Tuesday 16 July 2019

John Aldridge: 'Why Bayern's tactics in the first leg could play into Liverpool's hands in Munich'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (Richard Sellers/PA Images)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (Richard Sellers/PA Images)

John Aldridge

BAYERN Munich were delighted to get out of Anfield with a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash with Liverpool, but they might be regretting their negative tactics if Jurgen Klopp’s men score first tonight.

Bayern did a good job of smothering Liverpool’s attacking ambition three weeks ago and while Jurgen Klopp’s men were not at their best, it was tough to break down, well-organised and experienced opponents that always offered a threat on the break.

Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman were a potent weapon for Bayern at Anfield, as they held wide positions and put real pressure on Liverpool’s full-backs. Yet the balance of the game in Munich is likely to be a little different from what we saw in the first leg.

It was clear to see that Bayern’s chief target was to keep a clean sheet at Anfield and you could see they were very happy with their lot as the final whistle sounded, but a 0-0 draw in the away leg of an evenly-contested Champions League tie can backfire on you when it comes to playing at home.

Now all the pressure is on Bayern, as their fans demand they win every game they play at the Allianz Arena and having won their last two matches 5-1 and 6-0 to knock Borussia Dortmund off their perch as Bundesliga leaders, they will be aiming to blow Liverpool away tonight.

It is a plan that could backfire because we have seen what Jurgen Klopp’s side can do to teams that open up and play attacking football against them, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino capable of tearing teams apart when they are given time and space to do so.

There were some encouraging signs that suggested Liverpool’s front three were starting to spark back into life as they turned in an impressive attacking display to beat Burnley 4-2 at Anfield on Sunday and now comes a game that could shape the way their season will pan out.

Some have suggested Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premier League title will be boosted if they go out of the Champions League and free up their diary, but that’s total nonsense in my view.

Going out of the FA Cup and League Cup solved Liverpool’s fixture congestion problem and if anything, defeat in Munich tonight would pile the pressure on Klopp and his players to win their final Premier League games and give themselves a chance of pipping Manchester City to the English title.

Another season without a trophy will be dismissed by some as a failure and while I think that would be harsh after the clear progress Liverpool have made under Klopp, the moment has come for this team to prove they are ready to be winners at last.

The Premier League title is now in City’s hands with eight games left to play, so Liverpool have to give everything they have got to reach a second successive Champions League final and I expect Klopp to deploy familiar tactics tonight.

He has tended to go with his powerhouse midfielders for the big games and after Jordan Henderson was left on the bench for the Burnley game last weekend, I’d expect him to return alongside Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum.

Virgil van Dijk is a welcome addition to the defensive line after he missed the first leg against Bayern due to suspension and if Liverpool can score the first goal, the Munich crowd will be silenced and their confidence/arrogance of their players will be shaken.

The law of averages suggests Liverpool are due a strong performance in the Champions League away from home, with defeats against Napoli, Red Star Belgrade and Paris Saint-Germain in the group stages all coming amid second-rate performances.

Klopp’s team are too good to turn in a fourth successive woeful away day display and while I wouldn’t put too much money on them winning in Munich, they have what it takes to get through to the quarter-finals.

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