For both Liverpool and Bayern Munich, the Champions League Round of 16 might end up being a war of attrition. Whether from injuries or suspensions, both sides will likely be fielding weaker-than-ideal teams.
We already know about the suspensions of Virgil van Dijk and Thomas Müller, and (if you haven’t heard) Liverpool have a fair few injuries to players in or around the starting XI. However, Bayern also face a fitness race of their own; Manuel Neuer, captain and all-around boss goalkeeper, might miss out because of damaged ligaments in his thumb.
“For Manuel Neuer the cup match against Hertha Berlin came a bit early,” the Bayern official Twitter account said yesterday.
“The captain had indeed travelled to Berlin. Niko Kovac, however, did not want to take any risk and therefore refrained from using the 32-year-old.”
Reports on the length and severity of the injury are a little ambiguous, but some sources say he could be out for as much as 3 months. Neuer was pictured in practice yesterday, sans gloves, with a splint clearly visible on his thumb.
As much as it would benefit Liverpool to not have to face one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, it would also be a shame. One of the greatest things about the Champions League is seeing the world’s best up close and personal.
I’m sure there will be more news on Neuer (and hopefully Liverpool’s walking wounded) between now and February 19th, when the two 5-time winners meet at Anfield for the first leg.