Niko Kovac has opted for experience and consistency in the hopes of overcoming Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. In the run up to the match, many were unsure as to who would start on the wings for the Bavarian giants. Kingsley Coman’s welcome return to fitness and Franck Ribery’s blistering form left the Croatian boss with a tough decision.
Kovac has opted for Ribery, leaving the winger’s junior countryman on the bench. This makes sense considering Coman’s recent absence and Ribery’s European pedigree. The decision also allows Coman to be used more effectively as a super-sub for 20 to 30 minutes when Liverpool’s back line has tired legs.
Bayern’s manager also decided to reinstate the Niklas Süle-Mats Hummels partnership rather than stick with the Boateng-Hummels pairing that suffocated Wolfsburg’s attack over the weekend. Either decision would have been justified, but the speed and solidity of Süle makes him the safer choice to pair with a resurgent Hummels.
The most shocking decision of the day, however, came from the English side of the tie. Jürgen Klopp, who has a history of favoring trusted players over arguably more talented ones, returned to the well, selecting a midfield trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, and James Milner. Their consistency in Europe over the past two seasons has been unrivaled, but their talent has left many Liverpool fans wanting.
The absence of Fabinho is perhaps the most glaring omission. The Brazilian regista has established himself as the engine of Liverpool’s defense and attack, and his absence should indeed be a boost for Javi Martinez, Thiago, and James Rodriguez.
The choice to stick with a group of midfield “shuttlers” rather than Fabinho, or a more attack-minded Xherdan Shaqiri, seems uninspired.
What do you think of each first XI?