Real Madrid will go all guns blazing into the UEFA Champions League tie against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday with Los Blancos having won their two games in the group stages so far. Liverpool, however, have won one and lost one.
Arrival of Champions League was a turning point of sorts for Real Madrid. After losing 1-2 to arch rivals Atletico Madrid in the league, we’ve scored 32 goals in seven games in all competitions. Having started off with a convincing 5-1 win against Basel at home, we didn’t perform well against Ludogorets but squeezed out a 2-1 win despite conceding early through our perennial problem – set piece.
Liverpool needed a late Steven Gerrard goal to get all three points against Ludogorets in their home game in the Champions League. On the travel, they lost 1-0 to Basel. Overall, in both games, Liverpool haven’t been dominant or convincing in their style or play. The passing has been lackluster and the end product been missing on occasion.
It can’t be denied that it is a Champions League Showdown of the epic kind – two clubs with rich history and showing in Europe to their name. Head to head, Real Madrid have a miserable record against the Merseysiders. Having played three, Real Madrid have lost all three and scored none.
The recent showdown was in the 2008/09 season in the round of 16 where Liverpool humiliated the Merengues 5-0 on aggregate. The Reds won 1-0 in Madrid and then 4-0 at Anfield when Gerrard grabbed a brace. The 4-0 loss was Madrid’s biggest Champions League defeat.
From that game, Gerrard, Martin Skrtel feature for Liverpool this time. Alvaro Arbeloa, then played for Liverpool. Over in the Madrid camp, Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo can extract revenge.
Real come into the game on the back of a 5-0 thrashing of Levante at Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday where Cristiano Ronaldo got two goals along with Chicharito, Isco and James Rodriguez. The Whites had an easy day but there were instances of wayward passing and disconnect between players which is common after a long international break.
Liverpool had a more dramatic encounter to deal with against QPR emerging triumphant by a scoreline of 3-2 with four goals coming in stoppage time and two QPR players scoring at their own end.
HOME VS AWAY BATTLE:
Statistically speaking, Liverpool have been strong at home in Europe losing only one in 18 matches at Anfield.
However, Real have won five of their seven matches away in the competition and the last trip to England brought about a 2-1 win against Liverpool’s rivals Manchester United in 2012/13.
WATCH OUT FOR:
While there are options galore in the Real Madrid squad, Cristiano Ronaldo would have to be the eventual choice. The Portuguese is enjoying the best start in La Liga history having scored 15 goals in seven matches after eight rounds in the league. He also has 22 hat-tricks to his name and could equal or better Raul’s highest goal scoring record of 71 goals (he’s currently on 69 goals).
In the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho poses a real threat for Liverpool. He came on as a late substitute against QPR and scored. His late appearance possibly indicating Brendan Rodgers saving him for the midweek game and give him rest. Mario Balotelli could be another important player for LFC especially with his strength to hold up defenders.
Gareth Bale seems unlikely to be fit in time for the Champions League clash or even for the upcoming Clasico due to a hip injury. It also kept him out for the clash against Levante on the weekend. Fabio Coentrao and Ramos remain other absentees. On the positive side, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane trained on Monday after recovering from their ailments that kept them from travelling to Valencia.
For Liverpool, as mentioned above, Sturridge is a huge miss – something that should please the Real Madrid fans and players alike. Also likely to stay out is defender Mamadou Sakho.
PREDICTION: Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid.