The Reds have a huge game tonight as Champions League knockout action returns to Anfield. The Red Debate hosts Tom and Chris and joined by Ollie to go head to head on the key issues – predictions, the importance of the Champions League this season and the key men.
Game predictions then boys?
I feel strangely confident given the prestige of the opposition. I’m going for a convincing 3-1 win with Salah causing all sorts of problems and Gini dominating the midfield.
I reckon 2-0. I do think our full backs will get a lot of joy on the wings and think they’ll play a massive part. Alaba and Kimmich love to maraud and I think their lack of pace at centre back will be exposed.
2-0 as well. As I said on our podcast preview, I’m going for a Sadio Mane double.
Who are the key men tonight?
I’ve just done a massive thread on our Twitter page having a look specifically at how Bayern concede & how they score. It’s mad how many goals they’ve conceded in behind. A lot of Bayern’s productivity comes from their fullbacks playing high, as does a lot of their vulnerability. The key duels for me are therefore going to be Mane and Salah vs Kimmich and Alaba. I can’t see Kovac wanting to isolate Hummels and Sule in 2 vs 2 situations too often against our two, with Firmino coming into the spaces occupied by their holding midfielder, who may well be Martinez. Salah and Mane attack back lines in a strangely unique way versus other forwards. Their movement into goalscoring positions will be a real test for Bayern’s two fullbacks and I can really see Klopp going full throttle on them tonight. Such is thew quality of the two sides that little is being made of the two keepers, arguably two of the best keepers in the world. I reckon we could well see some top quality goalkeeping tonight.
Aside from our top three, who will worry any team in the world, for me the most important player is whoever steps in for VVD tonight. Cue a stunning performance from Fabinho… Matip has a huge night ahead of him as well – will he shackle one of the world’s best strikers or will Lewandowski target him and thrive? Elsewhere, Gini will be huge in controlling the game and our own full backs need to play well against a dangerous Kimmich and Alaba (although I do agree with the boys that we can exploit their attacking nature).
The key men are obviously the front three – if they are firing I’m sure we’ll win. But also as Chris said, Gini Wijnaldum is massive in this team, and Big Virgil back for the second leg will be huge.
Given the title challenge this season, how important is this year’s Champions League?
The Champions League this season could well be a springboard towards league success, which has to be the end goal for us, really. What’s mad about this season is that we’re joint top of the league with a game in hand after we’ve played 26 games and I still feel like we’ve got gears to go through. A run in the Champions League was our distraction last year, this year it could be our catalyst.
I’ve read a fair bit about some fans not caring about this Champions League game. For me, that’s nonsense. I agree the league is the ultimate priority, but it’s the Champions League! And having worked hard to return to elite status, I don’t want to be getting knocked out at the first knockout phase. Top players will take note and our own boys, like Salah, will be more likely to remain if we consistently reach quarterfinals and beyond. Elimination could totally derail our season.
The Champions League is of massive importance for building confidence and really feeling like one of the big boys. Losing games can breed doubt no matter the competition, it took us ages to get over losing to Chelsea at home, carry the wave. Obviously, we can focus on the league more if we go out but that’s a losers mentality and we can beat any European team on our day.
Thanks all, c’mon the Reds!