Liverpool and Bayern Munich played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday night.
The second leg of their knockout stage match will take place on Wednesday 13 March, directly in between Liverpool’s Gameweek 30 and 31 fixtures against Burnley and Fulham respectively.
Whether Jurgen Klopp would countenance any squad rotation either before or after the trip to Germany is open to debate, given that the Premier League title race will feasibly be as neck-and-neck in mid-March as it is now.
The Gameweek 30 encounter with Sean Dyche’s side at Anfield would arguably be most at risk of minor tinkering from Klopp, perhaps in the form of “managed minutes” rather than wholesale rotation.
The fact that an international break follows after Gameweek 31, though, at least affords the likes of Mohamed Salah – who won’t be involved in Egypt’s two matches in March – the opportunity of a welcome breather.
Our Scout Notes article below focuses on last night’s match itself.
Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich
Liverpool delivered a performance full of endeavour and plenty of respect for the opposition on Tuesday evening – but ultimately a lack of creativity and inability to break down a resolute Bayern side sullied their display against Niko Kovac’s Bavarian giants.
A goalless draw is far from a terrible result, of course – depriving Bayern of an away goal could prove crucial and the reigning Bundesliga champions will likely not be as defensive-minded on home soil in three weeks’ time, potentially affording the Reds more space to exploit on the break.
Kovac’s side were especially stubborn after the interval, with the hosts not registering a single shot in the first 35 minutes of the second half.
A late Sadio Mane (£9.6m) header – one of just two shots on target that Liverpool mustered all night – was the closest the Reds came after half-time, though there were some clearer chances for Klopp’s side and Mane himself before the interval.
The Senegalese midfielder, who has scored in each of the last four Gameweeks in the Premier League, missed the best of Liverpool’s opportunities when screwing a shot wide on the turn from ten yards out and then sending an overhead kick high into the Anfield Road Stand from the edge of Manuel Neuer’s six-yard box.
Mane also fired a shot off-target from the edge of the Bayern area as the Reds enjoyed their best spell of the match, though this was one game in which the premium FPL midfielder’s finishing touch deserted him.
Although lacking a clinical streak on Tuesday night, the fact that Mane had more attempts on goal than Mohamed Salah (£13.6m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) combined is nevertheless an encouraging sign for those who pay heed to underlying attacking statistics – further information on that can be found in this article that we published earlier today.
Firmino actually had a decent match despite his lack of goalscoring opportunities in the centre-forward role, rising from his sick bed (the Brazilian had been a minor doubt for this match due to a virus) to play the first 76 minutes of this encounter and looking more like the excellent link-up player he can be when on song – something he hasn’t been in recent weeks.
Salah, back on the right flank, had two presentable chances in the first half but couldn’t get enough purchase on a superb Jordan Henderson (£5.3m) through-ball and then sent a header wide of Neuer’s left-hand post from a Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.2m) cross.
While the Egyptian posed a threat in the first half, he was generally comfortably dealt with by the Bayern backline and his goalscoring record against the “bigger” sides in 2018/19 might be of concern going into the Gameweek 27 meeting with Manchester United: Salah has one goal in five Champions League matches against PSG, Napoli and Bayern, and one goal in seven Premier League fixtures against fellow “big six” clubs.
Klopp reflected on his side’s attacking efforts:
There was a lot of respect involved in the game and that made life uncomfortable.
But in the first half we still had chances; if Sadio hits the ball a bit better, he strikes twice with a bicycle kick, which is obviously pretty rare. How it always is, a goal would have changed the game. It was like it was. The first half was still absolutely OK, we created. In the second half, nobody created anymore.
Our problem tonight was, on one hand, the quality of the opponent of course, but on the other hand, our last pass was not our friend. We had ten or 12 situations where everything was prepared, everything was on a plate, and then we played a very average last pass or gave it away.
It’s 0-0, the best draw you can get. It will be a tough one again to play at Bayern. If we win 1-0 tonight, what would have changed really? So it’s not perfect but good enough to work with.
Alexander-Arnold made his first start since returning from a knee injury and was prominent at set-piece situations especially, creating more chances than any other player on show.
The England full-back and Andrew Robertson (£6.8m) were curbed somewhat in open play by Bayern’s rigid set-up, however, while Robertson had his hands full with Serge Gnabry at the other end of the pitch.
With Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) suspended and Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez (both £4.9m) sidelined through injury, the makeshift centre-back pairing of Joel Matip (£4.9m) and Fabinho (£5.5m) performed admirably – save for a couple of jittery moments involving Alisson (£6.0m) in the first half – and didn’t allow their visitors a single shot on target. Robert Lewandowski, indeed, had the fewest touches of any player who started the match.
Matip was a (wasteful) threat at the other end and had the joint-highest number of attempts on goal in this contest, the best of his opportunities coming from a Firmino cross just before half-time.
Matip will likely continue alongside van Dijk at Old Trafford on Sunday, as Lovren seems unlikely to recover in time for Gameweek 27.
It was not mind games but Dejan had no chance for the game today actually, I don’t think he even has a chance for the next game. He will take his time.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita (Milner 76′); Salah, Firmino (Origi 76′), Mane.
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