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Bayern braced for Klopp reunion at Liverpool

February 19, 2019

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LIVERPOOL: Liverpool players stretch during a training session on Monday.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool players stretch during a training session on Monday.—Reuters

LONDON: Bayern Munich know all too well how tough an opponent Juergen Klopp can be.

Now in his fourth season at Anfield, the former Borussia Dortmund coach is facing Bayern for the first time while leading Liverpool.

Bayern visit Liverpool for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 game on Tuesday, mindful that they didn’t always come out on top against Klopp during his time at Dortmund.

While Bayern defeated Klopp’s Dortmund side in the 2013 Champions League final, Klopp had the upper hand in the 2012 German Cup final, which Dortmund won 5-2. Klopp also led Dortmund to successive league titles at Bayern’s expense in 2011 and 2012.

“Personally I like Juergen Klopp a lot,” said Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who revealed that he almost signed Klopp to take over before the club decided on Jurgen Klinsmann in 2008.

Liverpool have not lost a European match at Anfield since the 3-0 group stage defeat to Real Madrid in 2014 and Bayern have questions over their defence ahead of its trip.

The Bavarian powerhouses conceded twice to relegation-threatened Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Friday, when Leon Goretzka scored an own-goal after just 13 seconds — the quickest own-goal in 56 years of the league. Bayern won 3-2.

“We’ll have to deliver a whole other performance on the day, especially in defense,” Bayern coach Niko Kovac said, warning of the danger posed by “the three up front,” referring to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool also had the luxury of a week without a game before Bayern’s visit, due to their early FA Cup exit. The team spent four days at a training camp in Marbella, Spain.

“Our little preparation for the rest of the season,” Liverpool defender Andy Robertson said.

Bayern winger Kingsley Coman is an option for Kovac after fears of an injury sustained in Augsburg proved unfounded. Coman scored twice, set up David Alaba’s winner and struck the crossbar in Augsburg, while he also underlined his growing importance to the side with the winning goal against Hertha Berlin in the German Cup.

Liverpool will have to cope without central defender Virgil van Dijk as he serves a UEFA suspension for the first leg. Klopp faces the prospect of having to deploy midfielder Fabinho alongside Joel Matip with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren both injured.

“In the Champions League against Bayern Munich it’s not an easy job,” said Klopp at the prospect of Fabinho playing out of position. “But we thought it makes sense we don’t leave our last row alone defending against Bayern, so it all depends how we defend in general.”

While Liverpool are accustomed to deep runs in Europe — winning the Champions League in 2005 and reaching the final in 2007 and last season — the club have not won the English league since 1990.

Although a chance to pull away from Manchester City at the top of the Premier League was squandered with two recent draws, Liverpool are still only behind City on goal difference and have a game in hand.

LYON HOST BARCA

In Tuesday’s other game, Olympique Lyonnais host a Barcelona side that are back in good spirits after ending a three-game winless streak and extending their comfortable lead in La Liga at the weekend.

But they head into the game against Lyon showing signs they still haven’t recovered their best form despite having a whole week to prepare before a hard-fought 1-0 home win against Valladolid in the league on Saturday.

Lionel Messi and most of his team-mates struggled, and the team looked off both in attack and in defence.

“We were not the Barca we wanted to be, the result was good, the sensations were not,” defender Gerard Piquesaid. “We must improve on Tuesday or we will suffer a lot. If we don’t move the ball quickly, dominate the play and possession or create chances, we are a weaker team.”

Arthur’s absence in midfield has become a problem for coach Ernesto Valverde, as the young Brazilian was the main player controlling the team’s pace. Arthur needs a few more weeks to recover from a hamstring injury.

The game could go a long way to deciding Lyon coach Bruno Genesio’s chances of keeping his job.

Although Genesio guided Lyon to the last 16 without losing a group game, long-serving club president Jean-Michel Aulas has yet to say whether Genesio will stay on next season.

Genesio will have to find a way to beat Barca without Nabil Fekir, the main provider and scorer in Lyon’s attack, who is suspended.

With Fekir absent, Netherlands forward Memphis Depay has the chance to put in the kind of performance to help him fulfill his wish of joining a bigger club next season.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019