Last Tuesday, two heavyweight contenders for the UEFA Champions League locked horns. In perhaps the most mouth-watering tie of the knockout stage, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool welcomed Niko Kovač’s under-fire Bayern Munich team to a ruckus Anfield.
With all the attacking power on display, the two teams gave us a tactical 0-0 first leg. In the second leg, Liverpool will have the advantage of the away goal rule but must still operate with caution.
Here’s why Liverpool must adopt a pragmatic approach against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
At Anfield, the 5-time European Champions put in a resolute and cautious performance to secure a precious away clean sheet. They showed Liverpool huge amounts of respect in how they deployed 10 men behind the ball and only looked to counter-attack.
That’s a testament to how far the Reds have come under Jurgen Klopp, as they were even billed as the favourites in the build-up to this tie. At the Allianz Arena, Liverpool must return the favour in terms of cautiousness.
Counter Attack Mentality
Since Cristiano Ronaldo swapped the sunsets of Madrid for the stunning skyline of Turin, Real Madrid’s counter-attacking force has not been the same. This, therefore, establishes Liverpool as the best counter-attacking team on the planet. The pace of Sadio Mané and Mohammad Salah fused with the positional intelligence of Roberto Firmino is a frightening thought for any defence, including Bayern Munich.
The Reds must seek to hit Bayern on the counter-attack, as the Germans are a team that like to dominate possession and deploy a high line to keep their opponents penned in. In the league, they’ve averaged 62.5% possession, Liverpool must allow them to become comfortable in possession, ever willing to hit on the break.
In order to aid a counter-attacking mentality, Klopp should alter his normal wide 4-3-3 to a conservative 4-1-2-1-2. This would present the Reds as a compact, narrow and tough to break down unit. This would force Bayern to play through the flanks and cross into an already Virgil van Dijk marked Robert Lewandowski.
Whilst the Germans are operating in the flanks in Liverpool’s half, Klopp’s forwards could hang on the last line of defence, ready to expose the space left behind by Bayern’s offensive-minded full-backs.
Away Goal Advantage
Arsène Wenger has been an advocator for the abolishment of the away goal rule. The Frenchman believes it encourages teams to be more cautious at home, thus having a negative effect on the overall tie. Regardless, for the second leg, Liverpool can use that rule to their advantage.
It’s a miracle Bayern were able to keep Liverpool at bay for one game, it’d be a miracle if they could do it for the whole 180 minutes. Especially when you consider the Reds have scored 70 goals in 35 games this season, averaging 2.3 goals per game.
In stark contrast, it’s no secret that Bayern Munich hasn’t been at their dominating best this season. We’re used to seeing the Bavarians several points clear at the top of the Bundesliga by early January, instead, they’re trailing a young Borussia Dortmund side. After 22 league games, Munich trail Dortmund by three points having lost four games, conceding 26 goals in the process.
Long story short, this is not the Bayern of old and a trip to the Allianz Arena is now no longer what it used to be. Liverpool are still favourites to progress to the next stage, as long as they approach the game with caution and in respect for a Bayern team, although struggling, still full of quality.