Why Roberto Firmino and Fabinho have big roles to play for Liverpool v Bayern Munich

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Liverpool welcome Bayern Munich to Anfield for their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday night.

Both teams boast a fine record in the tournament, winning 10 titles between them, while the Premier League leaders were finalists last year.

Here, we preview Jurgen Klopp’s side of the tactical battle against Niko Kovac ahead of this encounter.

Check out Bayern’s key tactics here.

FABINHO FILLS IN AT CENTRE-BACK

With Virgil van Dijk suspended and Joe Gomez still injured, Fabinho will likely partner Joel Matip in central defence. Dejan Lovren will face a late assessment but even if the Croat is fit, Fabinho’s distribution makes him a better option in Van Dijk’s absence. The Dutchman is crucial to Liverpool’s build-up play and Fabinho has replicated that influence in midfield of late.

He receives the ball well under pressure while retaining the composure and vision to launch attacks from deep. The Brazilian impressed in the role previously during games against Wolves and Brighton this season and made the most passes in the former, with the Reds missing Van Dijk then as well.

FIRMINO DROPPING OFF

Roberto Firmino is crucial to the way Liverpool operate in the final third. His intelligent movement creates space for his team-mates as he drops off, dragging defenders with him. Expect him to also press Bayern’s deep-lying playmaker Thiago Alcantara off the ball. Mohamed Salah is the major benefactor of Firmino’s movement as he is presented with the inside right channel to attack.

Either Mats Hummels is drawn out by Firmino, leaving space for Salah to run in behind, or the Egyptian is allowed an enticing one-on-one with the centre-back, who for all his great attributes, can struggle against a pacey forward with a low centre of gravity. If David Alaba tracks Salah inside, then that could afford the attacking Trent Alexander-Arnold to exploit the right flank.

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Joshua Kimmich is Bayern Munich's secret weapon for Champions League clash with Liverpool

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Liverpool welcome Bayern Munich to Anfield for their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday night.

Both teams boast a fine record in the tournament, winning 10 titles between them, while the Premier League leaders were finalists last year.

Here, we preview Niko Kovac’s side of the tactical battle against Jurgen Klopp ahead of this encounter.

Check out Liverpool’s key tactics here.

MARTINEZ MIDFIELD DESTROYER

James Rodriguez put in a disappointing display against Augsburg and may be deemed a liability in midfield against a dangerous Liverpool side. With Corentin Tolisso injured, Kovac may turn to a Javi Martinez who is a more defensive-minded option – perhaps for the best at Anfield. The Spaniard gives Bayern the option of a double-pivot in midfield for extra defensive cover.

After Bayern’s win over Schalke, Kovac discussed the importance of stopping counter-attacks – even by means of a “tactical foul” –  and Martinez comes with a reputation of breaking up play effectively. With the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Naby Keita set to feature in Liverpool’s midfield, Martinez would certainly help in monitoring their forward runs.

KIMMICH’S INFLUENCE

Joshua Kimmich’s versatility is well documented with Pep Guardiola singing his praises and Xavi claiming he could play in any position. As such, he could take advantage of the attack-minded Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson. He has the defensive capability to restrict their advances, perhaps with help from Martinez, and is intelligent enough to time his runs forward as well.

With 12 assists in the Bundesliga and Champions League already this season he could provide the ammunition for Robert Lewandowski to strike. He’s also tactically sound and could pick and choose his moments to tuck into midfield. That would give Bayern a numerical advantage in the middle of the park, allowing them to retain possession and take the sting out of Liverpool’s play during crucial phases of the game.

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Lyon v Barcelona: Catalans must be clinical and Carles Alena makes case for a start

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Lionel Messi

Barcelona travel to Lyon for their Champions League round of 16 clash on Tuesday night.

The Catalans are enjoying a successful campaign but cracks in their set-up have regularly been exposed this season and Les Gones – with the tools at their disposal – will be hoping to pull off an upset at the Groupama Stadium.

WASTEFUL BARCA

Following a narrow 1-0 home win over Real Valladolid, Ernesto Valverde would’ve wondered how his side failed to register more goals. It seemed like every member of the Catalans’ attack missed gilt-edged opportunities in front of goal. To the away side’s credit, they limited their illustrious hosts remarkably in the first half but came under increasing pressure in the second.

Barca peppered Valladolid’s goal with 20 attempts. Ousmane Dembele saw a couple of chances go begging while new signing Kevin-Prince Boateng managed to squander a glorious one-on-one opportunity to cap off another disappointing display. His eventual replacement, Luis Suarez, didn’t cover himself in glory either when he came off the bench and completely miscued an effort from close range.

Lionel Messi bagged the decisive goal from the spot and created several opportunities but even the great Argentine was out of sorts. When Philippe Coutinho won a second penalty later in the encounter, former Barca keeper Josip Masip was able to deny Messi. La Liga’s leading goal-scorer had enough chances to add to his tally but he struggled to find the target.

Messi had a total of 12 attempts on the night – the most by a player during a single game across Europe’s top five leagues this season. Valladolid didn’t boast the quality to punish the league leaders for failing to put the game to bed but Lyon certainly do. Barca’s inefficiency in front of goal against the White and Violets was inexplicable but they need to put it behind them in a hurry.

LYON LACK EXPERIENCE

Bruno Genesio’s Lyon outfit can be extremely dangerous and proved as much during their opening group game of this edition when they beat a high-flying Manchester City 2-1. With the likes of Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Moussa Dembele leading the line, they boast plenty of attacking potential even in the absence of the suspended Nabil Fekir.

However, they go into this encounter as underdogs and with good reason. Apart from their opening victory over Pep Guardiola’s side, they could only manage draws in their remaining five group games. Not only are Barcelona the stronger side on paper, they also have within their ranks enough experience to guide them into the next round.

Lyon are sorely lacking in that department. In fact, this is the first time in seven seasons that they’ve reached the knockout stages of the Champions League. Also, five of their last six last-16 ties have ended in defeat.

Bruno Genesio

TEAM SELECTION

Samuel Umtiti has been included in the squad but barring an injury crisis in defence, it’s unlikely that the centre-back will be risked on his return to Lyon.

The France international is recovering from a long spell on the sidelines and hasn’t played a game since November. Though he’s been back in training this week, throwing him into a Champions League knockout game would be a questionable move from Valverde.

Maybe an emotional run-out in the final moments for the defender who came through the ranks at Lyon can’t be ruled out.

There’s more of a case for Carles Alena to be drafted into the line-up on the other hand. The 21-year-old impressed during the 75 minutes he spent on the pitch against Valladolid.

The Spaniard proved to be a creative force, making two key passes and completing three dribbles. He was outstanding in possession as well, second only to Gerard Pique (83) with 80 passes despite being substituted 15 minutes early while also completing 90 per cent of them.

With Arthur out injured while Coutinho and Arturo Vidal continue to disappoint, Valverde may be tempted to field the youngster.

Carles Alena

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