LINE: Real Madrid +195 | Draw +240 | Liverpool +143
KICK OFF: Tuesday, April 6th, 3:00 PM EST
Nearly three years after defeating Liverpool in a controversial 2018 UEFA Champions League final, Real Madrid have another date set up against Jurgen Klopp’s side. All eyes for this were predictably on Mo Salah vs Sergio Ramos, only for all the excitement being crushed with Ramos set to miss BOTH THE LEGS due to injury.
While Zinedine Zidane’s side hasn’t had the most dominant or compelling season yet because of persistent injury problems, facing off against a Liverpool side enduring similar issues should make for an intriguing, evenly-contested encounter. With the first leg being at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, Madrid will be intent on starting off in dominant fashion & expose the Premier League giant’s vulnerabilities to head into the game at Anfield with a formidable lead.
Real Madrid Likely XI
Courtois, Carvajal, Nacho, Militao, Mendy, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Asensio, Vinicius, Benzema
Los Blancos have some injury troubles, with Eden Hazard and Raphael Varane the most prominent names likely to miss the quarter-finals along with Ramos. Federico Valverde is also a doubt for the first leg, while Dani Carvajal & Toni Kroos should recover in time.
Liverpool Likely XI
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Salah, Mane, Firmino
Liverpool have their own barrage of injury problems, with Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez & Virgil van Dijk all set to miss this tie.
Real Madrid vs Liverpool Quarter-Finals First Leg Preview
Since Real Madrid last met Liverpool in the Champions League, A LOT has happened. Los Blancos have lost both Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale. Zidane has left & rejoined the club as manager & they’ve even won the La Liga title. Liverpool have won both the Champions League & Premier League before suffering major problems this season.
Irrespective of however both these clubs’ form might be, this one should nonetheless be a slobber knocker. Liverpool will be vying for revenge while Madrid aims to prove their pedigree as UCL giants by humbling Klopp’s side once again. But to do so, Zidane’s men must learn the pressure points to push in order to destabilize The Reds.
The inexperienced backline of Ozan Kabak & Nathaniel Philips is definitely one they’ll be wanting to exploit. Karim Benzema has evolved into Madrid’s go-to hero since Ronaldo’s departure & been the force keeping them afloat at the top. With 23 goals this season (including 5 in the UCL), he’s their top goal-scorer and vocal force up front. The Frenchman must be at his clinical best to finish whatever chances he gets & torment the young LFC defensive duo with his clever movement, link-up play to spark up Madrid’s attacking tempo.
However, he’ll need help to do so. Marco Asensio needs to tap into his big-game credentials. The Spaniard’s a creative, unpredictable attacking threat and should look to sneak into promising areas to get more shots on goal as well as create chances with his precise passing.
Vinicius Jr is probably one of the most exciting dribblers around Europe, but he must improve his decision-making in the final third to actually create things. Los Blancos will definitely rely on swift-breaks & set-pieces to create stuff, so their midfielders play a key part in ensuring that bit goes smoothly.
Madrid’s own Rolls Royce Toni Kroos should be tasked to controlling things in midfield with his fancy passes & create chances with his set-piece threat. Luka Modric aims to continue being that dynamic threat in midfield with his energetic presence & remain his side’s driving force. Casemiro, however, should act as the destroyer making nasty fouls & breaking up LFC’s attacks.
Liverpool might be surprisingly poor at Anfield as of late, but their away form has been very impressive. In their last 6 away games in all competitions, they’ve won 5. Madrid mustn’t be disillusioned by their opponents ‘poor recent form’ & maintain utmost concentration to ensure they don’t go away with crucial away goals. Even without Ramos, Mo Salah will be determined to get revenge on Madrid. With his clever ability to move into goalscoring areas & deadly finishing ability, he can run riot if not marked tightly.
But Los Blancos can’t just focus on Salah. Sadio Mane is just as dangerous, with his impressive goal-scoring ability & tendency to create chaos down the left making him a formidable foe. Roberto Firmino can churn up chances for his side with relative ease if not closed down, while Trent Alexander-Arnold & Andy Robertson remain creative beacons of LFC from down the wings.
Filling in for the injured Ramos, Eder Militao has a big task ahead. He should maintain his aggressive style, but needs to refrain from silly mistakes & maintain utmost concentration to keep LFC at bay. Nacho Fernandez also has a big game ahead and has to be on top of his defensive game to fill in for the unavailable Varane. Carvajal & Ferland Mendy must neutralize LFC’s supply chain down the wings, while Madrid’s midfielders need to work hard to keep their counter-parts quiet. Thibaut Courtois is guaranteed to be tested several times & must prove his reputation among the world’s best by pulling off clutch saves.
Liverpool heads into the Alfredo di Stefano stadium with an all-guns-blazing attitude knowing the importance of an away goal (or win). Los Blancos have their work cut out for them & must produce one of their best performances of the season to neutralize the Reds’ attacking threat, score a few goals & take a formidable lead to Anfield.
This should be a highly entertaining match with back-and-forth action & a lot of drama. But I think Madrid should sneak a 2-1 win to keep the tie well poised heading into the 2nd leg.