Liverpool’s reputation as an attacking force precedes them. Their forward triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané carried Liverpool to a Champions League final last year and this year the three have scored a combined 44 goals in all competitions this season.
However it’s their improved defence that has placed them at the summit of the Premier League for the majority of the season.
The addition of centre-half Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson in the last 12 months has done a great deal to enhance their English title claims. Jurgen Klopp’s side have the league’s best defensive record.
When it comes to the Champions League the same back four has comparatively struggled. Of the 16 teams left in the competition, Liverpool, having conceded seven in six games, have only the 12th best defensive record.
Recent domestic wobbles have added to a slight sense of concern at Anfield. In their last ten in all competitions they’ve won six, lost two, and drawn two.
A date with the German Champions of the last six years will be a searching test of Liverpool’s silverware credentials this year.
Bayern Munich have lost just once in their last 10. Their 3-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen sees them two points off the top of the Bundesliga which is led by Borussia Dortmund.
There has been a degree of unrest in Munich regarding the qualifications of manager Niko Kovac. Carping about a manager who has led the Croatian national team puts Bayern’s expectations into context.
Added to concerns over Kovac, is the reality that Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery are not the forces of old and a changing of the guard is required at the club.
In European terms, their group stage couldn’t have gone much better. Four wins and two draws saw them top the group. The two draws against Ajax may not have been received well at the time, however the Dutch side’s recent performance against Real Madrid shows those results in a better light.
Part of the reason for Liverpool’s recent wobble is a paucity of options in their defence and particularly at right back.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but had Klopp known that he was to lose Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez to injury, he would surely have kept Nathaniel Clyne from going on loan to Bournemouth in January.
Alexander Arnold is back in the fold, however Liverpool will miss Virgil van Dyke through suspension. If it weren’t for Bayern Munich’s own injury problems, that could have been a fatal miss.
This Champions League tie will likely swing to the team that picks up an away goal.
I sense Bayern would take a score draw or even a 2-1 defeat at Anfield. Similarly Liverpool will likely meet the biggest test of their season at the Allianz Arena in the return leg.
With the attacking qualities of both sides, goals are almost an inevitability. Especially if Liverpool score first. Bayern will be compelled to get something from the game, which will ultimately play into Liverpool’s hands.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) February 17, 2019
A note on Bayern going behind away from home in the Bundesliga, they never go behind. Well nearly never. In only eight per cent of their Bundesliga games on the road have they conceded first. We can apply a question mark as to how they might react to this happening at Anfield.
The German champions are also missing quite a few of their ‘big-name/big-game’ players. There’s enough here to resist supporting Kovac’s side. At least for the first leg.
Liverpool have enough in hand to emerge from the first leg with an advantage, however they will have to be near their best. At a shade better than EVS Liverpool look good value in the match bet.
Liverpool will await late fitness tests on Dejan Lovren and Xherdan Shaqiri. Roberto Firmino is a fresh injury concern after missing training on Monday. Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster are all absent. As mentioned, defensive totem, Virgil van Dyke is suspended for this first leg.
Bayern have issues of their own. Thomas Muller is suspended. Both Jerome Boateng and Arjen Robben miss out due to injury, Frank Ribery will join up with the squad on the day of the match after staying back in Germany for the birth of his child.
Both sides are vulnerable at the back. Both are lethal going forward.
The Anfield factor gives Liverpool the edge here for me.
Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 12/5
Liverpool to win and over 2.5 goals at 13/8