Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp plays down his personal rivalry with Bayern Munich

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has stressed he does not view the Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich as “a personal thing.”

The German was engaged in many a battle with Bayern during his tenure as Borussia Dortmund boss from 2008 to 2015, in which his side finished twice as Bundesliga champions and twice as runners-up behind the Bavarians.

Klopp’s Dortmund were also beaten by Bayern in the 2012/13 Champions League final.

Ahead of Bayern’s last-16 first-leg visit to Anfield on Tuesday, the 51-year-old was asked if his history against the club made the tie any more special.

And he said: “I don’t feel like this. Obviously a couple of people called me in the last few days to say in Germany it’s going mad because of this game, but that’s how it is.

“Making kind of these personal battles out of it I don’t understand.

“Yes, I was manager of Dortmund and had a bit of success there, but it was always difficult to play against Bayern. To beat them was the biggest challenge you could face in German football, always. And sometimes we did it and sometimes we didn’t, but that’s pretty much all.

“So I don’t see it like a personal thing for me.

“It is two big clubs facing each other and I am really happy to be part of this game. It’s a big one. It is a game you want to see.”

Klopp, whose Liverpool side were beaten by Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League final, added: “That’s maybe the biggest achievement so far for my team – that we are back not only in the competition but as well that people think we could win it. That’s good, but still, a lot of work to do.”

Liverpool are aiming to better their runners-up finish last season.

Liverpool are aiming to better their runners-up finish last season.

Last week, Bayern president Uli Hoeness was quoted by Suddeutsche Zeitung as saying of Klopp: “I had already arranged a co-operation with him many years ago, until we then signed Jurgen Klinsmann (in 2008).”

When asked about that on Monday, Klopp said: “The 2008 story was in the public years ago. And it is pretty much all the truth, apart from (the claim) that I was angry in the session afterwards, when they called me and said they had decided on the other Jurgen.

“I was not angry. I never expected that they would go for me. I was a second division manager (at Mainz) in Germany, and who would expect that Bayern calls you? It was more of a shock in the first moment. Then a couple of days later they called and said they went for the other Jurgen.

“All the rest is true. It was Uli Hoeness on the phone. So that’s not disrespectful.

“I would have never told it. It was not a story where you go around telling people ‘they asked me if I would go there.’

“But when Uli Hoeness spoke about it then it was clear, I can easily confirm that’s how it was.”

Bayern, who were eliminated by Real Madrid in the Champions League semis last term, have won the Bundesliga in each of the last six seasons. They are currently second, with Dortmund topping the table.

Klopp emphasised Bayern, managed by Niko Kovac since last summer, are “still a force”, before adding: “We don’t underestimate ourselves, we don’t think we are not good enough.

“We are proper competitive and that’s really cool. And in our stadium, with our people, we are a proper force, and we have to show that tomorrow night and make life as uncomfortable as possible for them.”

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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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