Whether you’re old enough to remember or have revelled in stories written in the history books, the name Bayern Munich transports you back to the spring of 1981 and one of Liverpool’s most famous European triumphs.
The tale of the Reds’ semi-final success over the Germans is the stuff of legend. After a goalless stalemate at Anfield, Bayern were confident of progressing almost to the point of being too cocksure.
If Liverpool needed any further motivation to reach the final, they drew further needle from the Bavarian club’s decision to issue leaflets to their supporters offering directions to Paris. Bob Paisley’s team talk was done for him and his side – dressed in that most classic white away strip – went out intent on ramming the German’s arrogance back down their throats.
Paisley’s tactical prowess was underrated but his asking of Sammy Lee to shadow the Bayern playmaker, Paul Breitner was a masterstroke.
Under the space age cobweb roof of the old Olympiastadion, Lee stuck to Breitner like a leach and sucked the blood and life out of the German midfield. The Reds had to overcome the loss of Kenny Dalglish to a vicious tackle which ripped through his ankle ligaments but another stroke of Paisley genius, the decision to replace Dalglish with the unknown Howard Gayle, turned the tie in Liverpool’s favour.
The quicksilver, fearless young Gayle was given license to run at the German back four and for an hour he terrorised Bayern with surges of electric pace down the left flank. Liverpool were resolute in defence and with just seven minutes left, Ray Kennedy – whom Paisley revealed was his player most coveted by European clubs – delivered the coup de grace.
David Johnson, lame with a torn hamstring, managed to swing a pass to Kennedy on the edge of the box and his instant chest control set up a right-foot volley which fizzed into the bottom corner.
Liverpool survived a late equaliser to progress on away goals and book their passage to Paris where Real Madrid were vanquished to complete Paisley’s extraordinary European Cup treble.
It is remarkable that 38 years have elapsed since Liverpool and Bayern last met in the European Cup, One of the drawbacks of the Champions League is that continental foes become overly familiar but there is nothing stale or repetitious about Bayern’s visit to Anfield on Tuesday.
And, for Jurgen Klopp there is added personal incentive to emerge victorious having suffered the heartbreak of his Borussia Dortmund’s narrow defeat to Bayern in the 2013 final at Wembley.
Since Klopp’s Bundesliga double with Dortmund, Bayern have monopolised the domestic scene with six consecutive championships but this year face an uphill battle to retain their crown with Dortmund currently leading the way in Germany.
Nico Kovac’s side are a team in transition; age diminishing the powers of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery but still they boast the quality of Manuel Neuer in goal, Mats Hummel’s at the back, James Rodriguez in midfield and Robert Lewandowski up front.
Both sides are affected by suspension, Virgil Van Dijk a glaring Anfield absentee for Liverpool and Thomas Muller banned from both legs after a red card against Ajax in the group stage.
Given the choice of a sixth European Cup or a virgin Premier League title most Liverpool supporters would come down on the side of the latter. Such is the yearning for a long-awaited domestic crown that just for once the fans’ customary appetite for a European odyssey is slightly diminished.
Whether that mentality shift is mirrored in Klopp and his players remains to be seen but the desire to erase the painful memory of defeat in Kiev last May should be enough to motivate Liverpool to prolong a battle on two fronts.
Despite the all-consuming focus on the Premier League, the prospect of staying the course through to Madrid in June is still one which should be relished. Europe can offer a welcome distraction from the pressures of the title race and at the same time perpetuate the relentless winning mentality that has made this season so impressive thus far.
*Odds are subject to change.
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