The former Reds striker believes the focus at Anfield is set to shift from the attacking third to the defensive one in a crunch Champions League clash
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Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski will be looking to “prey on Fabinho”, says Stan Collymore, with Liverpool facing a tough Champions League test without Virgil van Dijk.
The Reds are set to take in the first leg of an eagerly-anticipated last-16 encounter at Anfield on Tuesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are considered by many to be favourites in a heavyweight clash with the Bundesliga title holders, but they are set to be without a defensive talisman on home soil.
With Van Dijk suspended and the likes of Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren nursing knocks, versatile Brazilian Fabinho may be asked to provide centre-half cover once more.
That is a concern for Collymore, with the former Liverpool striker telling The Mirror of the challenge facing the Reds: “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that Virgil van Dijk’s absence from Liverpool’s back four for the visit of Bayern Munich is a major blow.
“The Dutchman is big, physical, good in the air and can bully you, and there aren’t many central defenders who read the game better than he does.
“He’s good on the deck and chips in with big goals from time to time, too, so Bayern won’t be sorry he’s suspended.
“And certainly the Germans’ star striker, Robert Lewandowski, won’t have lost any sleep at the prospect of facing Joel Matip and, potentially, Fabinho instead.
“Now, I’m not saying the Pole would have been worried about facing Van Dijk because, as a striker, you’d never go into a game thinking, ‘I’m not going to play well because I’m up against someone so good’.
“But on the flip side, you can really have your appetite for a game whetted when the defenders you’re up against aren’t first choice or, in Fabinho’s case, even naturals in that position.
“The message in Bayern’s team meeting will be simple, with Niko Kovac telling his men: ‘If Fabinho plays at the back, we prey on him’. So Liverpool’s hope must be that in a one-off game without Van Dijk they can muster through.”
Collymore added on a Liverpool side which normally sees more attention placed on its attacking trident: “So the focus has switched for perhaps the first time this season from Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to those at the other end of the pitch.
“Whoever plays in Liverpool’s back four tonight need to keep things tight, knowing that a loss by the odd goal, while not ideal, is not irreparable in Munich.
“Against Manchester United on Sunday, however, I fear the damage a defeat could do and I’d go as far as to say all bets are off in terms of the title if should Liverpool lose that game.
“They will have Van Dijk back for that one but in games between the two sides, as we all know, anything can happen.
“But if they can get through tonight with a clean sheet despite their issues at the back then the confidence they will take into the weekend could be absolutely vital.”
After facing Bayern, Liverpool are due to head to Old Trafford on Sunday for a crucial clash with old adversaries Manchester United which could either dent or inspire an ongoing Premier League title bid.