Liverpool face a tough task in Bavaria as they take on Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich side with a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League at stake.
In one of the Round of 16’s toughest ties, the Reds find themselves in a good position after the first leg with the score level at 0-0, meaning a win or a score draw will see Jürgen Klopp’s men through.
The first leg at Anfield will provide Liverpool with confidence heading into the clash at the Allianz Arena having restricted the Bundesliga outfit to having zero attempts on Alisson’s goal while creating various opportunities at the other end.
The second leg will no doubt prove to be a closely matched affair, but there are key areas in which the match will be won and lost, both in terms of individual battles and tactical set ups of both sides.
Attack, attack, attack?
Klopp has been known for using a midfield three of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Milner (or something very similar) in similar matches of such magnitude in recent times, which sometimes leaves fans a little disgruntled on social media due to a perceived lack of creativity and dynamism.
Honestly, what did anyone expect playing a MF of Hendo, Gini and Fab with Shaqiri off the bench?
— Tom Holmes (@TomHolmes19) February 24, 2019
Yet, in a game of such importance, there is a degree of logic behind some more conservative choices in midfield. Fans mustn’t get short-sighted and must remember that Liverpool can go through with a 1-0 win, or a score draw.
There’s no need to go gung ho and go for the jugular, potentially sacrificing some of what has become the team’s trademark defence this season.
Yes, the Reds need to score, but they can be patient in waiting for that pivotal moment to arrive. Going in for the kill from the onset may result in a few holes in the midfield resulting in more pressure on the defence, and with players like Coman, Ribery and Lewandowski in Bayern’s attack, it’s probably best to keep their attacks to a minimum.
Will Virgil van Dijk remain imperious?
Since we’re speaking of the defence, it’d be rude not to mention Virgil van Dijk wouldn’t it?
The Dutchman has been imperious since he first pulled on the famous red shirt and has been receiving plaudits the world over week after week this season thanks to some incredible performances.
He has undoubtedly helped improve Liverpool’s defence this season, helping his side have one of Europe’s best defences – and still yet to be dribbled past this campaign.
Update on this thread from earlier this season on the impact of VVD at #LFC after 44 EPL matches.
The XG we concede from Corners and Set Plays has improved by 30%
The amount of shots we concede from Corners and Set Plays has improved by 34% https://t.co/T9NeBAb91d
— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) March 13, 2019
If Liverpool’s record signing can continue his incredible form and keep players like Lewandowski at bay, it will massively play into Liverpool’s favour and heighten their chances of making it through to the quarter finals.
Battle on the wings
Much has been made of the impact of two more of Liverpool’s back line in recent weeks, with much praise being heaped on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson – especially after the pair notched five assists between them in the recent drubbing of Watford.
The two full backs have been a major part in Liverpool’s successes this season, both defensively and offensively, but tonight could again be a pivotal moment.
The pair will likely be faced with keeping Frank Ribery and Kingsley Coman in check while being expected to provide their usual threat and incision going forward and will need to be cautious as to how they balance the two out.
Ribery and Coman are pacey and tricky and cannot be afforded time and space on the ball, so Trent and Robbo will have to be disciplined in their attacking play ensuring that they don’t leave their centre backs exposed when bombing forward.
Likewise, if they do manage to keep these two quiet, they could nullify a big threat and outlet for Bayern, meaning that they do have more of a licence to drive forward and cause problems of their own to Bayern’s back line.
Ruthless or toothless Reds
Sadio Mané has been firing on all cylinders recently, with Roberto Firmino looking to get back to his best and among the goals in recent games, but much is still being made of Mohamed Salah’s form since the turn of the year.
But in truth, the front three have been a little off of late, with things not quite clicking.
This largely determines how many goals Liverpool notch up and how potent their attacking performances are, so if they click into gear, Bayern could be in for a long night.
If not, it could be a long, frustrating night for Liverpool and their fans watching back on Merseyside.