Bayern for blood
Bayern Munich have reached the Champions League semi-finals in seven of the last nine seasons. Liverpool have reached the Champions League in three of the last nine seasons. Anyone who expected the latter to comfortably beat the former at home without arguably their most influential player really ought to stop reminiscing about those special European nights at Anfield.
Take Neil Ashton for example. He tells The Sun that Liverpool ‘have it all to do now,’ and that ‘last season’s Champions League finalists…look shaky and uncertain in the final stretch of this campaign.’
They looked far shakier and more uncertain in the first stretch of this campaign, when they lost three of their first five group games. Drawing with Bayern Munich and avoiding the concession of an away goal is no disaster.
But no, ‘the confidence, the belief they can beat anybody in a big game, is slipping away’.
Thankfully it was still intact when they were winning against Tottenham, Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League this season. Oh, and Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli in the Champions League, the latter of which they had to win to remain in the competition.
Wait until he finds out that there’s a second leg.
Ashton is absolutely not alone in forecasting Liverpool doom after they embarrassingly only managed to draw against a side that have lost just one of their last nine Champions League away games.
‘Short-term it means they are going to have to do it the hard way when these teams next meet,’ writes Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail, who presumably thinks Bayern will therefore have it easy against these chancers in Germany.
‘Munich kept a full-strength Liverpool forward line at bay and frustrated the home crowd into a state of tetchiness,’ he adds. Excuse Mediawatch for being more impressed with Liverpool keeping a clean sheet against a strong Bayern attack with a central defensive partnership of Fabinho and Joel Matip.
‘They could have nicked it, had Manuel Neuer not made a save from Sadio Mane at the near post with four minutes to go, but Liverpool didn’t have a whole lot to show for rather a significant shift.’
Lewandowski has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season; Liverpool have scored nine. If drawing 0-0 without their two best defenders is ‘not a whole lot to show’ from the first leg of a two-legged tie, how ridiculous would the reaction have been if they had lost?
But Samuel has that base covered with his final paragraph.
‘And so to Bavaria, where Munich have lost two of their last 26 games in Europe. By worrying contrast, Liverpool’s last five Champions League games outside Anfield have ended in defeat.’
Is there even any point in playing that game?
As Jurgen Klopp said, the result was “not perfect, but it’s good enough”. And even Niko Kovac described it as “half full, half empty”. So let’s not get carried away.
Margin for error
Perhaps the following line explains Samuel’s negativity:
‘Before the game there was great confidence in the streets around Anfield, with locals predicting three, maybe four-goal margins.’
When do the Didn’t Happen Of The Year award nominations start?
Case for the defence
Then we come to John Cross of the Daily Mirror, who does deserve credit for writing that ‘a goalless draw is no longer a bad result as you would surely back this Reds’ side to score in Munich’. Preposterous level-headedness.
But that is not all.
‘Liverpool will also be grateful themselves they did not concede as it was a nervous night for their patched-up defence. Without the suspended Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool looked wobbly at the back, nervous and vulnerable.’
And yet they kept a clean sheet.
‘Liverpool were also missing Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez through injury and the patched-up back four looked nervous with Joel Matip, in particular, looking shaky without the Dutchman’s calming influence.’
And yet they kept a clean sheet.
‘Sure enough, Matip was at fault when Bayern twice went close in the opening 17 minutes and that nervousness spread to the rest of the defence with Fabinho filling in at centre-half.’
And yet they kept a clean sheet. And Fabinho (6/10 in the Mirror’s player ratings) was excellent.
‘And even the normally reliable Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold looked vulnerable.’
And yet they really did keep an actual clean sheet.
But in the space of four short paragraphs, Liverpool are described as ‘nervous’ four times, ‘vulnerable’ twice, ‘patched-up’ twice, ‘shaky’ once and ‘wobbly’ once.
Are they the first team to lose 0-0?
Before the worst
‘Liverpool are not currently at their best. All teams go through these periods of uncertainty during a long season and Jurgen Klopp’s players are hanging on a little as they wait for real form to return.
‘As such, this was not the worst result.’
Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail there, spotting that drawing 0-0 against a five-time European champion might not be the end of Liverpool’s season.
Were I the Moor I would not be Thiago
‘For Munich, the star turns were the men of experience: Mats Hummels, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez. So many times they took control as Liverpool probed and found only dead ends’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.
‘Thiago Alcantara: A neat passer who was busy throughout but with the demeanour of one whose side are leading comfortably – 5’ – Alysson Rudd, The Times.
Were they at the same game?
‘Didier Deschamps believes Maurizio Sarri is not playing N’Golo Kante in his best position’ – The Sun.
Welcome to a six-month-old debate, Didier pal.
‘Pep Guardiola’s shock pick as one of best three Premier League players’ – Daily Mirror.
Considering he quantified it as “this season”, naming Bernardo Silva is hardly jaw-dropping.
Disappointing headline of the day
‘Emiliano Sala’s former club Nantes has premises raided by tax inspectors’ – Daily Telegraph.
It takes them until the third paragraph of the story to clarify that ‘the case is not immediately believed to be related to financial arrangements around Sala’. So why is he in the headline?
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on the renaissance of defending.
Miguel Delaney on Liverpool’s 0-0 defeat.
Michael Cox on Juventus v Atletico.