Berlin: Bayern Munich head to Liverpool for Tuesday’s crunch Champions League tie at Anfield demanding improvements and shouldering Germany’s flagging hopes of having a club in the quarter- finals.
Since the 2005-06 season, at least one German side has always made it to the last eight. That proud run will be under threat if Bayern suffer a heavy defeat in the last-16 first leg ahead of the return game on 13 March. ‘You can’t make mistakes in these games, but I think we can cause Liverpool problems,’ said Bayern midfielder James Rodriguez. “We have a team that’s good enough to go through, if it goes well.”
Yet confidence in Bayern’s chances at Anfield dipped on Friday when they twice needed to come from behind for a 3-2 win at Bundesliga strugglers Augsburg, where Rodriguez was substituted after an ineffective 56 minutes.
Despite sitting just above the relegation places, Augsburg were the latest Bundesliga team to expose Bayern’s weaknesses defending against quick counter-attacks. “Everything must be better, but we had Liverpool at the backs of our minds,” admitted Bayern coach Niko Kovac. “We have to perform differently, but it’ll be at international level and that’s a very different focus — I assume that it will be a completely different performance from us.”
After Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 mauling at Tottenham Hotspur last week, and with Schalke facing English champions Manchester City on Wednesday, Bayern hold Germany’s best hope of quarter-final representation. Dortmund top the Bundesliga ahead of Bayern, but in Europe it is the Bavarians who have made a habit of reaching the latter stages of the Champions League.
“Dortmund have kept the Bundesliga exciting this year, but at this level you can’t make three individual mistakes like that (against Spurs),” said former Dortmund coach Matthias Sammer, now a Eurosport pundit. “That’s why I believe Bayern are the leaders in this regard and are carrying the flag in the normal picture, which is now emerging.” Any Liverpool fan who watched Bayern struggle at Augsburg would have cause for optimism as the Bavarians’ defence creaked in dramatic fashion.