Liverpool vs Real Madrid Preview - Mammoth task awaits Reds at empty Anfield
Venue – Anfield, Liverpool
Referee – Björn Kuipers (NED)
Date & Time – Wednesday, April 14th 2021 @ 20:00
Current Odds – Liverpool 10/11, Draw 29/10, Real Madrid 13/5
While we all know better than to ever completely write Liverpool off, it’s hard to see how The Reds can defy the odds again without that famous Anfield support behind them. A very poor first-half performance cost Liverpool dearly in the first leg in Madrid last week. The damage suffered in losing 3-1 in Spain may be too great to repair this Wednesday night.
Jürgen Klopp’s Mighty Redmen are down but not yet out. Maybe they can produce another memorable European night, albeit at an empty Anfield.
Liverpool have won four of their last five games in all competitions. The only defeat was in the first leg of this tie in Madrid last week.
The Reds have played themselves back into contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League. They left it late at the weekend, needing an injury-time goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold to beat Aston Villa 2-1 at home.
The win against Villa also ended a six-game losing streak at Anfield.
Real Madrid Form
Real Madrid are unbeaten in 13 games. They have not lost since Levante beat them 2-1 in LaLiga at the end of January. Zinedine Zidane’s side is currently on a six-game winning run as well.
At the weekend, Real Madrid won El Clásico, beating Barcelona 2-1 thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos. That win saw them leapfrog Barcelona into second place in the Spanish top flight.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool are without Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Joël Matip, Jordan Henderson, and Divock Origi.
Sadio Mané was left out of the starting lineup for The Reds’ 2-1 win against Aston Villa on Saturday. The Senegal international has certainly been out of form for a while now. With Mohamed Salah a nailed-on starter for almost every game, Jürgen Klopp needs to pick two from Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, and Mané. I think Firmino will get the nod on Wednesday as it was exactly his kind of pressing that was missing in the first leg with Toni Kroos afforded too much space in his role at the base of Real Madrid’s midfield. Jota is my other tip to start, meaning Mané could be on the bench for the second consecutive game.
Nat Phillips’ limitations were exposed in Madrid. It’s unfair to lump too much blame on the lad, however. He was never meant to be a first-choice centre-back in a Champions League quarter-final. He did his best, as he has done all season and as he will continue to do until the summer.
Ozan Kabak should partner Phillips at the heart of Liverpool’s back four with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson on the flanks.
In midfield, I think Klopp will opt for Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum, and Thiago Alcântara.
Real Madrid Team News
Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos, and Raphaël Varane are out for Real Madrid.
Dani Carvajal will face a late fitness test and could be rushed back into the squad for this one after their current right-back, Lucas Vázquez, suffered a serious knee injury against Barcelona on Saturday night. It has since been confirmed that Vázquez is out for the remainder of this season.
Éder Militão should start alongside Nacho in central defence again due to the absence of both Ramos and Varane.
Álvaro Odriozola is likely to come into the starting eleven at right-back for the injured Vázquez.
Zidane will probably stick with his front trio of Marco Asensio, Karim Benzema, and Vinícius Júnior.
Toni Kroos ran the show from midfield in the first leg. He will need to be dealt with and given far less time on the ball if Liverpool are to have any joy in the second leg.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Jota
Real Madrid XI (4-3-3) – Courtois; Odriozola, Militão, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Kasemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Júnior
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Real Madrid won the first leg 3-1 last week with goals from Vinícius Júnior (x2) and Marco Asensio. Mohamed Salah scored Liverpool’s away goal.
The sides’ last meeting at Anfield was in October 2014 when goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema (x2) gave the visitors a comfortable 3-0 win.
LIVERPOOL 1 – 2 REAL MADRID
I’d love to be predicting another wonderful comeback and Liverpool’s progression to the semi-finals. I hope I’m very, very wrong but I believe Real Madrid could pick us off on the counter-attack this week with more of Toni Kroos’ arrow-like long passes.