UCL Preview: Key roles for Africans in the Liverpool & Bayern clash

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool warms up before the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between SSC Napoli and Liverpool at Stadio San Paolo on October 3, 2018 in Naples, Italy.  (Oct. 2, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool warms up before the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between SSC Napoli and Liverpool at Stadio San Paolo on October 3, 2018 in Naples, Italy.

(Oct. 2, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

I don’t know why red is such a favored color in football circles, probably doesn’t matter. But yes, it’s almost cute to start by outlining, “we have yet another battle of the Reds” at Anfield on Tuesday. Liverpool will welcome Bayern Munich in the first leg of another 2018/19 UEFA Champions League round of 16 clash.

Jurgen Klopp’s men will have to go down this road without some of their key players while Bayern’s pre-match photos won’t be headlined by the old-timers who are slowly paving way for a new generation. The chief of Liverpool’s defence, Virgil Van Dijk will sit this one out by reason of a one-game suspension with forward Roberto Firmino also being reported a doubt for the visit of the Bundesliga champions. Arjen Robben is not a part of Niko Kovac’s 21 man squad whereas Franck Ribery did not travel with the rest of the team as he welcomed the birth of his new child. Where does this leave us?

Kingsley Coman of FC Bayern Muenchen runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayern Muenchen and Paris Saint-Germain at Allianz Arena on December 5, 2017 in Munich, Germany.  (Dec. 4, 2017 - Source: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts)

Kingsley Coman of FC Bayern Muenchen runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayern Muenchen and Paris Saint-Germain at Allianz Arena on December 5, 2017 in Munich, Germany.

(Dec. 4, 2017 - Source: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts)

Last year’s UCL finalists will have to once again call upon the pacey African duo of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to lead the Liverpool forward line in the absence of Firmino. Both the Senegalese and Egyptian international scored 10 goals each in the 2018/19 tournament with Mane even pulling one back for the Reds in the final against Real Madrid. It will be a new challenge to contend with for Bayern’s Boateng-less defense who will probably be in need of massive speed. With Van Dijk out and Lovren a doubt, Cameroon’s Joel Matip is the only recognised senior centre back heading into this contest and will have to lead a makeshift defensive line. It probably won’t settle the nerves of the Merseysiders knowing fit-again Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez are all available to test that defense.

They are all 5 time European Champions, nicknamed “the Reds” by their faithfuls, second-place on their respective domestic league tables and love a big game. Who will draw first blood and who will progress to the next round of Europe’s elite club competition. I am just concerned about getting my popcorn and soda right.

My prediction: Money on Salah and Mane to deliver the goods for the English Reds.