Liverpool became the fourth English team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after an excellent 3-1 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday evening.
Three days after he registered a brace in the 4-2 victory over Burnley, the in-form Sadio Mane scored two of the Reds’ goals in Bavaria to help his side to a first competitive away win since January.
The Senegalese winger once more outscored Mohamed Salah, who produced a fine assist for Mane’s second strike but who yet again failed to get on the scoresheet.
It is now just one goal in nine matches for the most expensive player in Fantasy Premier League, while Mane has ten goals in his last ten appearances.
The victory was perhaps all the more significant given the concerns about Liverpool’s away form going into the Gameweek 31 clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino each have identical records in Liverpool’s away league matches contested this calendar year: played five, scored one, assisted none.
The tonic of a victory in Germany and an upcoming fixture against a side with the worst defensive record in 2019 surely gives Liverpool’s front three the chance to remedy that statistic on Sunday.
Casting our eyes further ahead, Liverpool’s schedule for late-March/April is now complete (barring the exact dates for the Champions League last eight) and looks as follows:
Sunday 31 March: Gameweek 32 – Tottenham Hotspur (a)
Friday 5 April: Gameweek 33 – Southampton (a)
Tue/Wed 9/10 April: UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg
Sunday 14 April: Gameweek 34 – Chelsea (h)
Tue/Wed 16/17 April: UEFA Champions League quarter-final, second leg
Sunday 21 April: Gameweek 35 – Cardiff City (a)
Friday 26 April: Gameweek 36 – Huddersfield Town (h)
The two Friday night matches could be an aid to Fantasy managers fearing small-scale rotation around the Champions League (the semi-finals follow Gameweek 36), while the fact that the Gameweek 35 trip to Cardiff is scheduled for a Sunday also allows an extra day’s recovery following the quarter-final second leg.
Our Scout Notes below round up the main Fantasy talking points, key manager quotes and headline injury news from the Allianz Arena.
Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool
- Goals: Joel Matip (£4.9m) own-goal | Sadio Mane (£9.9m) x2, Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m)
- Assists: Serge Gnabry | Virgil van Dijk, James Milner (£5.6m), Mohamed Salah (£13.4m)
Two attempts and two goals for Sadio Mane (£9.9m).
The Senegal international registered the same number of shots as Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) and Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) on Wednesday evening but, as he has done for much of 2019, once again outshone his two attack-minded team-mates.
Mane and Salah’s underlying statistics are similar this calendar year: Mane has the edge for big chances and shots in the box, while Salah beats his colleague for overall attempts, efforts on target, key passes and (by some distance) penalty box touches.
Their two expected goals (xG) tallies in 2019 are almost identical.
Much has been made of Mane’s significantly inferior attacking KPIs away from home recently and the Senegalese winger indeed has only had three shots in his last four Premier League fixtures on the road.
Mane looks far more clinical than Salah in front of goal, though, and the Gameweek 31 ownership/captaincy debate involving the two Liverpool midfielders effectively boils down to form versus underlying stats.
The way Mane took his first goal in Munich exemplified his current confidence.
Collecting a long ball from Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m), the former Southampton winger showed tremendous composure to wrong-foot the stranded Manuel Neuer and produce a delicate chipped finish over two covering Bayern defenders to put Liverpool 1-0 up.
The Senegal international rounded off the scoring late on with a header from a superb Salah cross.
Mane’s aerial ability is an underrated quality: no FPL midfielder has had more headed goal attempts in 2019.
Speaking after the game, Klopp said of Mane’s current form:
It is so obvious that I don’t have to really speak about. He knows it, everybody knows it and I don’t want to speak about it because it’s so important for us that these guys stay fit and all that stuff. Remind me after the season and I will sing my own song about him, if necessary! It’s really good, he’s in a good moment. Long may it continue, that’s more my concern.
Mane might have had other attacking returns in Germany, too, had Salah not opted to go alone with one jinking second-half run and instead squared the ball to his unmarked team-mate.
Andrew Robertson (£6.9m), meanwhile, forced Neuer into a save from a Mane key pass.
Salah was his usual self: full of running and trickery, terrorising the Bayern defence one minute and heading down blind alleys the next.
That run we mentioned above was only halted by a last-ditch intervention from Niklas Sule as Salah shaped to shoot, while the Egyptian stung Neuer’s palms with an effort just outside the hosts’ area early in the second half.
Salah is a paradox of a player at times, demonstrating tunnel vision when ignoring Mane and (in another situation) James Milner (£5.6m) but showing great awareness for Liverpool’s third goal and having earlier produced a fine, half-volleyed through-ball for Firmino that the Brazilian narrowly sliced wide.
After his two goals against Burnley, Firmino posed little goal threat of his own and spent much of the game selflessly dropping deep from his centre-forward position (thus allowing Salah and especially Mane to run in behind).
Klopp had lined his side up in his usual 4-3-3 but was forced into a change early on when Jordan Henderson (£5.3m) limped from the field with a twisted ankle.
Speaking after the game, the Liverpool boss said:
It was a difficult game, to lose Hendo so early. He twisted his ankle. Hopefully not too serious, but serious enough. He couldn’t stop anymore so that’s actually not too cool.
It’s Hendo so he’s a hard one but we have to see, of course. It looks hopefully not that serious but for tonight we had to change.
That’s always a bad sign for a game when you have to change early. We trained with him there in that position. We wanted to, not to rest Fabinho, but we wanted to bring in fresh legs and Hendo had fresh legs but unfortunately, that didn’t help with the ankle.
Naby Keita (£7.1m) missed out with a minor injury, meanwhile.
While Joel Matip (£4.9m) had the misfortune of turning a Serge Gnabry cross past his own goalkeeper to level the scores up at 1-1, there were more encouraging signs for owners of his central defensive partner ahead of Gameweek 31.
Having already banked an assist for his role in Mane’s opener, van Dijk put Liverpool 2-1 ahead with a header from a Milner corner.
Van Dijk has four goals and as many assists in competitive matches since the beginning of December.
While his attacking contributions are an obvious attraction from an FPL perspective, van Dijk once again delivered yet another impressive defensive showing at centre-half.
Klopp said of his influential stopper:
It was brilliant. He was involved in the goal of Bayern as well, so what a night (laughs)!
What can I say? I could write a book about his skills, his strength, how much I like him, what a fantastic person he is. He is so young, already so mature, so strong, all good.
Virg knows that he can play better than he did tonight; we can play better than we did tonight. But tonight we played – especially the second half – as good as necessary and possible.
Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.5m) had difficult starts to the game as Bayern experienced some joy down the flanks, with Franck Ribery getting the better of the Liverpool right-back early on and Robertson culpable for letting Gnabry in behind for the hosts’ equaliser.
Like the rest of their team-mates, however, the Reds’ full-backs improved significantly as the game wore on.
Alexander-Arnold was name-checked a couple of times in Klopp’s post-match interviews, one comment explaining why Milner came to provide the assist for van Dijk’s goal:
There was a pass in the second half from Trent through all three lines, more or less, to Bobby, he turned and he couldn’t finish the situation off but it was just [brilliant].
We work a lot on the set pieces. Trent was today the main taker but after having, I don’t know, seven or eight or something like this, we thought it made sense for Millie to take one and that’s the one that leads to a goal.
One positive bit of news for owners of Robertson: the Scottish left-back picked up a booking late on and will now miss the Champions League quarter-final first leg in between Gameweeks 33 and 34 through suspension.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Milner (Lallana 87′), Henderson (Fabinho 13′), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Origi 83′), Mane.