Why isn't Virgil van Dijk playing against Bayern Munich? Champions League rules explained

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The Reds will be without one of their key men as they prepare for the visit of the Bundesliga giants on Tuesday evening

Liverpool host Bayern at Anfield on Tuesday to contest the round of 16 first leg, though they will be without one of their crucial players for the visit of the German champions.

Defender Virgil van Dijk will be absent for the home leg of the last 16 tie due to a booking he picked up during Liverpool's last European outing against Napoli.

The Netherlands captain was booked for a challenge involving Dries Mertens in the final group stage game at Anfield which clinched Liverpool's spot in the knockout phase.

Van Dijk caught the Napoli forward on the ankle early on in the first half and was immediately shown a yellow card.

It was the third time that the defender had been booked with a yellow card in the group stages, and Champions League rules state that once a player is cautioned on three separate occasions, they will immediately be suspended for the next match.

It will be the first time that van Dijk will miss out on a big fixture since he sat out the Premier League clash against Manchester City over a year ago.

The Dutchman will, however, be available for the second leg in Germany on March 13.

He has been hugely influential at the back for Liverpool since arriving for a £75 million fee from Southampton in December 2017, transforming their vulnerable and shaky defensive back-line to one that has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League all season.

His absence will be a huge blow for the Reds as they seek to progress past the last 16 stage and through to the quarter-finals. Liverpool finished as runners-up in the competition last year after losing to Real Madrid in the final, and will be eager to contend for European victory once again. 

Which other Liverpool players will miss the game?

Dejan Lovren Liverpool 2018-19

Van Dijk's absence is just one of a few selection headaches that Jurgen Klopp will have to deal with, as Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are also unlikely to face off against Bayern Munich due to injury.

The absence of both means that there is no immediate replacement to slot alongside Joel Matip, with midfielder Fabinho likely to get the nod after already serving at full-back earlier in the season.

Klopp has been given a boost, however, with Roberto Firmino being given the green light to face Bayern Munich. On Monday, news emerged that the Brazilian missed that day's training due to picking up a virus, raising fears that he would miss the game.

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However, the forward has now been cleared to play and was able to re-join his team-mates ahead of the fixture on Tuesday evening. He is likely to start up front alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in Klopp's favoured three-man attack.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich are suffering from some injury headaches of their own. The fitness of Kingsley Coman is a doubt after he picked up an ankle knock during Friday's Bundesliga fixture against Augsburg, and Jerome Boateng has not travelled to Merseyside due to a virus.

Thomas Muller will also miss the clash after serving a two-game suspension following a tackle on an Ajax player in the group stage.