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Niko Kovac Says Thomas Muller's Suspension for Liverpool Tie Is 'Quite Annoying'

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2019

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 12: (L-R) Thomas Muller of Bayern Munchen, coach Niko Kovac of Bayern Munchen  during the UEFA Champions League  match between Ajax v Bayern Munchen at the Johan Cruijff Arena on December 12, 2018 in Amsterdam Netherlands (Photo by Peter Lous/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Niko Kovac is not happy Bayern Munich will be without Thomas Muller for the last-16 tie against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. 

The first leg will be played at Anfield on Tuesday, February 19, but Muller will miss both games as he serves a two-match suspension in Europe. Kovac called it "quite annoying" for the decorated forward and his team-mates, per Goal's Dejan Kalinic.

However, Kovac is confident Die Roten will cope without the 29-year-old Germany international: "But if he's not able to play, someone else will. That other player will perform equally as good, so we can be successful."

Kovac should have his players ready because he said he was prepared for Muller to miss out. He cited UEFA policy of enforcing a two-match ban for red-card offences.

Muller incurred his when he struck Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico with a high tackle during a 3-3 draw in Group E back in December. In fact, Kovac said he was "happy the ban wasn't extended."

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 12: (L-R) Thomas Muller of Bayern Munchen, Nicolas Tagliafico of Ajax during the UEFA Champions League  match between Ajax v Bayern Munchen at the Johan Cruijff Arena on December 12, 2018 in Amsterdam Netherlands (Photo b
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

While he might be prepared for being without Muller, it's far from certain Kovac's squad will cope against last season's beaten finalists. Muller's versatility and intelligence will be missed.

He has the pace and timing to make dangerous runs from out to in off either flank. Muller can also play off the front thanks to his eye for a pass and ability to run beyond the striker.

Bayern still have firepower, particularly in the form of centre-forward Robert Lewandowski. He's the Champions League's leading scorer with eight goals.

Yet as good as he is, Lewandowski needs support. Muller usually offers excellent assistance, so his absence will leave Bayern's prolific No. 9 isolated against a much-improved Liverpool defence led by centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

Kovac has seen Bayern's depth in attacking areas reduced recently after the Bundesliga giants sold Sandro Wagner to Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda.

It hasn't helped wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both 35, are dealing with injuries and trying to work their way back to full fitness:

FC Bayern English @FCBayernEN

#Kovac: "@FranckRibery and Arjen #Robben aren't quite ready yet. We don't want to take any risks. @Thiago6 didn't train today, but will be back tomorrow." #B04FCB #FCBayern #packmas https://t.co/wDu7Hw7udm

Bayern may be forced to count on youthful wide players Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry to complement Lewandowski. Yet neither player has delivered consistently this season, combining for just six goals and three assists so far this season.

Muller's absence is likely to prove more than just a mild annoyance for Bayern. It could be the decisive factor in Liverpool condemning the 2013 winners to an early exit.

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