising over all other competitions, with the Bavarians in search of reaching an eighth semi final in 10 seasons — a truly impressive achievement.
Even though they were only 1 of 5 teams to remain unbeaten throughout the group stage, their path to top spot in Group E was far from straightforward, drawing both ties to second place Ajax, shipping 3 goals in the final group game in Amsterdam.
They did admittedly look shaky during Friday’s 3-2 win over Augsburg and had to come from behind twice in order to win but having won 11 of their previous 14 last-16 clashes, Liverpool cannot afford to underestimate them.
Last Meeting (Liverpool 3 Bayern Munich 2, 24th August 2001):
Although Liverpool did beat Bayern 3-0 in a pre-season game back at the Allianz in 2017, tomorrow surprisingly marks only the seventh time the Reds have come up against the German outfit in Europe and the first time in almost 2 decades, where they narrowly bested Bayern in the 2001 UEFA Super Cup in Monaco.
Liverpool, who had won the UEFA Cup months prior, beat a Bayern side that had won the Champions League that same year, with goals from John Arne Riise, Emile Heskey and Michael Owen giving the Reds a 3-0 lead. Bayern managed 2 consolations in the second half thanks to Hasan Salihamidzic and Carsten Jancker.
Seeing as the game occurred only a year past the turning of the millennium, don’t look to the match as an indication of how tomorrow may play out.
Liverpool’s biggest blow prior to the game is undoubtedly the loss of Virgil Van Dijk via suspension after picking up a booking against Napoli, ruling him out of the first-leg of the tie. With Joe Gomez certain not to be play and Dejan Lovren still looking like a major doubt, a centre-back partnership of Joel Matip and Fabinho looks by far the most probable outcome.
Although there were minor concerns about the fitness of both Xherdan Shaqiri and Gini Wijnaldum, both are set to feature; there remains a slight worry over Roberto Firmino, who was not seen participating in training this afternoon due to a virus but hopefully he’ll have recovered.
Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster are edging closer to fitness after long-term injuries and were a part of the travelling camp to Marbella, there is no chance either will be ready for tomorrow.
The visitors are already without midfielder Corentin Tolisso due to injury, while Thomas Muller misses both legs after picking up a red card for a dangerous challenge in the game versus Ajax.
However, another untimely blow has come in the form of Jerome Boateng, who has been unable to travel due to a stomach bug. Franck Ribery didn’t travel with the Bayern squad after becoming a father on the weekend, yet will most likely join up on Monday evening and could play.
Kovac will be buoyed by the fact that winger Kingsley Coman is fit after an injury scare against Augsburg and could start from the off.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Neuer, Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba, Martinez, Thiago, Gnabry, James, Coman, Lewandowski
Liverpool 3 Bayern Munich 1