Liverpool’s shock FA Cup exit at the paws of Wolves in early January has turned out to be an inadvertent tactical masterstroke. Coming just days after succumbing to a first Premier League defeat of the season against champions Man City, we simply presumed the wheels were coming off the Reds’ campaign, as per usual. Fair, but wrong.
Instead, their elimination in that competition means Liverpool will have had a nice 10-day break between their win against Bournemouth on February 9th and this titanic Champions League clash. Bayern Munich, meanwhile, had to travel to FC Augsburg on Friday evening and come from behind twice to win 3-2 in order to maintain pace with Bundesliga table-toppers Borussia Dortmund.
Jurgen Klopp will be eager to exact some vengeance for Dortmund’s 2013 Champions League final defeat to the Bavarians and given Liverpool’s current home record they stand a good chance of winning here. They’ve lost just once at Anfield in all competitions this season and haven’t lost at home in Europe since a 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid in 2014 – a run stretching back 19 games.
As for Bayern, they will seek to exploit Liverpool’s recent patchy league form which has seen them slip to second behind City in the table, though Niko Kovac’s side haven’t exactly been the definition of German efficiency. While five wins from six since the turn of the year is good, they have yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019 and have recorded just two shut-outs away from home in their last 18 European games – and both of those were in this season’s group stage.
However, Bayern are unbeaten in this season’s Champions League and haven’t lost in their last eight European away matches, finding the net at least twice in each one. Manuel Neuer’s recent return between the sticks after a thumb injury and the fact they can boast the competition’s current top scorer in Robert Lewandowski will also give Kovac confidence that his side can overcome the Merseysiders to reach their eighth successive quarter-final.
We don’t think Neuer’s return will stop the likes of Mo Salah or Saido Mané from finding the net, but Liverpool’s recent aversion to keeping clean sheets — just two since the turn of the year — means both teams to score is the correct shout for this one.
Verdict: Both Teams to Score @ 1/2
A very unusual set of results in the group stage saw Lyon progress to the Champions League knock-out phase for the first time in seven seasons — having beaten Manchester City 2-1 at the City Calling Stadium, the French side proceeded to draw their next five games to finish second in the group unbeaten with eight points. Their reward is a tie with Barcelona and tormentor in chief, Leo Messi.
Though inconsistency has blighted Lyon’s domestic campaign thus far, Bruno Génésio’s men have demonstrated a rather bizarre taste for the big occasion. They avenged the 5-0 hammering inflicted by perennial league trouncers PSG earlier in the season with a 2-1 home win at the start of February and were the only team to take points off City in the group stages, recording a win and a draw.
Lyon scored in every game in the group stages and have only failed to score at Parc Olympique Lyonnais twice this season in all competitions. And while they haven’t been here for a while, their home record in the last-16 isn’t bad either – just one loss in eight matches. As impressive as all that is, they now come up against a side who are just as formidable in this competition.
The Catalans have never tasted defeat in six meetings with Lyon and they can also boast a rather more impressive unbeaten record in the group stages of this season’s Champions League: four wins and two draws. Barca have also lost just once in their last 17 Champions League games, though they also haven’t won away from home in their last five knock-out games.
Ernesto Valverde will look to the in-form Leo Messi to get his side through a potential banana skin in France. The Argentine has scored 13 times in his last 12 games in all competitions and has netted three times against Lyon.
As for Les Gones, Moussa Dembélé has five from his last eight appearances which isn’t quite Messi form but it could be enough to hurt a Barca team which has stuttered in recent domestic games to no major repercussion due to their comfortable lead at the top of La Liga.
So, given Lyon’s love of a draw in the group stage and the fact Barca have drawn three of their last four games in all competitions, we reckon draw and both teams to score is the way to go here.
Verdict: Draw and both teams to score @ 7/2
*Prices correct at time of posting