James Rodriguez and the UEFA Champions League is a marriage made in heaven. - © 2018 Getty Images
James Rodriguez and the UEFA Champions League is a marriage made in heaven. - © 2018 Getty Images

How James Rodriguez has been Bayern Munich's key player in the UEFA Champions League


Cometh the UEFA Champions League, cometh the man James Rodriguez. The Colombian has missed just three of 18 Champions League matches since joining Bayern, and his name will be one of the first Niko Kovac puts on his team-sheet when the record champions arrive at Anfield to face Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool on Tuesday night.

Bayern's experienced and reliable midfielder is no stranger to UEFA's team of the week, while he was also named in the 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season, which is why Kovac can ill-afford to be without him.

bundesliga.com reflects on the impact the 27-year-old has made in Europe since arriving in Bavaria…

2018/19 Group stage

Bayern faced AEK Athens, Ajax and Benfica in James' second group stage with Bayern, and he made an immediate impression in their first excursion, setting up a goal for Renato Sanches with a delightful pass. With his background at Porto providing further motivation, James was one of the key players in Bayern's 2-0 win.

Watch: James Rodriguez's best Bayern goals

James was rested for Bayern's second group game, although he did replace Arjen Robben to play the final 28 minutes on the right wing in the 1-1 draw. He was restored to the starting XI two weeks later as Bayern got back to winning ways in Greece, beating AEK 3-0 thanks to goals from Javi Martinez and Robert Lewandowski, and another fine contribution from the Colombian.

The only games James did not play any part of since joining Bayern were their final three group games in this season's Champions League. A knee injury forced him to miss the return meeting with AEK Athens at the start of November, and complications with his knee forced him to miss practically the rest of 2018, including the games against Benfica and Ajax. Without him, though, Kovac's men were able to win the group and set up the last-16 meeting with Klopp's Liverpool.

Group stage 2017/18

James first European season with Bayern started under Carlo Ancelotti, in Group B with Anderlecht, Celtic and Paris Saint-Germain. James took his Champions League bow for Bayern at the Allianz Arena, playing 84 minutes of their 3-0 win over the Belgians, earning him a place in UEFA's Team of the Week for the first time as a Bayern player.

James Rodriguez has been a regular in the UEFA Champions League Team of the Week. - imago/DeFodi

Two weeks later, Bayern faced their toughest challenge in the group stage and went down 3-0 to PSG at the Parc des Princes, with James spending 45 minutes on the field.

Bayern bounced back to seal qualification for the knockout stages with four straight wins, including revenge against Paris with James on song in a 3-1 win, setting up Tolisso for Bayern's second goal. James' first group stage with Bayern ended with him on the field an average 60 minutes, with four starts, five wins and just one defeat.

2017/18 last 16

Turkey's Besiktas were the next rivals James and Bayern faced, and a crushing 5-0 win at the Allianz Arena, in which James started but was forced off after 44 minutes due to injury with Bayern leading 1-0, paved the way for qualification to the quarter-finals.

In the return leg, James was available again for the first time since picking up that injury in the first leg, and once again an injury sealed his fate. This time it was an injury to Thiago Alcantara, however, which saw Jupp Heynckes send James on after just 35 minutes for his comeback after a month on the sidelines. The game ended with another win for Bayern, a 2-1 sealing their place in the last eight without too much difficulty.

Watch: James Rodriguez - all you need to know

2017/18 quarter-finals

Bayern were dealt a real challenge in the last eight with Sevilla in their way, and the Spaniards did not make it easy for them. Bayern were suffering and had fallen behind, when they then lost Arturo Vidal to injury. James came on and the game changed. Within a minute of his entry, Bayern levelled and they scored a second in the second half to win 2-1, with James once again being named by UEFA as their Man of the Match, and elected in their Team of the Week.

James played the full 90 minutes of the return leg and was once again fundamental in helping them get a result they needed to eliminate Sevilla: a 0-0 in which Bayern created most chances, thanks to their Colombian star.

2017/18 semi-finals

Destiny would have it that James would face an emotional duel with his former club Real Madrid. The Colombian, loaned to Bayern by the Spanish club, was particularly motivated against his former team-mates and was one of the key players over both legs. In the first leg, he delivered his second assist of the competition, combining with Joshua Kimmich to put his team in front against the holders. However, Bayern's bogey team came from behind to win 2-1 in Munich.

In the return leg, Bayern once again took the lead thanks to their German full-back, but history repeated itself with Karim Benzema scoring two. James wanted to have the final word in front of those who were his fans with a brilliant strike, but the Colombian's magic proved not to be enough as the Bavarians fell one step short of the Kiev final.

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