And just like that, the Champions League returns. In this most peculiar of seasons, the Qatar World Cup has managed to cause multiple disruptions and irregular form across much of Europe. With that controversy ridden tournament now in the wind, hopefully we can now all zero in on some European football, with that classic theme tune always a welcome melody for our famous fanbase.
The final game of last season saw the Reds fall to the newly anointed 14 time European Cup winners, Real Madrid, in a heart-breaking final. This past week or so has seen Guillem Balagué run onto the defensive (for his Spanish counterparts), with his plea for the Premier League to send money to the undernourished Champions League holders. With that ludicrous rhetoric doing the social media rounds, it perhaps points to a mild shift in posturing mentality, one which we need to take advantage of. If this seasons form is anything to go by, then this game should see the famous men in white canter into the quarter finals, yet recent Liverpool results may well make this contest tighter than most expect.
The legendary Santiago Bernabéu outfit come into this game without Mariano Diaz, Toni Kroos, Ferland Mendy, and Aurelien Tchouameni. They come into this game on the back of three wins, though without some key names. Their World Club Cup final saw them beat Al-Hilal, 5-3, before their La Liga schedule had them destroying Elche 5-0 at home, before winning 0-2 away to Osasuna. With 51 points taken from 22 games, they currently sit 2nd in their league, though are eight points behind the leaders, Barcelona.
In terms of a starting line-up, our Champions League final tormentor, Thibaut Courtois, will absolutely start in goal. A back four of David Alaba, Antonio Rüdiger, Éder Militão, and Nacho are likely to be retained, though Dani Carvajal could come in after his final heroics. In midfield, Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric will be joined by either Dani Ceballos or Federico Valverde. Valverde played in attack at the weekend, though his energy may be needed within the middle ground on Tuesday evening. Up front will see a late fitness test on Karim Benzema, with Vini Jr. and Rodrygo vying for starting roles. The lack of form in both Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio, mean both will probably start from the bench.
Liverpool come into this game on the back of an impressive Merseyside derby win, followed by a crucial win against Newcastle. Though the form of the Reds wasn’t of the highest order at St. James’ Park, the attack looked especially dangerous with a more familiar & direct feel to it. With their stuttering league campaign being improved upon, they will be hoping to carry some momentum into this Anfield tie, under those famous lights.
On the injury front, Jürgen Klopp is still without Ibrahima Konaté. Also on the treatment table remains Luis Diaz, Arthur Melo, Calvin Ramsay, and Thiago Alcantara. The injury list is improving.
Alisson Becker will start in goal, with Virgil likely set to retain his spot ahead Joël Matip. Joe Gomez is likely to be his starting partner, after a solid game on Saturday evening. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold should be the starting fullbacks, with both showing good energy and attacking vibes in their last two outings. The midfield should see the captain, Jordan Henderson, start alongside Fabinho and Stefan Bajčetić, after their solid outing against the Toffees and then the Toon. Up front will probably see Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, and Cody Gakpo starting, with Darwin coming off on Saturday with a shoulder injury. He is likely to be fit for the bench.
It is so hard to call this particular game, with so much heritage and recent conflict between to two European powerhouses. Carlo Ancelotti is the master of these types of situations, though Jürgen Klopp looks very much up for the fight. The attacking play and home support of Liverpool could decide this first leg, as a home victory is vital to any chance of progressing. With the mindset of each club at opposite points, this could be the absolute turning point that the Anfield side have been waiting for.
Player to watch – Mohamed Salah
Liverpool 3 – 1 Real Madrid