Belfast Telegraph

Bayern Munich confident despite getting 'toughest draw'


Difficult test: Niko Kovac is sure Bayern can flex muscles
Difficult test: Niko Kovac is sure Bayern can flex muscles

By Phil Medlicott

Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac feels Liverpool are the toughest Champions League draw his men could have been handed but has backed the Bavarians to get a positive result at Anfield tonight.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds were runners-up in the competition last season and are currently second in the Premier League, level on points with leaders Manchester City, who have played a game more.

Kovac said at his pre-match press conference ahead of tonight's last-16 first leg: "I want to say once again that we are playing tomorrow against an opponent who I believe are the most difficult draw we could have had.

"If you look at what Liverpool did in the Champions League last season, and what they are doing in the Premier League this season, then you have to say it is the most difficult draw that there is.

"The atmosphere will definitely be good, but I'm sure my players have gone through a lot of big games with great atmospheres, so that's not an argument that we shouldn't be able to compete tomorrow.

"We just have to get into the game, be focused, stand up to the first attacks and then we'll try to play our game, and then we can get a successful result.

"The Champions League is undoubtedly special and tomorrow when the lads leave the hotel or come into the stadium, they'll know what it's about, why they need venues like this and opponents like this.

"I'm completely convinced everybody will be right in the head and produce performances they have to to get a result tomorrow."

Bayern are currently second themselves, behind Klopp's old club Borussia Dortmund, in the Bundesliga, which they won last term for a sixth successive season. They exited last year's Champions League in the semi-finals.

Former Bayern and Croatia player Kovac took charge at the club last summer, succeeding the retiring Jupp Heynckes.

The visitors look set to be without Jerome Boateng tonight, the defender having been hit by gastroenteritis and not travelled with the rest of the Bayern squad.

Winger Franck Ribery is another player who did not come across from Germany with his team-mates yesterday, following the birth of his daughter during the night, but he is due to arrive ahead of the match.

It appears Kingsley Coman, who scored twice before coming off with an injury in Friday's 3-2 win at Augsburg, will be available.

Meanwhile, Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has praised Liverpool No.1 Alisson, who the Reds paid £66.9m to sign from Roma in the summer.

Neuer said: "I like his style. I've seen him at Roma, and I've also seen him with the Brazil national team, he's doing a great job."

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