Liverpool v Real Madrid preview

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:55

Liverpool v Real Madrid preview

Wednesday’s fixture is one steeped in European Cup history, with the two sides having won the competition 15 times between them (Liverpool five, Real 10).
This includes a Liverpool victory over the Spanish side in the 1981 final, when Alan Kennedy’s 82nd-minute strike proved the difference.
The last time they met, Rafa Benitez’s Reds registered an impressive 5-0 aggregate win in the last 16 in 2008/09.
However, Real will go into this game as firm favourites with 2005 winners Liverpool having fallen behind their European rivals and finding their feet again in the competition.
In contrast, Real are the reigning champions, having sealed an historic 10th title courtesy of a 4-1 win over fellow Spanish side Atletico Madrid in Lisbon.
Most of the Galacticos that comprised that Real side remain at the club, including former Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored a remarkable 20 goals in 13 appearances for club and country this season.
The Portuguese has scored in 10 successive matches, including hat-tricks agauinst Deportivo and Athletic Bilbao and four in the home win over Elche.
At the weekend, he broke a 71-year-old La Liga record by taking his tally to 15 goals in eight league matches, which means he has now scored a staggering 271 goals in 258 club appearances. He is just two goals away from
equalling club icon Raul’s Champions League record of 71.
Ancelotti has also added to his side, with the big money capture of Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez, who was the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, and Toni Kroos, who was part of the German side that won the trophy in Brazil in the summer.
Real have started this season’s competition in ominous form, winning both of their group fixtures to date – 5-1 at home to Basle and 2-1 away at Ludogorets.
Liverpool also beat the latter, at Anfield, but suffered a 1-0 defeat in Switzerland.
The Reds are still adjusting to the loss of their star player from last season, with Italian striker Mario Balotelli continuing to fill the sizeable gap left by forward Luis Suarez, who joined Real’s El Clasico rivals Barcelona in the off-season.
They have not been helped by a calf injury to Daniel Sturridge, who is still a few weeks from returning to first-team action.
Rodgers is expected to recall to left-back Alberto Moreno back into his starting XI on Wednesday after he was rested at the weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be without record signing Gareth Bale, because of an abdominal muscle injury, and defender Sergio Ramos, who has missed the last three games for club and country due to a calf problem.
French internationals Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, who missed Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Levante due to a fever, have been included in the squad.
Graeme Souness’ preview
Real Madrid are a very good team, but I don’t think they are a special team that will dominate European football for the next few years.
I don’t think they will defend the Champions League and they’ll need to enjoy a great deal of luck if they are to do so.
The absence of Gareth Bale is a blow and even when he is available, you’d have to say there are frailties in that side.
However, I think they will make it a hard night for Liverpool. When you play at home in European football, you’ve got to come up with a happy balance where you get on the front foot and try to win it without leaving yourself vulnerable.
When you’re pushing up and you leave a gap between your last defender and your goalkeeper, it’s tailor-made for Cristiano Ronaldo with the pace he has and the accuracy of the passing in their team.
Real Madrid are a team that’s set-up to play counter-attacking football, as well as being able to dominate the ball when they get on the front foot.
People always have game plans to take care of Ronaldo, but very few people succeed in keeping him quiet for 90 minutes.
Graeme Souness will be live at Anfield alongside Jeff Stelling, Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp from 6pm on Sky Sports 5 for Liverpool v Real Madrid, while Anderlecht v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm.

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