Sports Mole provides team news, anticipated lineups and a comprehensive preview of the first leg of the Champions League knockout rounds on Tuesday between Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
Two ex Champions League the winners clench their horns at Anfield Tuesday night as Liverpool is Bayern Monaco tackles the first leg of a highly anticipated 16th game.
Liverpool came to the end of last season but had to make a lot of effort to progress to a tough group this time, while Bayern outperformed Group E to stay on for a first continental triumph in six years.
Legend of Manchester United Gary Neville he told Liverpool to forget about the Champions League challenge this season if he were to seriously contend with Manchester City for the Premier League title. For a while it seemed as if Jurgen Klopp listened to that advice as the hopes of his progression part from group C were hung by a thread in one spot.
The consecutive defeats against Red Star Belgrade and Paris Saint-Germain left Liverpool away against Napoli in the last day, far from an easy challenge against one of the most dangerous sides of the continent. At the end a Mohamed Salah 34 minutes after the December game showed the difference, even though Klopp had to thank Alisson Becker for generating a late save.
It is on such fine margins that memorable series are built, as happened last season when Liverpool reached the final, losing 3-1 against Real Madrid. If not for some bad goalkeeper from Loris Karius, the man that Alisson was brought to replace in a record transfer last summer, Liverpool may have added a sixth European crown to their collection.
For a team that has reached the final of last season and that has passed through their group this time, Liverpool has a surprisingly low recent record in Europe. In the last eight games, which date back to the semifinals of 2017-18, they lost five and won three.
Klopp's men lost four consecutive European away games, including all three terms, making Tuesday's match in Anfield even more important. Liverpool are unbeaten in 19 consecutive European home games, winning 14 of them and the last defeat in October 2014 against Madrid.
It is their second unbeaten streak for the second time in a European competition after 40 games played between September 1974 and December 1991. If they have any hope of booking a place in the quarterfinals at the expense of Bayern, their unbeatenness is at home surely stay intact.
Liverpool had 10 days of rest between games and the other, giving Klopp the opportunity to bring his players abroad for a training camp with hot weather. After losing points in two consecutive Premier League games before beating Bournemouth 3-0 the last time, the recovery period came at just the right time.
The hopes of the national title of the Reds are still in their hands with the final stretch in sight. Now the Merseysiders draw attention to the European stage, and you have the feeling that they will not throw in the towel, despite Neville's advice.
Recent form in the Champions League: WLWLLW
Recent form (all races): LWWDDW
After a slow start of their season that almost cost Niko Kovac his job, Bayern reached a good form at the right time and is now back in the Bundesliga title race.
From nine points to the drift of Borussia Dortmund this time last month to two points behind after 22 games, although having played a game more than the leaders, Bayern will now be considered favored to win a seventh consecutive title.
Kovac's team is still in contention for the glory of the German Cup, but it's the Champions League they really want. Having raised the club's most famous trophy of all only twice this millennium, the Bavarian giants will be keen to put things right this season.
As one of the five teams to remain unbeaten in the group stage, together with Ajax, Barcelona, Lyon and Porto, Bayern have a positive moment to try to reach the semi-final for the eighth time in 10 seasons – an incredible record, given the competition.
Bayern are also in a run of eight consecutive consecutive matches in the Champions League without defeats, with their last defeat against PSG in September 2017. Only once have they enjoyed a longer run – 10 games between October 2012 and April 2014.
The German champions were not quite perfect in Group E, however, having been held at home and out of Ajax, suffering three times in their most recent European trip to Amsterdam to stay on the top spot.
Bayern were also recently brought on by Hertha Berlin in the DFB-Pokal and had to recover twice from a goal at a disadvantage to see off Augsburg in their last Bundesliga game before their trip to Merseyside. The results may have been largely positive, therefore, but Die Roten is not yet at their best ruthless.
There is a reason why Bayern is so heavily imagined, even if it has won 11 of the 14 previous 16 draws, including the last seven from a goal away against Inter, in 2011. The winning one includes 5 -1 home and away victories over Arsenal, with a record of 10 victories out of 15 two-legged goals against English clubs.
Recent form in the Champions League: WDWWWD
Recent form (all races): WWLWWW
The pause of a week and a half between one game and the other gave Klopp the opportunity to bring back some players, even if some key men are still absent.
Klopp has admitted that he is planning the game without Dejan Lovren, who is carrying a wound to the biceps femoris, while Joe Gomez remains on the edge with an ankle problem.
To make matters worse for Liverpool, record signing Virgil van Dijk is suspended after picking up three yellow cards in the group stage, which means it could be Fabinho is Joel Matip.
Liverpool has at least Trent Alexander-Arnold come back and their trio in front of three are all fit, so Klopp hopes that Salah, Roberto Firmino is Sadio Mane can paper over defensive cracks.
As for visitors, Friday they received a big injury against Habsburg Kingsley Coman, author of two goals, limps with a clear ankle injury.
Coman was given the maximum to play Anfield, which is a big advantage for Kovac Thomas Muller will miss for suspension.
Kovac has a couple of selection decisions to make, including which of Javi Martinez or Leon Goretzka with which to go to central midfield, although there is an easy call to make up for it Robert Lewandowski It is in excellent shape.
The Polish international leads the Champions League scoring rankings in this period with eight in total, and aims to find the back of the net for a fifth consecutive European game, something he has never managed in the same season.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Bayern Munich possible starting lineup:
Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Thiago; Gnabry, James, Coman; Lewandowski
Head to head
These European heavyweights met surprisingly only on six previous occasions in the European competition and for nothing in almost twenty years, facing the last time in the 2001 UEFA Super Cup in Munich.
Liverpool won the 3-2 game and reached the top of the semi-finals of the victorious 1980-81 European Cup campaign, thanks to a goal away Ray Kennedy.
Bayern have won the first team victory in the semi-finals of the 1971-72 World Cup Winners' Cup but remain their only victory in this match.
Let's say: Liverpool 1-1 Bayern Munich
In three previous trips to Anfield, Bayern have not scored a single goal. With the Reds struggling to bring the players back to good shape in time for Tuesday's race, however, the German champions will have the chance to bag at least one away goal, which could prove crucial at the end of the return leg. Liverpool are unbeaten in 19 European home games and Bayern are on the run with eight away games without defeats, so everything points to a draw.