Ex-Liverpool midfielder John Barnes says that Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is ‘the best number 9 in the world’.
The Reds will host Bayern at Anfield in the first leg of their last-16 first leg Champions League tie on Tuesday evening, as they aim to go one better than last year in Europe’s most prestigious competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s men reached the final in the 2018-19 campaign only to lose 3-1 against Real Madrid and they are among the favourites to lift the trophy come May.
Standing between them and a quarter-final spot are Bayern, who finally seem to be hitting their stride after a disappointing first half of the season.
The Bavarians have won eight of their last nine matches across all competitions while Liverpool have only won three of their seven matches in 2019, as they have also been tussling for the Premier League title with Manchester City.
Ahead of their huge European showdown club legend Barnes, who played at Anfield between 1987 and 1997, has compared Lewandowski with Liverpool’s own number nine Roberto Firmino.
Barnes believes that the Polish hitman is a better natural forward, but he has also acknowledged the unique threat Firmino poses in the final third.
“Lewandowski is a proper number nine, a proper goal scorer,” said Barnes, speaking exclusively for bookmaker comparison platform BonusCodeBets.co.uk.
“Firmino is different. He likes to drop short and causes problems for defenders in doing so, allowing Salah and Mané to advance into the box and score goals. You can’t prepare for that.
“Lewandowski is a six-yard box player where Firmino isn’t. When the ball comes into the box from crosses and set pieces, he’s incredibly dangerous and a goal poacher, who is always going to cause teams problems. Lewandowski for me is the best classic number nine in the world.
“Lewandowski would be similar to playing with John Aldridge, he’d be scoring more, and I’d be supplying. But, for selfish reasons, I’d much rather play with Firmino as he’d make me score more goals. If Lewandowski played with Salah and Mané, he’d probably score more goals than Firmino; but then Salah and Mané wouldn’t get as many.”
Lewandowski has managed to score 22 goals across all competitions so far this season, including eight in the Champions League, while Firmino has only 11 to his name for the Reds.
However, as Barnes alludes to, the Brazilian is not a typical striker by any means, much more involved in the build-up play and setting up teammates for glory rather than racking up impressive scoring numbers.
Both men could make the difference for their respective teams on Tuesday, but Liverpool fans will be hoping that Firmino outshines his opposite number to inspire another famous European victory.