Bayern Munich v Liverpool: Talking points from Reds' front three to Franck Ribery

Alex Rea 12/03/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino

With the Champions League opening up, opportunity knocks for both Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

Their round-of-16 tie is finely poised after the two drew 0-0 at Anfield last month, meaning the first goal will be crucial as Liverpool hold the slight advantage being the away team. But Bayern know that an outright win on the night will see the Bundesliga giants through to the quarter-finals.

As you would expect, there are a myriad of talking points ahead of Wednesday’s heavyweight clash at Allianz Arena and we examine three of the most prominent below:

FRONT THREE FIND RHYTHM

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

Liverpool’s front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane can harness confidence from their individual and collective performance in the 4-2 win over Burnley at the weekend.

It was one of the rare occasions this season in which the entire attacking unit found their rhythm because for much of the campaign it’s been one, or two, of three in full flow but seldom the whole set.

Granted, Firmino has been forced to play a restrained role and create much deeper as Jurgen Klopp has often employed a conservative 4-2-3-1 with Salah in the spearhead.

Yet the Brazilian showed his qualities as a predatory No9 on Sunday, finishing two quintessential poacher opportunities and roaming about the pitch in constant search of an opening.

Those chances were being created by Salah. As a primary goalscorer, the Egyptian will be assessed through the prism of goals scored, however his contribution in other areas of the final third is vital, as shown on Sunday.

Mane has almost been a combination of the two, fashioning openings through his activity on the ball plus finishing expertly and regularly with four goals in his last three games.

All three have reached double figures in the Premier League this season, and they replicated that feat in the Champions League last term, too.

Combined, only six have been scored this campaign but the indication is that they can finally make a big imprint as a collective.

LIVERPOOL’S AWAY FORM

Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana

Curiously Liverpool’s form away from Anfield domestically and in Europe has been pretty poor.

Indeed, the Reds haven’t won on the road since a slender mid-January victory over Brighton and haven’t scored in their previous two, albeit against eternal rivals Everton and Manchester United.

If you dissect their results against the Premier League’s top six, they’ve managed only one win with three draws and a defeat.

These struggles are mirrored in the Champions League having lost all three group stage games on their travels.

The questions are why, and how can Klopp change this in Munich where Niko Kovac’s Bavarians have scored eight times in three games and are unbeaten in this season’s edition?

Midfield dynamism has been the issue. James Milner or Jordan Henderson have regularly partnered Georginio Wijnaldum with the third creative role constantly changing.

Milner and Henderson noticeably slow Liverpool’s attacking transitions and by removing those two entirely, Liverpool function much smoother.

A middle three of Fabinho at No6, Georginio Wijnaldum box-to-box and the counter-pressing energy of Adam Lallana, who was deeply impressive on Sunday, would be Klopp’s best combination to facilitate the front three.

RIBERY THREAT

Franck Ribery

Franck Ribery

Franck Ribery only featured for the last 10 minutes or so in the first leg after the birth of his daughter the night before, but he was an immediate threat.

Injuries and decline have forced Ribery into a peripheral role under Kovac, yet the 35-year-old remains a classy and effective talent.

It’s not just the Frenchman’s skill set either, but his cunning trait as one of the most experienced players in Bayern’s team.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is prone to naive performances and this is something Ribery can exploit.

He’s in the mood as well after producing three quite splendid assists in Bayern’s 6-0 demolition of Wolfsburg on Saturday. These were procured having started on the bench and in a 35-minute spell.

Ribery is confident, dynamic and his range of delivery means much of Bayern’s strategy should be based around pinning Trent Alexander-Arnold back and penetrating through their veteran winger.

Most popular

Burnley win perfect preparation ahead of Bayern Munich, says Liverpool's Andy Roberton

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Andy Robertson believes Liverpool‘s ruthless display against Burnley was perfect preparation going into a vital Champions League week.

The Reds had five shots on target at home to the Clarets on Sunday and converted four with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane both scoring twice in a 4-2 victory.

In their last six matches in all competitions Jurgen Klopp’s team have had three goalless draws but have found the net 12 times in the other three.

The performance against Burnley was ideally timed ahead of facing Bayern Munich on Wednesday, with the last-16 second-leg tie delicately poised at 0-0.

So far this season Liverpool have lost all three away games in the Champions League but Sunday’s display has given Robertson confidence they will be better in Germany.

“The work-rate from all of us was brilliant, our counter-press to get the ball quickly and our reactions to poor passes or chances missed,” said defender Robertson, on his 25th birthday.

“We reacted well and we looked positive, that’s what we needed to get better at. We did that. We kept going and we were ruthless when the chances came.

“Last season we were good away from home in the Champions League, we caused teams problems and that’s what we need to do again.

“It will probably be a different game, they’ll need to come out a bit more, their fans will demand they try to create.

“It’s all about trying to keep them out first and foremost and then hopefully we can take the chances we get and do enough to get through.”

A return to winning ways in the Premier League means Liverpool reduced the gap to leaders Manchester City to one point.

For only the third time in their history, they have amassed 73 points from 30 matches. On the previous two occasions they went on to win the title: in 1904/05 in Division Two and the top-flight campaign of 1987/88.

“It’s another game down, eight to go. It’s going to be exciting one way or another,” Robertson told liverpoolfc.com.

“We need to give 100 per cent in every single game and whether it gets us a trophy or it doesn’t, we need to deal with that.

“The position we’re in now, one point behind with eight games to go, if we perform like that – especially with our attitude – then it’ll stand us in good stead.

“We’ve got some tough games coming up but we look forward to the chase and hopefully we can push them all the way.”

Most popular

Liverpool 4-2 Burnley: Talking points as Liverpool show style and spirit

Alam Khan 10/03/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Robert Firmino celebrates

Doubles for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino sealed a Liverpool comeback win that put them a point behind leaders Manchester City.

Relegation-battling Burnley took a controversial sixth-minute lead with Ashley Westwood’s first goal in three years.

As the midfielder curled in directly from a corner, Alisson was sandwiched by Jack Cork and James Tarkowski, who seemed to lean down on the Reds keeper to avoid him rising to reach the ball.

Alisson was booked for his vehement protests.

But back came the Reds, who levelled when both keeper Tom Heaton and Tarkowski somehow failed to cut out Mohamed Salah’s low cross and Firmino had a tap in.

Mane then finished coolly after more good pressing on the Burnley backline before Firmino slotted in again from close range.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson poked in an injury-time strike, but Mane added a fourth just before the end as Liverpool matched a club record, set in 1988, for most points after 30 games.

REDS SHOW FIGHTING SPIRIT AND STYLE

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

Anyone questioning Liverpool’s willingness – and ability – to fight for the title need look no further than this display to find a resounding answer.

With a blizzard engulfing Anfield at times and gusty winds to aid Burnley’s expected aerial attacking bombardment, this had all the makings of an upset result, especially when the visitors ahead.

It was controversial, wouldn’t have counted if VAR had been in use, and Liverpool’s hopes could have been blown away had they not composed themselves and shown the spirit and style needed to keep pace with Manchester City at the top.

Key to this was the return to form of their fearsome threesome up front.

Salah didn’t get his 50th club goal, but was back to his bewitching best, conjuring up opportunities with the spellbinding skill we have witnessed on countless occasions.

Roberto Firmino got two tap-ins, but swapped positions with Salah on the wing to make several clever supporting runs.

Sadio Mane also roamed to create danger and became the fifth Liverpool player to score in six consecutive home home league games, joining Salah, Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez.

It was the perfect response to recent criticism – and Liverpool are definitely up for the fight.

LALLANA OFFERS FRESH IMPETUS 

Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana

There was much consternation and confusion pre-match when Adam Lallana’s name appeared in the starting line up.

Despair even as Xherdan Shaqiri was ignored again.

Having struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, Lallana has played a bit-part role in the Reds title challenge and last started in the disappointing 1-1 draw at West Ham.

But two seasons ago the midfielder was among Liverpool’s best players – and impressed for England too – and Jurgen Klopp clearly hasn’t forgotten what he can contribute.

Here, Lallana provided a link between midfield and the frontmen that has been somewhat lacking recently, and much-needed creativity alongside the more diligent and defensive Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho.

Lallana was industrious and inventive. He was also hungry, to perform and prove a point.

The challenge to block Phil Bardsley’s clearance was crucial in his side’s second goal.

That desire and willingness to fight for the ball, for his place, was welcome. As he left to a standing ovation, Klopp’s decision was vindicated.

HEATON HAPLESS AS HE FAILS ANFIELD AUDITION 

Tom Heaton

Tom Heaton

After a difficult summer where injury ruled him out of the World Cup and he lost his starting spot to Joe Hart, it appeared Tom Heaton could be on his way out of Burnley.

He was even linked with a move to the Championship to get playing time.

But his return to the No1 spot at the end of December coincided with the club’s upturn in fortunes as they battle against relegation.

Heaton was crucial to that – and will no doubt be in the remainder of the campaign.

But it was a missed opportunity for the England man at Anfield as two clangers contributed hugely to his side’s defeat.

It also probably cost him the chance of staking a strong claim to start for his country again in the forthcoming internationals. With Jordan Pickford’s form erratic, Heaton had the perfect stage to shine, but usually dependable, he flopped miserably.

Most popular