Liverpool face an intimidating journey to the Allianz Arena for the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match against Bayern Munich.
The first leg finished all square a fortnight ago with the Merseyside club holding Bayern to a goalless stalemate at Anfield.
The German giants failed to score an away goal, which gives Liverpool the upper hand when they take to the Bavarian pitch, and they will be hoping to capitalise on that advantage with a score draw enough to send them through.
That, however, will be easier said than done with the Germans enjoying a period of resurgence under Niko Kovac, who look more like the Bayern of old with the club recently leapfrogging Borussia Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga.
The tie is heavily poised heading into the second leg but how will both sides line up? Here are some Bayern vs Liverpool predicted XIs from Britain’s media outlets.
1. James vs Fabinho
Bayern MUST score at least one goal to have any chance of progression, but an all out assault could prove costly given Liverpool’s counter-attacking expertise, which is why Kovac will opt for his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
This system will bring a balance between attack and defence for the Germans, so all eyes will be on Klopp and who he selects for his central midfield triumvirate, with The Times predicting a combination of Georginio Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.
For Kovac, James Rodriguez has been at the forefront of the club’s recent upturn in fortunes, playing a pivotal role in the No 10 slot, and one man who will be tasked with trying to contain the Colombian maestro is Fabinho.
The Brazilian has proven an astute anchorman since relocating to Merseyside, able to break down play and recycle the ball to great effect, allowing his more attack-minded teammates, in Wijnaldum and Henderson, to contribute further up the pitch.
But he faces a different beast altogether this evening with James enjoying the form of his life, scoring once and assisting twice in his previous three outings. It will be a difficult task, but should he keep James quiet, then he will ultimately keep Bayern quiet.
That considered, despite his recent brilliance the inventive South American wasn’t quite able to make our combined XI:
The Times‘ predicted Liverpool XI vs Bayern: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
2. Lallana faces drop
Adam Lallana enjoyed just his fourth start of the Premier League season against Burnley on Sunday but The Express believe he will lose his starting berth against Bayern, despite putting in a man-of-the-match display against the Clarets.
With the match on a knife edge, and Bayern with no option but to attack, Klopp will likely restore James Milner to his starting XI, adding some much-needed experience and tenacity to his midfield.
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Lallana showcased his creativity and flair over the weekend, but Liverpool will need a more industrious and durable central midfielder. Fortunately for Klopp, Milner has travelled to Germany after recovering from the hamstring complication that kept him out of the Burnley win.
Klopp will be hoping for a vintage Liverpool display: sit tight, stifle the Bayern attack, and counter with precision and pace. Milner will be essential to that approach, thwarting any threat from their German counterparts.
The Express‘ predicted Liverpool XI vs Bayern: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
3. Ribery for Muller
With Thomas Muller suspended for this match the London Evening Standard believe Franck Ribery will come in as a like-for-like replacement.
At 35, the seasoned winger isn’t quite as formidable as his younger years but the Frenchman still poses a serious threat, such is his athleticism and dazzling imagination.
The forced changed will see Kovac alter his personnel but retaining his system, deploying a 4-2-3-1 with Serge Gnabry and Ribery on the wings, while Rafina will come in for the suspended Joshua Kimmich.
The problem for Liverpool with the absence of Muller is one of speed and directness. Muller is a much more elegant and composed player, while Ribery offers explosive bursts of energy and calculated runs, which could cause a myriad of problems for the Liverpool full-backs – Trent Alexander-Arnold will need to show maturity beyond his years to keep Ribery quiet.
The Evening Standard‘s predicted Bayern XI vs Liverpool: Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba; Javi Martinez, Thiago; Gnabry, James, Ribery; Lewandowski
The Evening Standard‘s predicted Liverpool XI vs Bayern: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, Salah, Mane, Firmino.
4. Liverpool to play rock ’n’ roll football
Instead of sitting back and trying to snuffle out the danger of Bayern Munich, Stan Collymore has written in his Mirror column that he would like to see his former side lay down the marker and attack from the off.
He wrote: “I want to see Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane being sprung clear of Bayern’s back line on two or three occasions early on to send out a clear message that the hosts face a barrage of rock ’n’ roll football.”
A buccaneering approach could prove costly for Liverpool given the context of the fixture, but the dynamic may very well shift in the Reds’ favour were they to fight fire with fire.
They certainly have the personnel, and the manager, to pull it off, but is it a risk worth taking? Collymore certainly thinks so, as he believes a more defence-oriented approach would ultimately falter under the seismic pressure of Bayern’s world class attack.
The Mirror‘s predicted Liverpool XI vs Bayern: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho; Mane, Firmino, Milner; Salah.