Bayern Munich prepare for a daunting clash against Liverpool

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 13: Thiago (L), Mats Hummels (2ndL) and teammates of FC Bayern Muenchen warm up during a training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training ground on February 13, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern)
MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 13: Thiago (L), Mats Hummels (2ndL) and teammates of FC Bayern Muenchen warm up during a training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training ground on February 13, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern) /
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Bayern Munich gear up for their most difficult game of the season so far, as they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16.

The second set of Champions League round of 16 fixtures is set to place this week. Bayern Munich are part of the premier match-up of the round, taking on Premier League leaders Liverpool. The first leg takes place at Anfield on Tuesday, and Niko Kovac will be hoping to get an upper hand before the second leg at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern had to work hard to clinch a win against Augsburg on Friday. Die Roten have won four out of their last five games across all competitions. They have been underwhelming in the Bundesliga this season, but they went unbeaten in this season’s Champions League group stage. Kovac will need a much improved performance from his defense if he hopes to make it past this stage of the competition.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are enjoying a brilliant season under Jurgen Klopp. They are involved in a tight title race with Manchester City, as they try to win their first league title in 29 years. The Merseyside club reached last season’s Champions League finals, but they were poor in the group stages this campaign. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping they maintain their dominant home form by clinching a convincing win over Bayern on Tuesday.

Team News

There were some unusual absentees in the Bayern Munich squad that traveled to England on Monday. Jerome Boateng missed out on a place in the squad due to illness. Franck Ribery was also absent when the squad left Munich, but the Frenchman is expected to join the squad later today. Kingsley Coman has shrugged off an injury scare that he suffered against Augsburg and is now reportedly fit to start this game.

Arjen Robben will miss this game due to a thigh injury. The Dutchman recently expressed his frustration about his ongoing injury problems, and there is still no knowing when he will return to fitness. Manuel Neuer got some match rhythm on Friday against Augsburg, so he is now completely fit to play on Friday. Corentin Tolisso has started training on the pitch, but this game will come too soon for the Frenchman.

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Predicted XI

Niko Kovac is likely to approach this game in a more pragmatic manner, as Bayern can’t afford a heavy loss in the first leg.  Manuel Neuer will play in goal, having completely recovered from a minor hand injury. The back four selects itself as Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule slot in at central defense. Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba are expected to feature in their respective full-back positions.

The Croatian manager will be looking to protect Bayern’s fragile defense by deploying Javi Martinez in defensive midfield. Leon Goretzka and Thiago Alcantara have been in fine form, but Goretzka’s current goal-scoring streak could earn him the place in the midfield tomorrow.

James Rodriguez has found back some sort of form in the past couple of weeks. The Colombian will be a very important player in this game where he will be deployed in the number ten position. Kingsley Coman is likely to start on the left flank while Serge Gnabry occupies the right flank. Robert Lewandowski will lead the line for the Bavarians at Anfield.

"NeuerKimmich-Sule-Hummels-AlabaMartinez-GoretzkaGnabry-James-ComanLewandowski"

Opposition Focus

Liverpool are likely to surrender possession even at home as they are very quick in transition. Bayern have faced problems against teams that play a counter-attacking style of football, so this could be a tricky test. The English side counter-attack with ease thanks to having some of the best players in Europe at their disposal.

Bayern will have to counter-press very well and should try to move the ball quickly into the final third. Mohamed Salah will be the most important player in the attack for the hosts, but the likes of Robert Firmino and Sadio Mane are also dangerous in attack. Liverpool will be without Virgil van Dijk for this game, and Bayern need to make the most of his absence to come away with a few crucial away goals.

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Prediction

Liverpool 2-2 Bayern Munich

Liverpool have been formidable at home this season so it will be a monumental task for Bayern to keep a clean sheet at Anfield. On the other hand, I expect Bayern to cause a lot of problems to the depleted defense of the hosts and come back to the Allianz Arena with two crucial away goals.