Bayern Munich got a major boost ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg clash with Liverpool at Anfield next week after goalkeeper Manuel Neuer declared he is fully fit and ready to return to the Bavarian side’s starting line-up. The Germany goalkeeper has been out of action with a thumb injury but is available to face Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Friday.
The reigning German league title holders lost 3-1 at Bayer Leverkusen in Neuer’s absence and needed extra time before going past Hertha Berlin in the DFB-Pokal, although they won 3-1 against Schalke in their last match. In Neuer’s injury absence, Sven Ulreich has been deputising as he did throughout the 32-year-old’s lengthy absence due to a foot injury last season. But Bayern captain Neuer says he is ready and available for the trip to Augsburg, as well as the Anfield clash with Liverpool on Tuesday.
“Yesterday went well. Today went well,” he told Bayern’s website. “I’ve joined in with everything [in training] and I’m ready. Even while I was out, I generally did everything apart from the goalkeeper-specific training. Now I’ve had two good sessions and came through both of them. Everything is working, I completed everything.”
The Germany international added: “Obviously, the coach [Niko Kovac] picks the line-up. The medical department gave me the go-ahead. I was prescribed some time out. Obviously, I would’ve liked to have played during this period but that wouldn’t have been possible, so I took the time out. My hand needed it too. Now I’ve got the go-ahead from the doctors and I can play.”
Bayern will move within two points of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund if they win at Augsburg on Friday, with Neuer insisting their full focus is on that game rather than the first leg of a Champions League tie with Liverpool. “First and foremost, we’re currently second behind Dortmund,” Neuer said. “We’re playing on Friday so we can get a head start and we want to get three points at Augsburg. That’s the most important thing for us right now.”
Neuer continued: “After that, it’s obviously the Champions League game at Liverpool. There will be lots said and thought about that, but first of all we want to beat Augsburg on Friday. That’s important for us. A comfortable win to nil is always important, of course, but we’ve played plenty of away games at Augsburg before and we know it’s not easy. In the reverse fixture [a 1-1 draw] they marked us man-to-man all over the pitch, so it wasn’t easy to play out from the back or establish our positional play. We expect the same in the return fixture. Obviously, we have the means to counteract that and score some goals. We want to take our chances, which we didn’t do in the reverse fixture.”
Neuer remains regarded in many quarters as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, though, injuries in recent times have seen a number of other goalkeepers stake that claim, including his opposite at Liverpool, Alisson Becker, who has been enjoying his debut season with the Reds. Will Neuer’s return from injury make scoring against Bayern harder for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino?