Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac’s explanation of Javi Martinez’s role in their 0-0 draw at Anfield shows how much the Bundesliga champions fear Liverpool.
The Reds arguably dominated the game, despite Alisson and his back line requiring some impressive last-ditch defending to deny the likes of Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski.
And in fact, Bayern were seen visibly time-wasting from midway through the second half, with seemingly little ambition to score a vital away goal ahead of next month’s return clash at the Allianz Arena.
“We all know the drill: it’s close to the final whistle and you try to waste a bit of time,” the Croatian told Sky Sports.
“Javi has good performance data, meaning he couldn’t have even had a cramp. That’s all a bit of acting.
“Recently [in the 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin], Kingsley Coman also pretended to have a cramp but he didn’t.
“We have to bring calmness in the game. They do it well, they have the experience for that.”
This is nothing new, and Liverpool have lacked a less-admirable game management in recent years, but it does serve as testimony to Bayern’s ‘respect’ for their hosts.
In other words, the European heavyweights feared a Reds winner, and had long before set up to frustrate Klopp’s side, rather than push for a more positive result.
The second leg comes on March 13, and it is likely to be a much different affair as Bayern need to be on the front foot, and should come up against a visiting side eager to attack.
Liverpool cannot underestimate Kovac’s players when they head to Munich, but they can take encouragement from their need to time-waste on Merseyside as they eye a place in the quarter-finals.