Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has refused to underestimate Bayern Munich ahead of a last-16 showdown next year, despite their poor start to the season.
The German champions have endured a miserable first few months of the 2018-19 campaign and are playing catch-up in the Bundesliga, already nine points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund after 15 matches.
Under the stewardship of Niko Kovac, who succeeded Jupp Heynckes in the role of head coach this summer, Bayern have not been the same cohesive, well-balanced unit from top to bottom and they now have a real fight on their hands to re-assert their dominance domestically.
In the Champions League, they have fared slightly better, albeit still failing to impress convincingly in a relatively easy Group on paper alongside Ajax, AEK Athens and Benfica.
Although the Bavarians managed to win Group E, they were outplayed for large stages by Ajax during both their meetings, which further highlighted their defensive flaws.
Liverpool, meanwhile are flying high at the top of the Premier League and after a dramatic final matchday qualification from Group C last week in Europe, many supporters and experts are now backing the team to reach a second consecutive final next May.
Klopp sees it slightly differently, however, preferring to remain humble and candid, after Liverpool were drawn against Bayern Munich in this year’s knockout phases.
“At the end, it’s a football game on the highest level and we have to play it,” Klopp told the club’s official website.
“We knew it before, it’s not that anybody thought ‘thank God it’s Liverpool’, so we don’t think ‘thank God it’s Bayern’.
“It’s a tough one, but that’s how it should be. It’s the last 16 of the Champions League so there are only tough teams in and I’m really excited about it.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 17, 2018
The German boss went on to state that despite their problems, Bayern remain one of Europe’s biggest clubs and his team will be taking nothing for granted when they finally meet in 2019.
“In the last couple of years, they have dominated the German league in the best period of German football,” he added.
“Everybody was talking about Germany being in a really good moment and Bayern was dominating the league, that’s the truth.
“It’s nice. It’s obviously long ago that I played Bayern in a competitive game, so I’m really looking forward to it.”