Liverpool aiming for 'open game' against Bayern
Jürgen Klopp was in a cheerful mood and grinning when he entered the Allianz Arena media centre on Tuesday evening. "I've always liked coming here," said the Liverpool coach on the eve of the Champions League last sixteen return leg away to FC Bayern. "I've been really looking forward to it. To come here by minivan, to see the red glow: it's familiar. It's always a sign a big match awaits."
Klopp is hoping Wednesday's win-or-bust clash will be a big one - especially for his own team. After the goalless draw in the first leg three weeks ago, last year's finalists need only a draw with an away goal to advance to the next round. The English team, who enjoyed a successful dress rehearsal last weekend with a 4-2 win over Burnley in the Premier League, are aware of their situation.
"We haven't come here to thrash Bayern," stressed Klopp, highlighting Munich's "high quality. FC Bayern are a world-class team, we must defend at the highest level." First and foremost, Liverpool are aiming for "an open game. If we succeed in creating an open game we'll have a good chance. We must be alert from the very first second and show how much we want to go through to the quarter-finals."
Van Dijk returns - Keita out
Defensive chief Virgil van Dijk, who missed the first leg with a one-match ban, is eligible to play on Wednesday. Fellow centre-back Dejan Lovren has recovered from an injury and will be available too. However, Klopp revealed the Croatia international will not be able to play from the start. Former Schalke man Joel Matip might step in as he did three weeks ago, with Fabinho moving to defensive midfield. Naby Keita is nursing a knock and did not travel to Munich.
Liverpool have only conceded 17 goals in 30 league matches, meaning they have the Premier League's best defence. However, they now face Bayern's prolific attacking unit, including Robert Lewandowski, the Champions League leading scorer on eight goals. "You mustn't give these forwards a chance, otherwise they'll punish you and score," Van Dijk said. The Bayern centre-forward has 23 goals in 25 home matches in Europe's elite club competition. Keeper Alisson Becker added: "We'll have to be highly focused to stop him."
Liverpool are banking on their feared transitions and their devastating attacking trio. Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané each scored ten Champions League goals last season. Liverpool are not worried about Salah's recent record of only one goal in the last eight competitive matches. Firmino and Mané scored twice apiece against Burnley on Sunday.
Liverpool's recent record of four consecutive defeats in Champions League away matches is not favourable. However, history might repeat itself on Wednesday night. 28 years ago Liverpool travelled to face Bayern after a goalless draw at Anfield in the 1980/81 season. The English club made it to the final thanks to a 1-1 draw in Munich, going on to beat Real Madrid and clinch the trophy for the third time.