When the draws were made in December, Liverpool were flying from back to front, scoring goals and not letting many in. Liverpool’s Tuesday opponent, Bayern Munich, were supposedly floundering; with their manager, Nico Kovac, under immense pressure to cut the gap to Dortmund on the Bundesliga table.
But two months after, Bayern look the stronger while the Reds have stumbled with many of their star names injured and in rehabilitation. Jurgen Klopp has attempted to douse the fans’ enthusiasm towards another final appearance by saying the English Premier League title is the major target for the season but that will not mean the available players will not give 110%.
Bayern have cut the lead to Dortmund to three points and have just one loss in their last 14 matches with Robert Lewandowski in the goals again. Klopp has to find adequate replacements for Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino to stand any chance of a good result at a fevered Anfield on Tuesday while Xherdan Shaqiri will be chomping at the bit to be unleashed against his former side. For Kovac, whether Kingsley Coman plays could be huge with Arjen Robben unfit to make the trip.
Three duels to watch
Mane v Kimmich
Sadio Mane is hale and hearty and he could be the major attack instigator on Tuesday as Liverpool seek a good first-leg advantage. With just one goal in this season’s Champions League, the Senegalese forward will be dangerous but he has to be wary to defend at the same time as Joshua Kimmich has proven – with 10 assists in the Bundesliga – that he can be a good offensive outlet. Both are energetic, fast and committed. This will be a duel to watch.
Fabinho v Lewandowski
The Brazilian midfielder, Fabinho, is expected to drop into the defensive four to cover for Van Dijk’s absence and his task is harder because of the very elusive and dangerous Polish goal-getter, Robert Lewandowski, who already boasts eight UCL goals this season.
Salah v Alaba
Two speedsters come face-to-face on the flanks and both can be the winning piece for their respective teams. Salah is scoring regularly just as Alaba has gotten fitter and more offensive-minded.
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What the Managers are saying
“We have to create an atmosphere on the pitch tomorrow and make it easier for the people. It will be outstanding tomorrow night. It’s something to enjoy. There’s a lot of power involved in the atmosphere. Our crowd is really able to push us from 100% to 140%.” – Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool Manager
“I believe we drew the toughest opponent possible. Liverpool are a top side, but so are we. When the players walk into the stadium tomorrow, they will know exactly what is at stake. These moments are why they became footballers.” – Niko Kovac, Bayern Munich Manager
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Salah, Saqiri
Bayern: Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Goretzka, Alcantara, Rodriguez; Gnabry, Lewandowski, Coman