Jurgen Klopp warned giddy Liverpool supporters that Tuesday's match against Bayern Munich would be no stroll in the park. Bayern's erratic form in the Bundesliga gave Klopp no satisfaction. If anything, he said, the thrill of the chase would stimulate them.
Just as Liverpool's manager predicted, Bayern arrived on Merseyside not with a limp, but a plan. They executed it brilliantly, becoming just the second side to hold the Reds scoreless at Anfield this season. The other: Manchester City.
Bayern followed City's approach quite closely. As Pep Guardiola's side did in October, Bayern used possession as a form of defense to prevent Liverpool from playing the game at mach speed. The visitors also dispossessed the hosts high up the pitch, a tactic that disrupted Liverpool's flow and kept them on alert.
For the game plan to work, sacrifices had to be made. Without a shot on target all match, Bayern gave themselves little hope of scoring a crucial away goal. It could be read as a missed opportunity - standout center-back Virgil van Dijk was missing through suspension - but that was the necessary price to pay. Manuel Neuer touched the ball twice as often as striker Robert Lewandowski and completed far more passes.
"Liverpool are a very dangerous team," the Polish striker told BT Sport. "We had to play compact for 90 minutes."
To keep Liverpool's wingers in check, Bayern's full-backs held their positions and checked their runs. Joshua Kimmich was particularly responsible, intervening at crucial junctures to prevent his opposite number from taking space behind him.
Kimmich and his teammates were smart, physical, and calculated. They won't care that the football was less than stellar or uneasy on the eye. Considering how impetuous they've been this season - they allowed three goals in a hectic 3-3 draw with Ajax earlier in the competition - a measured performance like this was refreshing.
"Bayern is in 'trouble' and then they get really serious. If they were confident, they would have played their football and given us more space," Klopp said afterward, according to The Telegraph.
There were opportunities for Liverpool to score, but Bayern limited what could've been an onslaught. Neuer had to make a big save to his right in the second half, but by the end of the night, Liverpool could only count two shots on target.
A team that doesn't make mistakes at Anfield has every chance of escaping with something, and that's exactly what Bayern accomplished.
So there's every reason for manager Niko Kovac to be happy on the flight home. Based on historic results, stats guru Gracenote believes Bayern have a 65 percent chance of advancing to the next round.