'One number matters more than any other' - John Aldridge's verdict on Liverpool v Bayern Munich
John Aldridge believes a clean sheet is more important than a rush of goals for Liverpool when they welcome Bayern Munich to Anfield for an enticing Champions League game on Tuesday night.
With defensive talisman Virgil van Dijk suspended, Joe Gomez out injured and doubts over the fitness of defender Dejan Lorven, versatile midfielder Fabinho could be set to play alongside Joel Mateo at the heart of the Jurgen Klopp's reshaped defence.
That prospect could give Bayern Munich hope of a positive result at Anfield, with former Liverpool striker Aldridge suggesting the front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are not the key men for Klopp's side in the first leg of this last 16 tie.
"One number matters more than any other for Liverpool when they take on Bayern Munich and that is a big, fat zero," says Aldridge.
"Jurgen Klopp’s team have been associated with scoring goals aplenty over the last couple of years and so long as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are in their line-up, that end of the pitch will never be a problem. This issue in this game is keeping a clean sheet at the other end.
"Finding a solution to the absence of Virgil van Dijk for the first leg of this clash with Bayern. The big Dutchman has become so important for Liverpool that his absence through suspension will be a psychological blow as well as leaving a hole in the defensive line, with recent history confirming Klopp’s side struggle in the absence of their defensive leader.
"Joel Matip and possibly Fabinho will be the duo charged with keeping Robert Lewandowski and Bayern quiet and with away goals so significant at this stage of the Champions League, a zero next to Bayern’s name on the scoresheet has to be Liverpool’s priority in this first leg.
"I would snap your hand off if you could organise a 1-0 win for the Reds in this game, but the absence of Van Dijk has the potential to derail them at a crucial phase of the season."
Aldridge is confident Liverpool will plot a route to the Champions League quarter-finals, with the first leg vital to the outcome of the tie.
"You would fancy Liverpool to get a goal out in Munich, but going into that game needing to win or trying to come from behind would be a huge challenge fand they need to avoid that scenario at all costs," he adds.
"These knock-out ties are not always won in the first leg, but they can be lost by a home team if they have a bad night defensively and this is a moment for Liverpool’s defensive options to confirm they are up to the job.
"On paper, this is not a bad draw for Liverpool because Bayern have been showing signs of weakness in what is something of a transitional season for them.
"However, they have trimmed the gap on Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga in the last few weeks and will come into this game fancying their chances of getting a goal or two in the absence of Van Dijk.
"What their players may not be ready for is that Anfield cauldron on a European night and for a game of this magnitude, the fans always create a very special atmosphere.
"Bayern have some big-name star names who are used to playing in front of a hostile crowd, but there is nothing quite like a big European night at Anfield and it can intimate the most experienced of players."