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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Klopp wary of Allianz Arena return with Liverpool

AFP , Tuesday 12 Mar 2019
Klopp
Jurgen Klopp led Liverpool the Champions League final last season (AFP)
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Jurgen Klopp brings Liverpool to Germany to resume their battle against Bayern Munich with the hosts billing Wednesday's Champions League last 16 return leg as an all or nothing showdown.

After a goalless draw at Anfield in the first leg three weeks ago, everything is to play for at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Klopp knows what awaits his Reds in the highly-charged arena where Bayern tend to raise their game and away teams face a barricade of whistles whenever they touch the ball.

"The four goals are all well and good," said Klopp after Liverpool's 4-2 win on Sunday at Burnley, with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane both scoring twice. "But what does that have to do with Munich? It will not be so easy to score four goals there as well."

The 51-year-old has a modest record of nine wins, five draws and 16 defeats in 30 games against the Bavarians -- as coach of either Liverpool or former clubs Mainz and Dortmund -- dating back to 2004.

However, in his seven seasons with Dortmund, between 2008 and 2015, Klopp managed an impressive four wins, plus a draw and four defeats, from nine games in Munich.

He tasted victory on his last visit to the Allianz Arena in April 2015 when Dortmund beat Bayern on penalties in the semi-final of the German Cup.

- Buoyant Bayern -

Klopp knows that his team must walk tall at Bayern's home.

"It's a much more positive moment for Bayern. They are top of the table and winning games comfortably again," Klopp told Liverpool's website.

Bayern have hit form, winning their last three games with a goal ratio of 12-1 since the first-leg draw.

"But if we are at our best, we can be exceptional."

Liverpool fans hope Reds' striker Mo Salah has a red-letter day in Munich after just one goal in his last eight games.

His lack of goals has not stopped Liverpool staying in contention for the Premier League title as Mane and Firmino have filled the breach.

The Liverpool match is seen as a season-defining tie for the German champions.

The five-time winners last failed to get through the last 16 stage in 2011 and confidence is high after they moved into top spot in the Bundesliga at the weekend for the first time since September.

"It's a very important game - everything is riding on this," said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

"The boys have put some more self-confidence in the tank," he added after Saturday's 6-0 mauling of Wolfsburg.

Bayern will be without the suspended Thomas Mueller, but James Rodriguez will slot seamlessly into the attacking midfield role.

Like Klopp, the Colombian expects a red-hot atmosphere having proved his form with a stunning goal at the weekend.

"The fans will get right behind us and drive us on, so that we feel good and give our all," Rodriguez told Bayern's website.

"We will have to put in the perfect match in order to go through.

"Liverpool have quick players, who feel good when they get a lot of room, but I think we have every chance to go through."

- Point to prove -

German bookmakers agree and have made Bayern the slight favourites.

The tie needs no added spice, but Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels are still smarting after Germany coach Joachim Loew told them, along with Mueller, that their international careers are over.

The centre-backs will have a point to prove against Liverpool.

At the other end, the Reds' Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk will have to subdue Rodriguez and Bayern's record-breaking striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Poland hot-shot became the Bundesliga's top-scoring foreigner on Saturday when he extended his tally to 197 goals.

So eager is Bayern head coach Niko Kovac to protect his forward that Lewandowski trained on his own on Monday as heavy snow fell in Munich.

"You need to be smart and more than 100 percent ready for anything," Van Dijk told UEFA.com on countering the threat of Lewandowski, who scored eight goals in the group stages.

"If he's trying to run at you, trying to get past you, you need to be ready for that as well.

"You don't need to give any opportunities to those strikers because they will punish you and they will score."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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