Alisson aiming to follow Neuer's path to be the world's No 1
It was with a degree of modesty that Alisson Becker handled the question of how he matches up to Manuel Neuer.
"I can't compare myself with Neuer," the Liverpool goalkeeper said of Bayern Munich's No 1. "He's one of the best of the last 10 years, maybe the best. He won everything and I am just starting. He is a reference for me, and a great guy. To play against him is a dream come true."
Neuer is certainly a reference, in style and presence, for Alisson, his Brazilian team-mate Ederson at Manchester City and the renewed vogue to encourage sweeper keepers, given that the German was involving himself in the build-up more than a decade ago by pushing up the pitch and working hard on his distribution.
The 26-year-old Liverpool keeper, who is six years Neuer's junior, doesn't have the medals to match Bayern's World Cup winner and his six-time Bundesliga title holder, but there is a strong claim that his form suggests he is the equal of the man making his 100th Champions League appearance tonight.
Any discussion over who is the best goalkeeper in the world would involve him, Neuer, Ederson, Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak and David de Gea, of Manchester United.
It was interesting that both Liverpool and Bayern asked their goalkeepers to speak to the media ahead of the second leg of their last-16 tie here in Munich tonight. With the contest goalless from the first leg, there remains the possibility, if it is scoreless again, that it will go down to a penalty shoot-out.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac was dismissive of that and it would be astonishing if neither side scored over the two legs, given their potency.
"There won't be a 0-0," he said. "We want to win it and that is how we will approach the game."
Bayern, who have reached four semi-finals since winning the Champions League in 2013, when they beat Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund, are formidable at home and hope to create a special European night. "I know the Allianz Arena will be on fire," Neuer said. It is how those flames are directed that will decide this tie. A Liverpool goal could change everything.
Neither Alisson nor Neuer would be drawn on the issue of penalties, although the return of Virgil van Dijk to the Liverpool side should make their defence harder to breach.
Van Dijk has made the biggest difference to Liverpool's defence since he was signed in January 2017, but Alisson is not far behind. The £65 million goalkeeper has more than justified that fee since he was signed from Roma last summer.
Alisson's assuredness has made a big, Neuer-like difference and that was shown with the world-class save he made late in a group game against Napoli, from striker Arkadiusz Milik, that preserved Liverpool's precious 1-0 win and earned them this tie.
"I am part of a big club with big plans and goals and I need to take care of this responsibility," Alisson said.
"I need to give 100 per cent and to be the best in the world will be a consequence of this."
Another clean sheet against Bayern would push the case that he is already the best. (© Daily Telegraph, London)