3:45pm (daylight saving time is so much better than other time) on ESPN. Liverpool leads 1-0 on aggregate.
Liverpool: 3-1 PSV (a); 1-0 Marseille (h); 1-1 Atletico (h); 1-1 Atletico (a); 3-1 PSV (h); 2-1 Marseille (a)
Real: 3-0 Zenit (h); 1-0 BATE (a); 0-2 Juve (h); 1-2 Juve (a); 2-1 Zenit (a); 2-0 BATE (h)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Sunderland (h); 0-2 Boro (a); 1-0 Real (a)
Real: 1-1 Atletico (h); 2-0 Espanyol (a); 0-1 Liverpool (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard 5; Kuyt 2; Babel, Benayoun, Ngog, Riera 1
Real: Raul, van Nistelrooy 3; Ramos, Robben 1
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)
Same ref that red-carded Materazzi at this stage last year.
Guess at a squad
Carragher Skrtel Hyypia Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
As if Liverpool didn’t have enough injury questions. Gerrard’s only recently back. Torres may return from an ankle sprain suffered two weeks ago, but it’s probably too soon for Arbeloa. And now, Benayoun, who’s in the best form of his Liverpool career, apparently tore his hamstring on the training ground.
To make matters even worse, Riera’s suspended for accumulated yellows. Plus, Insua and El Zhar aren’t in the Champions League squad (thanks for the 4+4 rule, Platini!). So there are holes all over the team – worst is on the left flank, where the only options appear to be Aurelio, Dossena and Babel for two positions. I’m guessing Babel on the left of midfield, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dossena either – he was an attacking wingback in Italy, and Liverpool will be more cautious with the advantage.
Mascherano was excellent at right back a week ago, but he’ll be more needed in midfield to protect the back four, and prevent Robben from making dangerous runs infield. Supposedly, Carragher was too tired to play there against Boro after the last leg in Madrid, but I’m hopeful he’ll be less reticent this time out. As much as I want to see Darby, this isn’t the game for his first start. If Masch has to play right back, I reckon I’d rather see Lucas than Gerrard drop deeper (especially since there’s no Benayoun to play further up the pitch), but that’s a choice I’d rather not make.
Being down a goal, Madrid will have to attack, which should give Liverpool the space they enjoy and the chances on the counter-attack that they thrive on. But it will be a very thin line; an away goal is an outstanding edge, but it is only one goal. And Liverpool’s let in too many silly goals of late, mostly from set plays.
But, as has been the usual refrain, Liverpool’s often different in the Champions League. No matter who’s available, chances are they’ll have been there before, and chances are Benitez will have them ready.