Liverpool back "where they belong" according to boss Jurgen Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes the 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich puts the club back “where they belong” in the upper echelons of world football.

After five successive European defeats away from Anfield, Klopp’s side – losing finalists last season – came good when it mattered to beat the German champions in the Allianz Arena to secure a place in the last eight.

Sadio Mane’s brilliant opener was cancelled out by Joel Matip’s own goal before half-time but Virgil Van Dijk’s first Champions League goal for the club meant Bayern then had to score two more. Mane converted a far-post diving header late on.

“We set the bar for LFC, for this wonderful club, that we really are back on an international landscape of top football,” said Klopp.

“We all think that is where the club belongs and I am really happy about the result.

“I knew we had a chance and the boys made it happen and that is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Sadio Mane continued his excellent from with a brace.

Sadio Mane continued his excellent from with a brace.

“There are some places in world football that if Man City, if Barca, if Real Madrid come here it is not expected that they will win, they know it is a very tough place to come.

“They are always an outstandingly strong team but we kept them as often away from our goal as possible.

“My impression was that there were not too many difficult situations around our box and that is a massive sign.

“That is the first step to winning a game like this. You cannot always play free flowing football. We found different ways. It makes me really proud and happy because I really think this club deserves awareness again.

“We are back, let’s carry on. We have a lot to improve, a lot to learn but we are back and I like that.”

There was very little in the performance which Klopp could take issue with, having gone into the game at 0-0 knowing an early goal for the hosts would have made things difficult.

“It is a big one. I am so proud of the boys,” he said.

“In a game like this you can never rest. It is absolutely deserved. It is so difficult to play here away at Bayern Munich.

“The first goal, I will want to watch it back like 1,000 times. Defensively it was so good. We didn’t defend the way we do usually in the away games of the Champions League but today we did.

“Virgil Van Dijk gives organisation on set-pieces and he is dangerous. He is a massive threat. The size we have and the power we have… it was a big goal.

“In a game like this, there will be mistakes but you have to stay in the game. Control the moments you can control and stay in the game.

“The game didn’t look like Bayern ever outplayed us.”

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, whose side went top of the Bundesliga at the weekend after scoring 13 goals in their last two matches, could only praise their opponents.

“You saw after the second goal how much quality they have,” the Croatian said.

“We still have two titles to fight for. We’re top in the Bundesliga and we’re still in the cup. Our goal is to win both of these competitions.”

Defender Mats Hummels, formerly coached by Klopp when the pair were at Borussia Dortmund together, was also gracious in defeat.

“I know Jurgen Klopp and he is very good at eliminating the opponents’ strengths and he showed that again today,” he said.

“The 1-2 took away our belief. After that Liverpool was the better team. Still this was not a great game of football.”

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Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool: Talking points as Sadio Mane secures elite status

Alex Rea 14/03/2019
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Sadio Mane opens the scoring for Liverpool

Outstanding Liverpool roared into the Champions League quarter-finals with a mature 3-1 away victory at German heavyweights Bayern Munich.

The first goal of a tense tie came before half time at Allianz Arena as Senegal forward Sadio Mane delightfully punished Germany No1 Manuel Neuer’s impetuous charge and slotted into an open goal. The score was levelled on the night, however, soon after when Cameroon defender Joel Matip sliced into his own net.

Last season’s beaten finalists were then imperious after the break and gained double reward. Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk produced a towering header on 69 minutes and Mane nodded in Egypt forward Mohamed Salah’s enticing cross soon after to emphatically kill the two-legged contest.

SADIO IS THE MAIN MANE

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

Maybe it’s because of Mohamed Salah’s presence in this Liverpool side, or perhaps it’s just because of a tendency to be wildly inaccurate, but Mane this season deserves to be mentioned among the world’s most elite forwards.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo inhabit categories of their own and are thus incomparable, yet below those two otherworldly talents, Mane sits in a tier alongside players like Eden Hazard, Paulo Dybala, Gareth Bale and of course Salah.

He’s scored 19 times in all competitions this term and crucially, 11 have been procured in 2019 as Mane has stepped up while Salah’s contribution, at least in terms of goals, has waned.

The Bayern game served as a microcosm of what he has offered all season. From a Liverpool perspective, he broke the tension of what was a tight tie by being so enjoyable to watch.

He twisted and turned defenders, sprinted past others and dribbled around the pitch, emitting the same joy while doing so as he does to those watching on.

And it wasn’t just his activity on the ball, but the way he pressed and pushed Bayern back with such boundless energy.

Mane’s versatility across the front line shouldn’t be ignored either because he’s thrived when operating through the middle – a position from which he headed home his second on Wednesday – and more naturally out wide.

It was there he displayed the traits which elevate him into the elite class when opening the scoring.

Van Dijk sprayed a signature lobbed pass into the left channel, Mane capitalised on a poor mix up between Neuer and Rafinha to produce a goal of pure artistry in three resplendent touches.

The first was remarkable as he must only have had mere seconds to see the ball drop over his shoulder before killing it dead. He then Cruyff-Turned Neuer and applied a deliciously lofted finish.

He’s now scored seven away goals for Liverpool in the Champions League, more than any other player in the club’s history.

They’ve arrived against Sevilla, Porto, Manchester City, Roma, Real Madrid and now Bayern.

A big game player who deserves mention alongside the biggest names in world football.

A HUGE NIGHT FOR KLOPP

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp

The reality of Jurgen Klopp’s return to Munich is a little further than the narrative being painted beforehand.

The rivalry between Borussia Dortmund and the Bavarian giants was more housed within the corridors of power as opposed to anything on the touchline.

However, the significance of this result for the German is monumental. Indeed, Liverpool have struggled away from home in Europe this season, losing all three group stage games on their travels.

It points to inexperience because it’s easy to forget that before Klopp, the Reds only qualified for the Champions League once in six years and on that occasion failed to even make it out of the group stage.

Yet he was able to guide his side through one of the most difficult tasks and did so with an XI he thought right for the tie, unbowed by the waves of apprehension which rise whenever the line-up is announced.

This was one of Klopp’s most impressive performances because Liverpool completely neutralised what has been a rampant Bayern of late.

He’s developed the club into a force domestically and abroad. Considering recent history, that’s a remarkable feat.

BAYERN IN TRANSITION

Niko Kovac

Niko Kovac

Going to Anfield and securing a 0-0 draw was viewed as a massive turning point for Niko Kovac because it was the first time Bayern collectively executed a clear plan.

They have appeared fractured for much of the campaign, but there were signs of a collective unit all pushing in the same direction.

That sentiment was further enhanced by three-straight Bundesliga wins with an aggregate score of 13-1.

Yet it appears the cracks in this squad were merely temporarily papered over and the structure is simply not sound. They are obviously in transition with half the team too old, and the other not quite refined enough for the top level.

This was a tie pitting two counter-attacking units and Liverpool had the better personnel to impose their will.

Things will change for Bayern in the summer. France left-back Benajmin Pavard has already signed, countryman Lucas Hernandez is set to follow plus Germany’s golden boys Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are strongly linked.

This result only expedites the need for change.

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

Alex Rea 12/03/2019
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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.

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