UEFA Champions League 2018/19: Bayern Munich vs Liverpool – 5 key battles

Bayern Munich will host Liverpool in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday night with everything to play for after the first leg ended 0-0. A few individual battles could decide the outcome of a tactical battle between Niko Kovac and Jurgen Klopp.

#5 Rafinha vs Sadio Mane

Bayern’s 0-0 draw at Anfield was a fantastic result for them but it came at a cost as Joshua Kimmich picked up the only yellow card for the German side that night and as a result, he will miss the second leg.

Kimmich has been in great form this season and has assisted 13 goals so far in all competitions. So, Bayern will also miss the added attacking threat he provides in addition to the defensive stability he brings.

The veteran Rafinha will have to step up in place of Kimmich against Liverpool and he will be up against the in-form Sadio Mane. The Senegalese international’s pace and trickery may prove to be difficult for the 33-year-old to handle and Liverpool will look to exploit that weakness.

#4 Robert Lewandowski vs Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk missed the first leg at Anfield through suspension but the Reds still managed to keep the dangerous Robert Lewandowski at bay.

At the Allianz Arena, the viewers could be treated to a spectacular battle between this season’s top scorer in the Champions League and arguably the best defender in the world at the moment.

Since the game between the two sides at Anfield, Lewandowski has scored four goals in three games for Bayern. His return to form will be a huge boost for the home side as they aim to become the only German team to progress to the next round this season. However, the Pole has to find a way past Van Dijk who is yet to be dribbled past by any player while playing for Liverpool this season.

#3 James Rodriguez vs Fabinho

In the first leg, Fabinho played as a centre-back due to Van Dijk’s suspension and injuries to Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren. In the second leg, Klopp will definitely start him in his preferred midfield role where he has impressed in recent months.

Fabinho will start as the deepest midfielder in the side and he will have the task of stopping the supply and runs from midfield – especially from James Rodriguez. The Colombian has a goal and two assists in his last three games for Bayern and he will have to create chances for Lewandowski.

Since Thomas Muller is suspended, James is nailed on to start against Liverpool and he will be given a free role to wreak havoc with Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez sitting back to cover the defence.

#2 Kingsley Coman vs Trent Alexander-Arnold

At Anfield, Bayern didn’t have a lot of positive moments offensively and the few good moments they had were thanks to Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry.

Coman was a doubt for the second leg but the young Frenchman has recovered in time and will definitely be on the bench at least. However, Kovac might be tempted to start him after seeing him trouble the young Trent Alexander-Arnold at Anfield. 

Alexander-Arnold is a fantastic talent but he still has to improve the defensive side of his game and many teams have targetted him in particular. In Liverpool’s most recent match against Burnley, the 20-year-old was dribbled past four times and he cannot let that happen against Bayern or Liverpool could be punished.

#1 David Alaba vs Mohamed Salah

Like Coman, David Alaba was also a doubt for the Liverpool game but the Austrian has recovered and should start at left-back. Alaba combined well with Coman down the left-hand side in the game at Anfield and Bayern will need him to do so once again. However, he has a more difficult task from a defensive perspective.

Alaba will be up against Mohamed Salah who hasn’t scored for Liverpool in their last five games. For Salah, that’s a goal drought and he will be eager to end this run against Bayern.

Although Salah hasn’t scored in those five games, he caused a lot of trouble to opposition left-backs in most of those games and continues to get into goalscoring positions despite not being able to finish as well as we know he can. 

Klopp is likely to set his team up to counter-attack as this is an away game and Salah’s pace and ability to run in behind the defence is vital. Since Alaba is returning from injury, he has his work cut out for him.