The day of reckoning is almost upon us. Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich will face Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC at the Allianz Arena, and the result will decide who goes through to the next round of the Champions League. Since the first leg ended in a 0-0, both teams have it all to play for. However, Kovac has to deal with some important absences from his squad. What will the coach do?
Team News — Bayern Munich
Let’s start with some (relatively) good news. In his pregame presser, Kovac confirmed that David Alaba and Kingsley Coman had completed training with the team and were confirmed for tomorrow’s game. It’s still up in the air whether Coman will start, but just having the option of using him will be good for the team.
Thus ends the good news. Bayern Munich will be without the services of Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich, both of whom are suspended. Kovac has more than competent backups options in James Rodriguez and Rafinha, but the absence of the two will surely be felt. Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso will also miss the game with injury.
Where does that leave us? Robert Lewandowski is sure to start up front. The Polish Hitman is likely to be flanked by a duo of Serge Gnabry on the right and Franck Ribery on the left. Why Ribery? Well, Kovac in his presser had nothing but praise for the Frenchman, and Ribery himself just notched up a hat trick of assists against Wolfsburg. Kingsley Coman may come off the bench as a super-sub.
In midfield, James Rodriguez will likely start behind the striker, and the duo of Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez are practically guaranteed to be the ones supporting him. James is on a hot run of form, so he’ll be looking to make up for his poor performance in the first leg of the tie.
In defense, Kovac was coy about which of his center-backs he would choose. Let’s play it safe and assume that coach will reprise his pairing from the first leg — i.e. Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels. However, Jerome Boateng is in good form at the moment, and with Joachim Loew attending the game, he may have even more incentive to perform. We really don’t know who Kovac will choose until the lineups come out tomorrow (or Bild’s mole leaks it).
Finally, to end all speculation, Rafinha will start at right back in place of Joshua Kimmich. the coach confirmed it.
With all that said, here’s our best guess for the lineup:
Team News — Liverpool
For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp will be boosted by the return of Virgil van Dijk, who was suspended for the first leg. The big Dutchman is probably the best center-back in the world at the moment. Between him and Joel Matip, Bayern may find it hard to score.
Liverpool’s center-backs will be flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right (supporting Mohamed Salah) and Andy Robertson on the left (supporting Sadio Mane). Up top, we should expect Roberto Firmino to start.
The midfield is a tough one to predict. Naby Keita is injured, so Jurgen Klopp will most likely decide to start a trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, and Fabinho. The return of Fabinho to the center of the park will be a real headache for the Bavarians to deal with — in the first leg, he was stuck playing center-back due to Van Dijk’s absence.
Want a more detailed look at Liverpool before the game? Check out our sister site The Liverpool Offside. Here’s how we predict they’ll line up: