The Champions League knockout stage is the perfect type of competition for a Jürgen Klopp team. Their ability to counter-attack and gegenpress with such electrifying pace makes them so dangerous, especially the front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah. Psychologically, it often gives them the upper hand because their opposition want to setup tactically to mitigate the risk of being caught on the counter-attack with numbers committed forward.
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But Liverpool are arguably better when they have less of the ball and can run at you. By stark contrast, they have a tendency to struggle against teams that sick back defensively against them, causing them to have the lions share of possession. Its not rocket science to figure out how they made it all the way to the final last season, scoring goals at will.
Bayern actually out-possessed Liverpool in both legs (51%-49% in leg 1, and 58%-42% in leg 2). It just goes to show that Liverpool really are much stronger when they have less of the ball against high-caliber opponents. Its also interesting to wonder, How might the second leg have panned out had Manuel Neuer not come off of his line to try to deny Mané? Football really is a game of momentum and the result couldve been very different if Bayern had scored first.
Its also no secret that Liverpool are an entirely different beast from any team Bayern face in the Bundesliga. What works so well domestically for Bayern wont necessarily work against a team like Liverpool. We cant forget how much our form in the Bundesliga has changed for the better, walloping Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg in our most recent outings. Still, as Raphael Honigstein put it in his recent column for ESPN, There is an urgent need for this team and the club as a whole to reinvent and admit that things cannot go on as before.
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With a relatively aging squad, Bayern was bound to go through a genuine phase of transition. As players like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Javi Martinez approach the end of their careers, the club must focus on revamping the squad and injecting some younger talents. Players like Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Leon Goretzka, and Joshua Kimmich have shown that they can become future leaders of the club, but they all have a ways to go before they realize their full potential.
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Theres still a lot to play for. A domestic double is still on the cards, which would be one more trophy than Bayern collected last season if they pull it off. Yes, Bayern made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, but they fell short in the DFB-Pokal final in Kovacs last match in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt. Call me crazy, but I think it would still be a successful season if were able to secure the domestic double and win one more trophy than we did last season, especially considering the transitional nature of the 2018/2019 season.
The Reds can return to the top with a two-point lead if they beat Fulham on Sunday, leaving Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions to play catch-up as they are involved in the FA Cup against Swansea.
Kovac has had his struggles, but Bayerns hierarchy have continuously backed him and avoided making any knee-jerk reactions regarding his post. He was always going to have big shoes to fill taking over for Jupp Heynckes, who inherited a team that was left slightly broken by Carlo Ancelotti. The glass can still be half full while were still being honest with ourselves. Theres still an opportunity to win two trophies, but it wont be easy. After that, we should expect a big summer in the transfer window, and if that doesnt happen, then we can start to ask some more serious questions. Onward and upwards, AUF GEHTs!
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Then, if they can beat the Portuguese champions over two legs, the Reds know will be paired off with the winner of the quarter final between Barcelona and Manchester United. On the other side of the bracket, Juventus have drawn Ajax and Manchester City have drawn Tottenham
On the face of it, Liverpool should advance passed Porto without too much drama here. After all, last season also saw the two sides paired in the Champions League knockout rounds, with Liverpool sweeping Porto aside 5-0 on aggregate. Still, the Portuguese team will hold some hope of winning after the run they have been on to get to this stage of the competition.
“All the stories will be written but we will accept these stories because it would mean we would have won the game, which is difficult enough and the only thing we think about.”
Porto won Group D ahead of Schalke 04, Galatasaray, and Lokomotiv Moscow. Then they were drawn against AS Roma in the Round of 16. The first leg in Italy was a losing battle with Roma winning 2-1 but Porto won the second leg at the Estádio do Dragâo in dramatic fashion by coming from behind to send Roma out.
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At this stage of the Champions League there are certainly no easy matches. But delaying any confrontations with Manchester City or Barcelona or Juventus is a solid outcome for Jürgen Klopp and his team.
Liverpool will be favorites to advance passed Porto and right there in the mix to get to the final again. Any of the teams left will have been anxious about drawing Liverpool in the quarter finals but Porto or Ajax will likely have been extra sweaty waiting for the second ball to be pulled after Liverpools name was announced.
After the performance against Bayern Munich this week, confidence will be high at Melwood going into the first match on Tuesday, April 9th. There will still be more to come if Liverpool beat Porto over two legs but on the evidence weve seen, these Liverpool players under this manager will feel they can achieve the big one.