Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac admits Champions League clash with Liverpool is a personal highlight but knows onus is on the German champions to force the issue
- Bayern Munich and Liverpool contest the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday night with the scores locked at 0-0
- Niko Kovac admitted the visit of Liverpool is a personal highlight of his career
- But the Bayern coach is well aware that his team need to set the tone
Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac admits the Champions League visit of Liverpool is a personal highlight for him but knows nothing other than a victory will suffice.
The former Croatia international adopted a deferential tone, not what you usually expect from the manager of five-time European champions and a team which has a record 28 Bundesliga titles, when talking about their last-16, second-leg opponents.
‘I’ve qualified for the World Cup and led Eintracht Frankfurt in the relegation play-off – that was the worst – but tomorrow is a highlight,’ Kovac told a press conference.
Bayern Munich coach Nico Kovac shares a joke in training ahead of their match with Liverpool
Kingsley Coman jostles with Alphonso Davies as Bayern trained ahead of the second leg
Defender Mats Hummels leads the Bayern squad in training ahead of Wednesday’s match
The last-16 tie is tantalisingly poised following a goalless draw at Anfield last month
‘The world will be watching us. Everyone’s excited: the players, the coaches, the fans and the media.
‘It’s a tough game and the pressure is always on in knockout games but that’s a positive, not a negative.’
A goalless draw at Anfield leaves this match finely-balanced as an away goal for Liverpool would significantly tilt the game in their favour.
However, the onus will be on Bayern, in their own stadium, to come up with a more attacking game plan than the containment approach they adopted three weeks ago.
The German club did not manage a shot on target for the first time since their semi-final, first-leg tie at Barcelona in 2015 and Kovac accepts that is the one area which has to improve.
Thomas Muller cracks a joke with Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich during training
Rafinha and Kingsley Coman chat as Bayern train on Tuesday ahead of the Liverpool match
‘What we need to do is be more efficient up front: see the room and take advantage,’ added the coach, whose side have scored 11 times in their last two league matches.
‘We’ve shown creativity in our recent Bundesliga games, scored plenty of goals but also not taken a lot.
‘We need balance, but we also need to win no matter what, regardless of whether Liverpool score.
‘They’ve got an advantage if the score, but we simply need to win.’
Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored six European goals between them this season – two fewer than Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski on his own.
Niko Kovac says the match is a personal highlight but knows Bayern need to push the issue
Arjen Robben grabs his head as Bayern go through their preparations ahead of Liverpool
However, with Firmino and Mane both got two in Sunday’s win over Burnley Salah is on the worst run – five matches – without a goal of his short Liverpool career.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is taking nothing for granted, though.
‘It doesn’t make me more confident that Mo Salah hasn’t been scoring,’ he said.
‘It’s not important who scores, we’ll have to watch out for all players.
‘At set-pieces they’ve got (Virgil) Van Dijk and Joel Matip as well. We want to stop them getting into scoring positions.
‘I think Liverpool will attack, so we’ll have to defend well, but we’ll definitely be more attacking than in the first leg.’
Winger Kingsley Coman and defender David Alaba have both trained this week after missing the weekend’s 6-0 win over Wolfsburg with injury but Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller miss out through suspension.