Real Madrid and Liverpool will hope to take a step towards the UEFA Champions League semi-finals when they meet at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday.
The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the quarter-finals of the 2020/21 edition. The marquee fixture of the round will be played between two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history and in the first leg, Real Madrid will play hosts to Liverpool at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Tuesday night.
Real Madrid endured a nervy group stage campaign before progressing to the Champions League Round of 16 as Group B winners. In the Last 16 stage, Los Blancos eased past Atalanta with a 4-1 aggregate win to set up a quarter-final date with Liverpool, who beat RB Leipzig 4-0 on aggregate. The Reds had finished atop Group D earlier in the campaign.
Real Madrid come into this game on the back of a 2-0 win over SD Eibar, which has stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games across all competitions. Liverpool, on the other hand, produced arguably their best performance of 2021, as they eased to a 3-0 win over Arsenal this past weekend, which was an ideal preparation for the midweek European fixture by the Premier League champions.
The last time Real Madrid and Liverpool locked horns was in the 2018 Champions League final, which saw Los Blancos run out 3-1 victors, with Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular match-winning brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 5, 2021
Zinedine Zidane has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Liverpool for the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg. On Tuesday, the Real Madrid manager will only be bereft of the services of three first-team players.
Among the aforementioned three, Sergio Ramos is the only player on the sidelines, due to a calf injury, with the Real Madrid captain set to miss both the legs against Liverpool. In addition, Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard, who has recently rejoined training, also miss out for the hosts. The good news, though, comes in the form of Federico Valverde’s return to the matchday squad.
Valverde, though, is only likely to start on the bench, with Toni Kroos set to return to the starting lineup, in what will be a three-man midfield as part of a 3-5-2 formation. The slight alteration in formation means that one of the two attacking midfielders behind Karim Benzema will drop out.
While Benzema will indeed continue to lead the line for Real Madrid against Liverpool, he will likely be accompanied by Vinicius Jr. in the two-man attacking partnership, with Marco Asensio missing out despite an impressive display last time out. Vinicius will play off of Benzema, although the French striker will also drop deep often to create space for those around him.
Back to midfield, and Kroos will partner Casemiro and Luka Modric in the three-man setup, with the Brazilian looking to hold the fort in the middle of the park, while Modric will be in-charge of providing the creative impetus along with Kroos.
Meanwhile, the wing-backs – likely to be Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy, will be tasked with providing the width higher up the pitch, while Eder Militao, Nacho and Raphael Varane form the three-man central defensive partnership, which will provide cover to Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Courtois; Militao, Varane, Nacho; Vazquez, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Mendy; Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Much like his counterpart in the Real Madrid dugout, Jurgen Klopp will have no fresh roster issues to contend with ahead of the trip to the Spanish capital. On Tuesday, the Liverpool manager will still have to make do without a number of long-term absentees.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joel Matip (ankle), Joe Gomez (knee) and captain Jordan Henderson (groin) are all long-term absentees, with Caoimhin Kelleher (abdominal tear) and Divock Origi (muscle injury) also on the sidelines presently. However, the good news is that the key players from recent weeks remain at Klopp’s disposal.
The key decision will once again see Fabinho line up in the centre of the park after he was in brilliant touch in midfield against Arsenal. That, in turn, means that Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips will continue their partnership at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
In fact, the backline is unlikely to see a change, with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was superb in the game this past weekend, being the two full-backs, while Alisson Becker is the undisputed choice between the sticks. Meanwhile, in midfield, Fabinho will have Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum for company, with the latter replacing James Milner.
Finally, in attack, a major change could be in the offing, with Diogo Jota coming in for Sadio Mane following a match-winning cameo against Arsenal. Roberto Firmino will continue to reprise his trademark false nine role, with Mohamed Salah completing the attacking trifecta against Real Madrid. Alternatively, Liverpool could line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Mane will miss out in the 4-3-3.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Jota
- Real Madrid and Liverpool have locked horns on six previous occasions in European football and the head-to-head record is identical, with both sides winning three and losing three games each.
- Real Madrid have won only six of their last 12 UEFA Champions League matches (D2 L4). Los Blancos have lost seven of their last 19 games (W9 D3), in addition.
- Liverpool have won 15 of their last 23 fixtures in Europe (D3 L5). Meanwhile, The defeat at Atletico Madrid last season is Liverpool’s only loss in their last seven UEFA Champions League away games (W5 D1).
- Despite this season’s victories over Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atalanta, Real Madrid have only won four of their last ten home games in Europe (D2 L4).
- Real Madrid’s record in two-legged knockout ties against English clubs is W8 L5; they had won three in a row before last season’s defeat to Manchester City. Liverpool, on the other hand, have won only two of their last 12 fixtures against Spanish clubs (D2 L8) – a sequence that also includes 3-1 losses under Klopp in the 2016 UEFA Europa League final to Sevilla and the 2018 UEFA Champions League final to Real Madrid.
Player to Watch
There were plenty of contenders for this section, not least a certain Mohamed Salah following his last outing against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. However, Karim Benzema only just edges the Liverpool forward to be our Player to Watch due to the sheer excellence he has been showcasing in recent times.
Continuing to be the leading light for his side, Benzema has played a major role in Real Madrid being contenders for not just the La Liga title but also the UEFA Champions League. Ageing like fine wine, the French striker has a fine return of 24 goals and 6 assists in 33 appearances this term.
And, against Liverpool, Benzema will once again be Zinedine Zidane’s go-to player. With the Reds constantly improving their output at the back, Benzema’s movement will be key in creating the openings that Real Madrid will be hard in search of. If that does not materialise, it could well be a long night for the hosts versus a side that will be resilient for the most part.
Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
This is not a game that seems to have too many goals in it. Liverpool keep on becoming more solid in the defensive phases of the game, whereas Real Madrid have made it a habit to not end up on the wrong side of the result. The shift to a system with a back three has also helped the Merengues in keeping their opposition at bay more efficiently.
With Mohamed Salah not really being in full flow and Roberto Firmino only recently making his way back from injury, Real Madrid could be successful in thwarting Liverpool’s offensive output for large parts of the game. On the opposite end, Karim Benzema should pop up with another key goal, which will earn Real Madrid a win by the narrowest of margins in the quarter-final first leg.