Liverpool’s difficult Champions League campaign continues when they host Bayern Munich in the first leg of their round-of-16 encounter at Anfield on Tuesday (20:00 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Liverpool made it all the way through to last season’s final, but have certainly not been provided with an easy pathway to matching that achievement this time. After progressing from a group featuring Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli, next they face Bayern.
The perennial German champions have been one of the most consistent teams in the Champions League over the last decade. In addition to winning it in 2013 and reaching the final in 2012 and 2010, they have made it through to the final four in six of the last seven and seven of the last nine seasons. They have reached at least the last eight in nine of the last 10.
A glance at the Bundesliga table would provide reason to believe that Bayern aren’t quite a strong this time around. Borussia Dortmund lead the way, and despite a 3-2 win away to Augsburg on Friday, Bayern’s accumulation rate of 2.19 points per match would result in their lowest points total since 2011-12 if it remained steady until the end of the campaign.
There were murmurings over the authority of coach Niko Kovac as early as a four-match winless streak from late September through early October. While he has generally steadied the ship since, solid winning streaks have still been marred by further defeats and draws. Bayern have not yet found the necessary consistency to overhaul leaders Dortmund.
Things are still functioning as well as ever in attack, despite a slightly awkward generational shift as the roles of Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and especially Franck Ribery begin to lessen. The main problem has been in defence. Bayern are in line to concede over a goal per match in league play for the first time in eight seasons. In league and Champions League play, they have conceded three times on five separate occasions.
That is a potential fragility that Liverpool are well-equipped to exploit. It is their defensive tightening that has made the biggest difference in lifting them to the status of genuine title challengers in the Premier League. Their attack still remains one of the best in Europe and they are deadly in swiftly attacking space during changeovers in possession.
Mohamed Salah is unlikely to match the mammoth 43 goals he scored in league and Champions League action last season, but he is still at the forefront of the Liverpool attack, ably supported by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Salah scored just once in the four matches against PSG and Napoli during the group stage. Against Bayern, he will be keen to replicate his decisive performances against Manchester City in last year’s competition.
This is a vital week in Liverpool’s season. Tuesday’s match is followed by a visit to Manchester United in the league that if lost, would see City officially take over the Premier League leadership on goal difference. Early elimination from the FA Cup has given them plenty of time to prepare without a weekend match. Now, they must do the business.
Bayern are obviously familiar opponents for Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, who regularly came up against them during his time in charge of Mainz and Dortmund in his native Germany. Despite lesser resources, he managed a very solid record of nine wins, four draws and 10 defeats in those matches. His Dortmund side did, though, fall to Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley.
There is less of a history between Liverpool and Bayern. Despite the fact that between them they have lifted 15 major European trophies (including 10 Champions Leagues/European Cups), they have only actually met on five occasions in official competition. They are one apiece in terms of aggregate victories in their two knockout ties.
Our Match Preview’s Liverpool vs Bayern Munich Betting Tips Verdict
Liverpool’s attempts to advance on this occasion would be greatly helped by a strong result with the Anfield crowd behind them on Tuesday. They have won 14 and drawn two of their 16 matches there in league and European action this season and have defeated Napoli, PSG, Roma and Manchester City over the course of their last five home matches in the Champions League. They will seek to make Bayern their next victims.
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