By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, March 11 (Xinhua) — 2013 treble winner Bayern Munich are the favorites in the second leg of the last 16 round match against Premier League Liverpool, said 70-year-old Ottmar Hitzfeld in a recent interview with Xinhua.
“I see them in a better position after they came away from Liverpool with a goalless draw,” commented the two-time Champions League winning coach (1997 and 2001) in advance of the crucial clash in the Munich arena on Wednesday.
“There will be no need for calculations as a simple victory will be enough. That, of course, will require tactics,” the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich coach said.
The seven-time German league champion and two-time German Cup winner also warned the Bavarians about no playing a too open game. “Bayern needs to be aware they have at least 90 minutes get the result they need,” emphasized former Swiss national coach and demanded patience from his former club (1998 – 2004/2007 – 2008).
Bayern, Hitzfeld stated, shouldn’t risk an open battle as this “gives Liverpool and its fast forwards space and the opportunity for counter-attacks.”
Hitzfeld’s advice for Bayern coach Niko Kovac is simple: keep a clean sheet and wait for your chances.
The league leader’s clash with the Premier League’s second place team can go either way and “will be a nail-biter.” Fans, he said, can expect a football festival.
According to Hitzfeld, the “momentum” speaks for Bayern as the record league champions returned to the top of the table last weekend after overtaking Dortmund. They have finally managed to get over a previous crisis in the autumn of 2018.
“Bayern has the quality to beat Liverpool. And now thy gained additional confidence,” Hitzfeld commented. Like in the first leg, the most critical issue is to keep spaces closed and count on the individual skills of spearheads Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry and James Rodriguez with Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich banned after receiving red and yellow cards.
To have French international Kingsley Coman back would increase Bayern’s option Hitzfeld said. The winger’s participation is still in doubt after an injury. Hitzfeld said Bayern will count on Franck Ribery’s skills.
Bayern’s players are benefitting from being in with a chance of winning all three major competitions. “It makes things easier in many ways,” the former coach said.
The side’s aging stars are hoping to have a final successful season with Bayern while the young challengers are trying to prove their quality and ensure their futures at the club.
The two fractions in the Bavarian’s squad have gathered behind the team’s common goal to deliver success this season. “It’s far from being a bad situation.”
According to Hitzfeld, coach Kovac has managed to solve the team’s difficulties by staying calm and counting on a strict plan. “It has made it easier for the team to find their way back to consistency and stability.”
He called Kovac the “right coach for Bayern.”
As for the German title race, Hitzfeld talked about Bayern’s mental advantage in comparison to their closest rival Dortmund. “To have regained the lead gives Bayern not only an extra motivational boost for the Liverpool game but also for the final stages of the Bundesliga season,” he said.
Munich has developed into a team with a solid defense “which is the source for success in the Champions League.” Everyone in the squad has gotten their coach’s message. Now with a healthy team-spirit again, Bayern has a good chance of surviving the challenge against Liverpool.
Hitzfeld still rates the Bundesliga as the No. 2 league in Europe, behind the Premier League but jointly with the Spanish La Liga. “German football has caught up after the setback at the 2018 World Cup,” he said. Beating Premier League teams would mean “you are strong enough to win the Champions League campaign.”