• Thomas Barnes

Real Madrid vs Liverpool preview.

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool will face 13 times CL winners Real Madrid in the Quarter Final of the Champions League.

The two European giants will lock horns for the first time since they met in Kyiv for the Champions League Final, in the summer of 2018. Real Madrid came away 3-1 winners, securing their 13th title in the competition.

This encounter certainly falls under the category of a ‘box office’ tie with the two sides between them, appearing in five of the last seven Champions League Finals. Two teams that know how to win the competition facing off in the quarter-finals is a real treat. It will also be very beneficial to the other remaining sides, knowing that one team with recent experiences of winning the tournament, will be exiting.

Despite the memories of their last encounter with Real Madrid not being very fond, this was a key steppingstone in Liverpool’s development under Jürgen Klopp. Reaching the final in their first UCL campaign under Klopp was already a huge achievement for the reds. It showed real intent to put themselves back amongst the best teams in European football. We have seen many teams crumble after failing to win cup finals, but for Jürgen Klopp and his men, this was just the beginning.

Liverpool responded to their Champions League loss in emphatic fashion. The Reds went on to win the competition the following season and narrowly missed out on the Premier League trophy on the final day by one point to a relentless Manchester City side. Nevertheless, the 97 points they tallied up was still the third-best total in Premier League history. Following their European triumph, Liverpool went on and won an international treble beating Chelsea in the Super Cup Final and securing the Club World Cup in Qatar. As satisfied as Liverpool fans, players and staff were with the success they had up to then, there was clearly something missing in the trophy cabinet. The Premier League trophy. Coming back from Qatar with the title of ‘World Champions’, Liverpool were hungry to end their 30-year wait to become Champions of England once more. Their hunger was emphasised and rewarded greatly after they ran away comfortable league winners finishing with 99 points, 17 points in front of second-place Manchester City.

In terms of the task at hand, Real Madrid will certainly want to test Liverpool’s centre-back pairing, which is most likely to be Nathaniel Philips and Ozan Kabak, who have played just 270 minutes between them this season in the Champions League. Who better to do that with, than Karim Benzema? The Frenchman is now the fourth all-time top goal scorer in the competition and has the highest average of shots per 90min (4.1) out of all forwards remaining in the competition. Moreover, the Madrid striker also has the highest percentage of attempts with his head (34.6%) out of those remaining in this year’s tournament. However, the good news is they have Nathaniel Philips, no player in the Premier League has contested more aerial duels per 90 minutes (9.1) than him.

Despite their aerial capabilities, Liverpool’s centre-back pairing isn’t blessed with the electrifying pace of Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez both brought to the table. This is an area of Liverpool’s game Zidane may look to exploit with Vinicius Junior, who is always a direct threat to his opponents. The Brazilian winger has the second most take ons per 90 minutes (8.7) behind PSG’s Neymar Jr (10.3).

It is an encounter that we expect Real Madrid to have a lot of possession with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro wanting to dictate the pace of the game. But Zidane will be wary of the threat Liverpool pose in wide areas. The speed of Salah, Mané, Jota and the flying full-pack pairing will undoubtedly cause the Spanish Champions problems, particularly with Zidane opting for a back 3. Zidane likes his wingbacks, who are most likely to be Mendy and Vazquez, to join their attacks, so a turnover of possession at any time may provide the Reds with a lot of join down either channel. Liverpool have had luck in these scenarios as out of all remaining teams in the competition, Liverpool is tied with Chelsea for the most direct attacks per game (4.3). This is where possession starts in a team’s defensive half and result in a shot or touch inside the opposition's area within 15 seconds.

When we think of these two European giants locking horns, it is hard to ignore the feud between Ramos and Salah as a result of the Spaniard injuring Salah in the 2018 Champions League Final. Ramos is not a popular figure within Liverpool Football Club with Roberto Firmino, who rarely speaks to the media, branding the defender as an ‘idiot’ after not accepting Ramos’ antics following the final.

Former Liverpool defender and close friend to Salah, Dejan Lovren said “I respect Ramos as a player and what he does for his team.

“He has won a lot of titles, but on the other hand, he does some behaviour that I do not like and harms the players.

“I do not want to make a big story, but I think that what Ramos did was intentional to injure my friend.”

However, Sergio Ramos will miss both legs against Liverpool after suffering a calf muscle injury during the international break. But that does change the fact that Jürgen Klopp and his players will be looking for revenge for their loss in Kyiv, but they’ll be hoping to win the battle by knocking Real Madrid out to reach their 3rd Champions League Semi-Final in four years. The key for Liverpool is they continue their momentum after finding a run of form following victories over Leipzig and Wolves.

Klopp on facing Real Madrid:

‘It’s exciting, exciting. It’s obviously a tough draw. But I am fine with it because if you look at all the other teams you think, “Oh my god” because they are all strong and all have quality, that’s clear. I am really looking forward to the games. It’s only just over two years ago that we faced them, and it was a tough night for us, so to get the chance to play them again is cool.’

Zidane on facing Liverpool:

"Is not a good draw or a bad draw. It doesn’t matter if they are in bad form in their league, because people can say the same about us that ‘we are at the bottom of the abyss' and what not but look at us we are still here in the Champions League no?"


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