Bayern Munich are in a slightly precarious position heading into the home leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Liverpool. A 0-0 draw in the first leg means any score draw would send the Reds into the quarter-finals on away goals, so Niko Kovac’s side pretty much have to go for a win on Wednesday.
But Kovac has masterminded a turnaround in form for his side that has seen Bayern erase a nine-point gap to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and in fact take the lead in the title race, albeit only on goal difference, and thus they enter this clash against Liverpool high on confidence.
Here’s a look at the tactical talking points Kovac will be weighing up as he looks to plot Bayern’s path to the quarter-finals. Check out analysis of Liverpool’s tactics here.
AN ATTACKING 4-2-3-1 COULD UNLEASH BAYERN’S CREATIVE DUO
Over the last month, as Bayern have closed the gap on Dortmund, Kovac has alternated between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 formation.
In essence both become a 4-1-4-1, or almost a 4-1-2-3, with Bayern in possession, as Javi Martinez sits as the deep-lying midfielder while Thiago Alcantara and James Rodriguez, who plays as the left-sided midfielder in a 4-3-3 and a No 10 in a 4-2-3-1, stay forward and assume playmaking duties.
As a basic shape, the 4-3-3 is slightly more conservative, and asks more defensively of Thiago and especially James. But Bayern can be conservative even with a 4-2-3-1, as they showed in the first leg with the fear of Liverpool’s counter apparent all night. At home, and needing a win, the more attacking nature of that formation can come to the fore, bringing the best out of the two attacking midfielders.
BAYERN NEED TO BE WARY OF LIVERPOOL COUNTER
Speaking of the Liverpool counter. As mentioned above, Bayern gave it great respect in the first leg, sacrificing some attacking thrust to ensure they weren’t caught out.
The priorities have changed slightly for the second leg, with another 0-0 draw unlikely but a draw by any other score good enough to knock Bayern out. So the calculation for Kovac is undoubtedly that Bayern must go for an outright win – perhaps negating any concerns about conceding an away goal.
But even if conceding is not a great worry, negating Liverpool’s counter remains the key tactical challenge for the Bayern manager. Martinez on his own will not be enough to do that – so could he reduce the attacking responsibilities of his full-backs, and trust the rest of his attack to get the job done without the help? David Alaba and Rafinha could then concentrate on Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, while their team-mates hunt for the goals.
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