Bayern Munich v Liverpool: Pre-Match Talking Points

By Jordan Carreno

The second leg round of 16 of the Champions League sees Liverpool head to Munich to take on Bayern at the Allianz Arena. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM EST.

Bayern Munich v Liverpool — 03/13/2019 2000 GMT

It is do or die time for the Reds in the Champions League. With the first leg ending in a 0–0, there is everything to play for as Liverpool hop the English Channel over to Germany. A Red’s win or a draw with at least 1 goal will be enough to see Liverpool through to the next round. As always, all 3 LFC Tampa Bay locations will be open, serving, and showing the match. So, cook up your best excuse to get out of work and join your fellow Tampa Bay Reds in cheering Liverpool into the next round. With all that being said, let’s get into the talking points.

Fortress Allianz?

Without a doubt Bayern are among the members of Europe’s footballing elite. They’ve been to the semi-finals of the Champions League 7 out of the last 9 seasons and are the last team not named Real Madrid or Barcelona to win the competition. However, despite their stature and relative success in the competition, they aren’t exactly known for their home-field advantage.

Bayern have experienced some disappointing and heartbreaking results at their home ground in the Champions League. Though they often beat the teams they should on their patch of turf, they’ve often struggled against bigger opposition at the Allianz. Since the 2012–13 season, when Bayern last won the competition, Bayern boast a record of 17–1–0 against teams outside of Spain, Germany, England, and Italy. They have a record of 12–2–5 against teams in the big 4 leagues of Europe, and two of those wins, against Atheltico and Barcelona, saw Bayern knocked out of the competition. Plus, none of this includes the infamous 2011 Final against Chelsea, where Bayern ended up blowing a 1–0 lead to a late Drogba header which saw them eventually lose the final on penalties at the Allianz.

Of course, Liverpool haven’t won an away game in Europe since they beat Manchester City in last season’s quarterfinals. Though the circumstances in the second leg against Roma might be able to explain that defeat, the Reds have been abysmal away from home in Europe this season. In the three away group stage matches, Liverpool only managed to score one goal, a penalty at PSG, and lost all 3. Though it could be argued that all 3 grounds the Reds traveled to, Belgrade in particular, are well known for the atmospheres they generate.

At the very least the Reds can take encouragement in knowing that the Allianz isn’t exactly known for being a fortress. There is enough in Bayern’s recent history to suggest that winning there, or even drawing with a goal, isn’t necessarily a daunting task. Though Bayern are undoubtedly good enough to beat this Liverpool team, the Reds won’t be walking unexplored territory if they do come out of Munich still in the competition.

Role Reversal or More of The Same

There’s a tactical battle brewing between Klopp and Kovac

One of the more interesting takeaways from the first leg at Anfield was just how defensive Bayern set up. From the kickoff, Bayern were content with sitting back, slowing down the play, and trying to play long balls forward to counter. It was a great sign of respect to this Liverpool squad and Anfield that a team with as much talent and pedigree as Bayern Munich would be so cautious in their approach.

Now with the tie shifting over to Germany, and with Bayern needing to win, we might see a bit of a role reversal from the two sides. It could be Liverpool’s turn to sit back, absorb pressure, and try to counter while Bayern look to control possession and get the goals they need to go through. With the home crowd spurring them on, Bayern could be more inclined to open up and give it more of a go this time around.

Of course, breaking down Liverpool will only get more difficult for the German side this time around with the return of Virgil Van Dijk from suspension. Also, Bayern will have to contend with missing their first choice right back due to suspension, which will only make keeping Liverpool out a tougher task. Add in there that Kingsley Coman could miss out due to injury and Thomas Mueller is still suspended, and it might make more sense for Bayern to continue their cautious approach.

Liverpool would love nothing more than the opportunities to counter Bayern. If Munich do play in their normal manner, it would mean a lot of space in behind the fullbacks for Mo Salah and Sadio Mane to operate. It will also create chances for Liverpool to win possession in transition and fashion chances using Klopp’s preferred gegenpressing style. Though most teams would open up more on their home pitch, in this case it might make more sense not to.

With Bayern having no away goals of their own, keeping a clean sheet could be more important than scoring. The 0–0 first leg result means that Bayern must win in order to go through. A Liverpool goal only makes the task of going through that much more difficult for Munich. It will be interesting to see what Kovac decides to do tactically and how Klopp chooses to respond.

Building Momentum

Around January, when Liverpool were 7 points clear at the top of the table, there was a lot of talk going around about Liverpool sacrificing a Champions League run to focus all their energies on winning a league title. The argument was made that facing off against high level opposition in the midweek would be too much of a strain on the squad and that it would be in the best interest of Liverpool’s title challenge to not give the Champions League a proper go. Even now, with Liverpool trailing by a point in the league, there are still those claiming that Liverpool should stifle their European ambitions this season.

Of course most of these suggestions come from the mouths of Liverpool’s rivals and is nothing more than nonsense. Whilst any European run is going to be trying and put strain on your squad, going out of competitions is never good for morale. Plus, as we all know from last season’s journey to Kiev, deep runs in the Champions League can help build confidence and belief in the squad.

A Champions League run could help bolster everyone’s belief in a Liverpool title challenge

Getting through against Bayern, one of the top teams in Europe, would only add to the growing confidence and belief in this squad. In fact, it has been talked about how this Liverpool team came into this Premier League season knowing they could best City because of how handily they had beaten them in the Champions League. Continuing to advance in the competition will only help build momentum in Liverpool’s push for the a Premier League title. Having more than one trophy to go for will build the desire and drive within the squad.

Similarly, getting knocked out could cause the opposite effect. Even though getting eliminated at the hands of Bayern Munich wouldn’t be embarrassing, it would doubtlessly be disappointing. Though Klopp and the players would do their best to compartmentalize those feelings, there would be a chance of it leaking over into our domestic campaign. Sacrificing a Champions League run could come with the cost of sacrificing morale.

More than being a strain on the legs, the Champions League presents an opportunity for this Liverpool squad to prove how good they are. It is a chance to silence those who think this squad is ill-equipped to properly challenge on multiple fronts and show that last seasons march to the final was no fluke. So, rather than sacrificing a Champions League run to help our title chances, Liverpool should be using the competition to further build their belief and stature.

Prediction

We are headed over the European table for this one. Neither David nor I were able to pick up any points in the 0–0 draw, so I still lead 7 points to 6.

I think we will stick with the 4–3–3 for this one. As much as I might think it wiser for the Germans to be more cautious, they will probably back their abilities on their own pitch and be much more aggressive this time around. This will allow chances for Liverpool to counter attack and the 4–3–3 is our best formation for doing so.

The only real questions in regards to line-up comes in the midfield, as I suspect the usual suspects for the back 5 and front 3. I think Klopp opts for a Fabinho, Gini, Hendo midfield trio with Fab playing the base and Hendo given more freedom to create. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gini was dropped for Lallana as the Dutchman has looked tired the last few matches he featured and it would be unfair to take Lallana out after a man of the match performance.

The rational part of my brain, which is rather small and located behind the loud and obnoxious parts of my consciousness, says this will be one of those roller coaster rides where Liverpool get through on away goals. If I focus, I can clearly hear that part of my brain telling me “2–2”. But then, I can hear the growing noise breaking through. “We’re going to smash them!” The noise grows and grows until it is all I can recognize. Brushed aside is the reasonable part of my mind, kicked to the side like a lumpy deflated football. There’s no need to be rational. We’re going to smash them. 3–0.

David’s Prediction: We were nearly on the same page here. All of me is in that rational camp. I think we get one early and our newfound conservatism sees us try to ride it out. Bayern comes at us and nicks one. They have to go for the win so they continue pressing but it eventually catches up with them and we find another. I’m going with advancing on away goals in a remarkably tense match. 2–2 and into the next round we go.