PARIS: Confident after finally reclaiming the lead in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich again turn their attention to the Champions League, where they hope to finish the job at home against Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool on Wednesday.
The teams drew 0-0 in the first leg of their last-16 match at Anfield and five-time European champions Bayern are hoping to ruin Klopp’s return to a familiar opponent and reach the quarter-finals for the eighth straight year.
Everything seems to be coming together at the right time for the Bavarian powerhouses, who grabbed the lead in Germany with a 6-0 thrashing of VfL Wolfsburg at home on Saturday. That followed a 5-1 away demolition of Borussia Moenchengladbach the week before.
Robert Lewandowski scored twice to become the league’s top-scoring foreign player of all time with 197 goals, while Bayern also sent a clear signal to Germany coach Joachim Loew after his apparent rebuke on Tuesday.
Loew dropped Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng from the national team, but all three started and impressed in the rout of Wolfsburg. Mueller scored one and set up another.
“We have respect, but no fear,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said of Liverpool’s visit.
While Bayern have put themselves back in title contention since their first leg, Liverpool’s domestic challenge weakened after winning only two of their four Premier League games.
Even against relegation-threatened Burnley, Liverpool had to come from behind to win 4-2 on Sunday. Manchester City now lead by a point.
“We have no problem with confidence,” said Klopp, who is familiar with Bayern from his time as Borussia Dortmund coach. Klopp’s Dortmund lost the 2013 Champions League final to Bayern in London.
“You make a big fuss when we score five and we are the best attacking side in the world, then we scored nil and we have an offensive problem,” Klopp said.
But Klopp must be worried about the form of forward Mohamed Salah. The Egypt star has now gone five games without scoring, a run that began against Bayern in the first leg on Feb 19.
Bayern could be boosted by the return of David Alaba and Kingsley Coman from injury though veteran winger Arjen Robben is out.
Liverpool could have Dejan Lovren and James Milner available again for the trip to Germany. Milner missed the weekend win over Burnley with a muscle injury but Lovren was back on the substitutes’ bench after two months out.
Full-back Andy Robertson said being away from home could suit Liverpool, beaten finalists in 2018.
“Last season we were good away from home in the Champions League, we caused teams problems,” he said. “It’s all about trying to keep them out first and foremost and then hopefully we can take the chances we get and do enough to get through.”
BARCA HOST LYON
In the other second-leg game on Wednesday, Barcelona host Olympique Lyonnais after they also played a goalless first leg.
Barca appear to have found their scoring touch since they were held at Lyon. Since squandering several chances in France, Barca have won four games by outscoring opponents 11-3, including two wins over Real Madrid.
Lyon coach Bruno Genesio is trying to figure out why his team keeps making the same mistakes, evident again when they conceded two goals inside a minute to draw 2-2 at Strasbourg on Saturday in Ligue 1.
He’s not sure if it’s “too much confidence or a big lack of maturity.” Whatever the reason, Lyon will likely be punished even more heavily if they repeat the same errors against Barca.
Genesio has a big talent in Nabil Fekir and will hope the France forward, who missed the first leg through suspension, is in top form after resting him until the last 15 minutes of Saturday’s game.
Lyon have additional firepower with Moussa Dembele and Memphis Depay supporting Fekir in attack, but whether Lyon’s defence holds out for long enough is another issue altogether.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde could be without Ousmane Dembele after the French winger sustained a hamstring strain in the weekend win over Rayo Vallecano.
Philippe Coutinho would be the obvious change but the former Liverpool player was whistled off by supporters at the weekend after another disappointing performance.
“In any club in the world there are massive expectations to win and this club even more so. The secret is to persevere,” said Valverde of the player’s difficulty in adapting to life as a Barca player.
Lyon reached three consecutive Champions League quarter-finals 2004-2006 and a scoring draw or better in the Camp Nou would take them into the last eight for the first time in 13 years.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019