A victory for the quarter-finals
Bayern looking forward to "highlight match" against Liverpool
With a goalless draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Liverpool, FC Bayern have “pushed the door open slightly” for their progression to the quarter-final, according to chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Now the record German champions want to make that a reality in the second leg at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday (kick-off at 21:00 CET, coverage available via our live ticker) and reach the final eight for the eighth season in a row.
“We’re looking forward to this game and have no fear. We’re at home and want to win at the Allianz Arena,” said captain Manuel Neuer on Tuesday. The 32-year-old is set to make his 100th Champions League appearance when the Munich club take on the team currently second in the English Premier League, and the goalkeeper knows what he’s expecting. “It’s time to win such an important game at home because we haven't beaten a big team at home in Europe for some time.”
Coach Niko Kovac spoke on the eve of the clash of a “highlight match” against the “crème da la crème of European and world football”. In contrast to the 0-0 draw three weeks ago at Anfield, the 47-year-old is hoping that his charges are “better in attack than the first leg. We have to be more efficient up front and use the space offered to us. We’ve shown plenty of spirit in recent games, a lot of creativity and carved out loads of chances.”
Kovac appeared optimistic for Wednesday’s knockout game on the back of Bayern’s run of 12 wins from their last 13 league games, as well as the draw in Liverpool and the DFB Cup last-16 win at Hertha Berlin. “The desire and enthusiasm of recent weeks has shown me that the nearer we get to the end of the season, the more focussed and mentally strong the players become,” the FCB coach said, before adding, “there won't be another 0-0 because if you want to progress, you need to win.”
However, the Bayern boss warned his side not to charge forward in a rash manner against “by far the best team on the counter. You need to start the game well, find your rhythm. You can’t expect us to just pile forward and maybe shoot ourselves in the foot. We need to find a balance."
There was also good news on the injury front. David Alaba is once again “fit to play” after his tendon problems, and Kingsley Coman has recovered in good time from the muscle he tore two and half weeks ago. “I’m happy to have him back. He gives us an extra option," Kovac declared. He is, however, without the suspended Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich, as well as the injured Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso, as Bayern look to progress to an 18th Champions League quarter-final.
In any case, the stats bode well for the German champions, who have progressed on 21 of the 23 occasions they’ve drawn the first leg of a European knockout tie. The only times they’ve failed came in 2006/07 when a 2-2 draw at AC Milan was followed by a 2-0 defeat in Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals and all the way back in 1980/81 when a goalless draw was followed by a 1-1 at home in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final. You have, of course, guessed that the opponents on that occasion were Liverpool.