Real Madrid vs Liverpool
(UEFA Champions League)
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu
By Emma Sanders
LIVERPOOL head to Spain on Tuesday night and have an immense challenge awaiting them. After conceding three goals in the first 45 minutes at Anfield a fortnight ago, the visitors now have to break down the reigning champions of Europe on their home turf – the famous Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have been in blistering form in the Champions League and La Liga so far this season and are well on their way to securing qualification out of Group B. After successive defeats, Liverpool could struggle to qualify from the group unless they start to pick up some points.In Monday’s press conference, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson stated, “We know how good they are and how much quality they have but so have we and we feel we are good enough to get a result.”
However, following the defeat against Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday, unconvincing victories against Middlesbrough and Swansea in the League Cup and of course, the loss against Real Madrid in their first-leg encounter, it seems Liverpool might not have what it takes to get a result.
Last season’s league runners-up have certainly lost their ‘spark’ in this year’s campaign. If Brendan Rodgers is feeling any pressure, he certainly isn’t admitting to it, suggesting he sees the game “as an opportunity rather than a threat.”
There is undoubtedly a huge threat when facing the European champions, most notably through the trickery of Cristiano Ronaldo amongst others. The former Manchester United player has three goals and an assist from three appearances in the Champions League so far this season – including the goal he scored at Anfield. When asked about Ronaldo, Rodgers simply said, “Let’s hope he doesn’t score too many more tomorrow.”
Madrid’s summer signing, James Rodriguez scored a wonder goal at the weekend, further highlighting the quality that has been added to their squad during the summer transfer window.
Whilst Real Madrid’s star men are shining, the Reds still have an extensive injury list to be concerned about – which includes Daniel Sturridge. With the absence of Luis Suarez, Sturridge has become even more important to Liverpool and his time on the sidelines has affected the team’s performances.
Therefore, the responsibility of creating goal-scoring opportunities will be on young Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and summer signing, Adam Lallana.
Mario Balotelli’s poor goal-scoring record since his transfer has certainly made the headlines and Rodgers hasn’t hidden his disappointment with the Italian striker’s performances so far this season.
However, after scoring in front of a frustrated Anfield crowd to equalise against Swansea City in the League Cup, he could pose a threat at the Bernabeu. Liverpool will need ‘Super Mario’ to deliver and many feel Rodgers needs to change his tactics by starting the Italian in a front two – where he appears to be more effective – than in his current position as lone striker.
Whilst Liverpool’s goal-scoring worries continue, Real Madrid have enjoyed goals from all members of the team, including Karim Benzema and Ronaldo, who are both in top form. They exploited Liverpool’s shaky defence during the first-leg and with the El Clasico fixture following that game; they slowed down the tempo in the second half. This time around they’ll be playing in front of their home supporters and it would be foolish to expect a similar drop in intensity.
It’s hard to see how the unconvincing partnership of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren can cope with the threat of Real Madrid’s attack – but they will need to perform better than they have so far this season – if they have any hopes of turning the result around.
With all of Liverpool’s defensive frailties, they still have a lot to offer going forward and as Rodgers suggested, if they can find ‘the intensity and speed of last season’ they can give any team in the world a game to contest.
It’s a big ask for any team to win at the Bernabeu but Liverpool being 3-0 down in a European tie however, only brings one memory to mind…
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