Peter Byrne/PA via AP

Liverpool blunted by Bayern, and vice versa, in first-leg draw

Leave a comment

There was virtually nothing to separate Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, and the two sides will head to leg no. 2 (March 13) at the Allianz Arena with everything still to play for.

[ MORE: Spain revamps Super Cup (and others should follow suit) ]

0-0 was the final score at Anfield, and neither side will be thrilled with the result, nor will either side be devastated not to have found the back of the net.Control and momentum swung back and forth over the course of 90 minutes; the only thing missing was a goal to well and truly liven things up.

Liverpool, it should be noted, failed to pick up a single point away from home in the group stage, losing all three times on the continent.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was called into action with barely 10 minutes on the clock, and perhaps the Brazilian knew nothing about the goal-saving block he made. Serge Gnabry crossed the ball into the box from the right wing, but Joel Matip stepped into the ball’s flight and booted it clear, only back toward his own goal. Fortunately for the Reds, Alisson was no more than two yards away and took the wayward clearance off his chest.

Liverpool’s first golden scoring chance came in the 33rd minute, when Naby Keita‘s shot from the edge of the box was blocked but fell ever so perfectly for an unmarked Sadio Mane 12 yards from goal. With Manuel Neuer all on his own and unable to close down the angles in such a rush, Mane let the six-time reigning Bundesliga champions off the hook by yanking his left-footed shot well wide of the post.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League returns with TFC, Houston ]

While the first half was quite open with end-to-end tendencies — particularly for a first leg — the second half was even more so, at least early on. Robert Lewandowski got on the end of a cross Gnabry into the six-yard box, but Fabinho, forced to play center back due to injuries and suspensions, made a brilliant tackle to poke the ball away. Liverpool raced to the other end through Andrew Robertson, who nearly scored an unlikely goal off Neuer’s clearance, but the ball fell to Mohamed Salah who wasn’t able to fire a cross or shot under immense pressure.

Down the other end, barely five minutes later, it was the constantly active and involved Gnabry who went inches high of scoring a stunner into the upper-90. The 23-year-old winger cut inside to and unleashed a blast with his left foot that Alisson was never going to get a hand to, but Georginio Wijnaldum did just enough to harry Gnabry and cause him to lift his shot over the crossbar.

Champions League preview: Bayern visit Anfield; Lyon v. Barcelona

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool and Bayern Munich are set to battle for 180 minutes beginning on Tuesday, when last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists host the reigning Bundesliga champions at Anfield, and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is as anxious as anyone to watch the drama unfold.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

“It’s another one of those games I’m really happy to be involved in, and if I wasn’t involved, I would try and buy tickets,” Liverpool’s German manager said this week. “It’s a tough one against a really strong, experienced team, but we are strong as well. Only more stress [facing Bayern], because all the people wanted 600 extra interviews with German news.”

Liverpool will be fully prepared and well drilled after having no game during the most recent FA Cup weekend. By the time the referee’s whistle blows for kickoff at 3 p.m. ET, 10 days will have passed since the Reds thrashed Bournemouth in PL play.

Liverpool will definitely be without the trio of Virgil Van Dijk (suspension), Joe Gomez (leg) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), while Roberto Firmino (illness), Dejan Lovren (hamstring) and Xherdan Shaqiri (abdominal strain) are questionable to varying degrees. Central midfielder Fabinho could be forced into central defense as a result. On the other side, Niko Kovac’s side will be without the services of Thomas Mueller (suspended), Jerome Boateng (illness), Corentin Tolisso (knee ligaments) and Arjen Robben (thigh). Kingsley Coman (ankle) is expected to be available for selection after picking up an injury over the weekend.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

Elsewhere in Europe, runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona will visit Ligue 1’s third-place side, Lyon. Though Lionel Messi and Co., head into Tuesday’s first leg as heavy favorites to reach the quarterfinals, Ernesto Valverde’s side has won just one of its last four games (all competitions).

They have, however, been nearly infallible in Europe competition this season, as they waltzed to the top spot in Group B, finishing a full six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan. Even Messi has seen his form dip ever so slightly in recent weeks, as the Argentine magician has scored just once in his last three appearances (two starts). Those relative struggles comes on the heels of a nine-game goal streak which saw the 31-year-old score a dozen times. He has been his usually brilliant self this season, and will cause Lyon all kinds of problems from the outset.

Lyon will be without star attacker Nabil Fekir (suspension), which could prove a further crippling blow to their chances.

Lovren, Firmino huge doubts for Liverpool v. Bayern Munich

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool could be seriously shorthanded for their massive UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern Munich at Anfield on Tuesday.

[ MORE: PL or UCL priority for LFC? ]

Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino did not take part in Liverpool’s final training session before their game against Bayern to give Jurgen Klopp more selection worries.

It has been reported that Firmino has a virus, while Lovren has been struggling with a hamstring problem and was always going to be a last-minute decision for the clash against the German giants.

Fabinho now looks certain to start alongside Joel Matip in central defense for Liverpool on Tuesday, as Virgil Van Dijk is suspended and Joe Gomez is injured.

As for up top, the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge could be placed in Firmino’s spot but it is likely Xherdan Shaqiri (if he is fully fit) will come into the team and Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane will switch to a central position in the front three.

Either way, not ideal for Liverpool as they have a huge week with this game against Bayern followed by a massive Premier League game at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

In terms of Bayern’s injury news, Kingsley Coman has recovered from a knock in Friday’s win at Augsburg but Jerome Boateng is out through illness. Arjen Robben is recovering from injury and did not travel with the squad, while Franck Ribery will arrive in Liverpool separate from the team after becoming a father late on Sunday.

Premier League or UCL more important for Liverpool?

AP
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Liverpool’s fans care more about winning the Premier League than the UEFA Champions League this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Ahead of Liverpool’s UCL last 16 first leg tie against Bayern Munich on Anfield on Tuesday, Klopp spoke to the media and was asked if they are prioritizing either of the two competitions they are left in.

“It’s difficult for me to answer the question but for all Liverpool fans it’s the Premier League. That’s clear,” Klopp said. “But for now it’s the Champions League and we have to do our best tomorrow. Thank God we don’t have to decide that right now.”

The more cliched response came from Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, who was sat alongside Klopp in the press conference.

“If we had to choose? We’d choose both. It’s not about favouring one competition. We’ve got a good enough squad to challenge in more than one,” Henderson said.

Shoot for the stars, Hendo…

It is an intriguing situation for Klopp and Liverpool to ponder heading into the crucial final months of the season. Liverpool have won five European Cups and have reached the final three times in the last 14 years, last winning the tournament in 2005. That is more than a decent record in the UCL.

As for league, well, I think we all know Liverpool last won the Premier League title 29 years ago and despite sitting second behind Manchester City in the table only on goal difference, Klopp’s men have their game in hand this Sunday at Man United.

Klopp’s team selection on Tuesday will go a long way to showing us exactly which competition is more important to him and team this season.

In terms of team news for the visit of Bayern, Klopp revealed that Dejan Lovren will be given the chance to play right up until it is possible he can return from injury. That is key as Virgil Van Dijk will miss Tuesday’s clash through suspension and Joe Gomez is out injured. If Lovren isn’t fit, Fabinho is likely to feature alongside Joel Matip in central defense.

Oxlade-Chamberlain returns to Liverpool training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The long road to recovery is almost over for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

That sentence will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, 25, suffered a serious knee injury in the UEFA Champions League semifinal win against Roma last April and has been out for almost 10 months.

But the Reds revealed that the Ox took part in the first part of a team training session on Tuesday during their warm weather training camp in Marbella, Spain.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed that Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rhian Brewster, Ben Woodburn and Nat Phillips all took part in the session but James Milner, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum did not take part.

Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez remained back in Liverpool with the former a big doubt for the upcoming game against Bayern Munich with a hamstring injury. That is not great news with Virgil Van Dijk suspended for the first leg versus Bayern on Feb. 19 at Anfield, thus meaning Joel Matip is Klopp’s only fit center back right now.

“The boys had to do a bit of core work, passing and the rondos and it’s nice [they could be involved],” Klopp said. “These things Ox can do, and Rhian can do, and Ben can do and Nat Phillips could do most of them. That’s all good. This afternoon they will have to do their own stuff again and hopefully we can integrate them step by step.”

The initial timeline for Ox’s return stated that he would miss the entire 2018-19 campaign. However, if he can return for the final few games of this campaign it would provide Liverpool with a huge boost in their battle for the title and a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.

The photo gallery below is well worth a flick through, as Klopp’s side went on a bike ride and the German coach looks to be lifting the spirits as his side have slipped off of top spot in recent weeks.

With Bayern and Manchester United in their next two games, Liverpool know a pivotal moment has arrived in their season.