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Bayern fly to Liverpool without Boateng

Bayern Munich jetted to Liverpool for today’s Champions League, last-16 first leg without centre-back Jerome Boateng and hoping French winger Kingsley Coman will be fit.

Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng

Boateng is out with an upset stomach, leaving Mats Hummels to partner Niklas Suele at Anfield.

Boateng and Franck Ribery were the biggest names missing when the team flew out of Munich on Monday.

Ribery (35) who could replace Coman if he fails to recover from an ankle injury, is expected to travel separately after becoming a father for the fifth time on Sunday night.

Bayern’s main concern is Coman, who was outstanding in Friday’s 3-2 win at Augsburg, equalising twice and then setting up David Alaba for the winning goal, only to limp off late on with an ankle injury.

“It looks quite positive, the ankle is a bit better,” said sports director Hasan Salihamidzic on Monday, despite Bayern having passed Coman fit to play two days before.

“We still have 36 hours and things can change, I can’t say more.”

Coman’s injury is of particular concern after only returning in December from four months out with torn ligaments in the same left ankle.

“It would be annoying not to have him, he brings a different dynamic to our game,” admitted Bayern head coach Niko Kovac on Friday.

Bayern, currently second in the Bundesliga, are happy to hand the favourites’ tag to Premier League title-chasing Liverpool, but are confident.

“Liverpool are having a very strong season,” said winger Serge Gnabry. “So it’s in order that they are favourites.

“We have our strengths, we’re FC Bayern and anything is possible.”

However, veteran Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who misses the match with a thigh injury, has seen enough to know what lies in store for Bayern.

“Everybody knows the atmosphere at Anfield is probably one of the best you can imagine in Europe, so that’s something you have to be aware of,” former Chelsea player Robben told the Daily Mail.

“But I think we’re used to it, playing in big stadiums like that…

“In these top games there are not a lot of secrets. It’s about little details and about just who has the best form that day.”

This will be the Bavarian giants’ first match at Anfield since the 1981 European Cup semi-finals, when Liverpool went through on away goals after a goalless draw and beat Real Madrid in the final.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Spain ready to bury the demons of his nightmare Champions League debut for Juventus tomorrow against one of his favourite victims Atletico Madrid.

The former Real Madrid player was sent off after 28 minutes in his first European game for Juventus in Spain last September against Valencia but the Italians went on to win 2-0 even without the Portuguese star.

Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus play their Champions League last 16, first-leg tie against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano midweek as they continue their push for the European title which has eluded them for over two decades.

Juventus are pinning their hopes on their €100 million summer signing to give them a first European win over Atletico, a team against whom the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has a long history.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the 34-year-old Ronaldo who lived a stone’s throw away from Atletico’s training centre.

Juventus signed Ronaldo because of his Champions League credentials.

No player owns as many Champions League titles as Ronaldo who has won five, four with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United.

He has scored a record 121 goals in the competition and of these 57 have proved decisive.

“We have to score at least one goal in Madrid, our qualification depends on this,” warned Allegri.

“The two teams are evenly balanced.”

Ronaldo has played the lead role in all of his five previous European triumphs — from his towering header for United against Chelsea in 2008 to the tie-clinching, 97th-minute penalty against Juventus last season in the quarters.

In between, there were the 17 goals he scored en route to the trophy in 2014, the title-winning penalty against Atletico in 2016 and the hat-trick against the same opposition, this time in the last four, a year later.

He would also score twice against Juventus in the final.

It was to become the beneficiaries, rather than victims, of these match-winning moments, that Juve decided the only way to win the Champions League before Ronaldo retires is to have him on their team.

Juventus won the title in 1985 and 1996 but have finished runners-up five times since, including twice in the past four years.

Fixtures

Tuesday:

-Liverpool v Bayern Munchen (Anfield 22:00)

-Olympique Lyonnais v Barcelona (Groupama Stadium 22:00).

Wednesday:

-Atletico Madrid v Juventus (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00)

-Schalke 04 v Manchester City (Veltins-Arena 22:00).

AFP.

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