Champions League: Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac and veteran ‘keeper Manuel Neuer expect to make home advantage count in their Champions League last 16 return leg on Wednesday to bring down Liverpool at a packed Allianz Arena.
After a goalless first leg draw at Anfield three weeks ago, Kovac expects both sides to go in search of goals and the Bayern coach rates Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool as one of the world’s best counter-attacking sides.
“I don’t think it will end 0-0, but we will receive the kind of support in our stadium tomorrow the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Kovac with a sellout crowd of around 70,000 expected.
“We have shown lots of spirit and creativity in the Bundesliga going forward,” he added, as Bayern have won their last three league games, with a goal ratio of 12-1, since the first leg.
“I’m in the mood to see us play even more effectively at home with the tailwind of our fans.”
However, Kovac warned that if his defence “take their eyes off” Liverpool’s fleet-footed forwards Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane or Mo Salah, “then it’s already too late”.
Bayern are bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the eighth year in a row and Kovac has backed his experienced team against a Liverpool side bidding for their first Premier League title in 29 years.
“Of course, we have to push forward – that’s important – but Liverpool are one of the best counter-attacking teams and we’ll have to draw a fine line,” said Kovac.
“The closer we get to the end of the season, the stronger mentally our players will become.
“That gives us some reassurance against Liverpool, but we have to find a balance.
“We must be able to score a goal, even at the end of 90 minutes.”
Kovac expects “form on the day” to decide the result and said he had not put Bayern through additional penalty shoot-out practice as “you can either do it or you can’t” when the pressure is on.
Both winger Kingsley Coman and left-back David Alaba should be fit to return after injury, although Kovac is without the suspended Thomas Mueller.
Neuer, the captain of Bayern and Germany, is also expecting a gala European night at the Allianz Arena.
Having lost at home to Real Madrid in the knock-out stages in each of the last two seasons, Neuer says it is high time Bayern beat a big European club at home.
“Tomorrow is a final for us, anything can happen when two top teams meet each other,” said the 32-year-old goalkeeper.
“The Allianz Arena will be on fire and it is time for us to once again beat a team of this calibre at home.”
Liverpool striker Mo Salah has only scored once in his last eight games, but Neuer scoffed when asked if the Egyptian’s dip in form could help Bayern’s cause.
“Liverpool will attack us as a unit and it doesn’t matter if Salah has only scored one goal in eight games,” said Neuer.
“We have already seen what Liverpool can do, it’s also important that we also have the right players to safeguard from corners and free-kicks.
“It’s important to cover the space at the back, always have the numbers to defend counter-attacks, but of course we want to take the lead.”
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