24 February 2009

Liverpool at Real Madrid 2.25.09

2:45pm on Setanta

Stupid Wednesday games. Another one for the DVR. Will probably have a review up by 8pm or so local time.

Group Stage:
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: 1-1 City (h); 3-2 Pompey (a); 0-1 Everton (h)
Real: 6-1 Betis (h); 4-0 Sporting Gijon (a); 1-0 Racing Santander (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Gerrard 5; Kuyt 2; Babel, Ngog, Riera 1
Real: Raul, van Nistelrooy 3; Ramos, Robben 1

Referee: Roberto Rosetti (ITA)

Guess at a squad
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Alonso Mascherano
Kuyt Benayoun Riera

I still find it tough to believe this’ll be Liverpool's first competitive match at the Bernabeu. Thanks to the Spanish make-up of the team, a fair few players have trod on the Madrid turf (including the manager), but it’s not as if any of them have the best records against Los Blancos. But this game will be a whole different bag of apples. And you have to hope that – as often happens in the European Cup – form will go out the window.

Real have won 10 of their last 11 matches, scoring 10 goals in their last two. You have to go back nine matches for Liverpool’s last 10 goals. Ramos has taken them from a team struggling towards third place to La Liga’s most in-form side, only seven points off Barca’s pace. Raul, Robben, and Higuain are all scoring (Raul especially), while Lassana Diarra’s been the signing of the winter, solidifying the midfield and protecting the back four in the absence of Mahamadou Diarra. What Arsenal wouldn’t give to have him back.

With or without Gerrard, Liverpool’s lineup pretty much writes itself. I expect the skipper to start on the bench as he hasn’t played since the beginning of the month, but you never know with Gerrard. And, to be honest, with a hamstring injury, it might be better for him to start, because it’s a lot harder to warm up a hamstring when coming off the bench. But if Liverpool’s going to be cautious with any player, it’s probably Gerrard.

Which would mean that Alonso and Aurelio are the only likely changes from Sunday’s draw. Alonso was a glaring absence, as usual, given his range of passing and intelligence, while Liverpool were clearly a better team after Aurelio came on against City. The goals may be few and far between of late, but I still feel that this formation – with the caveat of having all the players healthy – is the best way to change that. The formation was just as much 4-4-1-1 as 4-2-3-1 on Sunday, and we’ll probably see similar tomorrow, as Liverpool will undoubtedly have more defending to do in Madrid.

We might see Babel in place of Riera, especially since the Bernabeu pitch is wider than most and Riera has looked a different, more tired player since autumn, but Babel certainly didn’t have anything to write home about after his cameo appearance on Sunday. Similarly, I’ve seen posters on various forums suggest Benayoun on the left with Lucas in a more advanced position, but this doesn’t seem the game to experiment with that.

If anyone knows how to travel to Madrid, make it a tight, cagey game, and strangle the life out of the home side, it’s Benitez and Liverpool. These are the games Rafa and Liverpool have built their reputations on. Let’s see it again.


Bilal said...

I agree competely about Riera, he seems to be struggling recently and Babel isn't really shining, even off the bench unlike last year. I know this is unlikely, but I would love to see Aurelio in the centre like last year, Masch deeper with Insua flying forward from left-back and

Benayoun cutting in ahead of him. That said, maybe I've just had too much time to idly daydream up false solutions after recent fustrations in the league.

Mike Georger said...

Insua isn't on the Champions League roster I don't think, he didn't travel with the team and he played with the reserves today.

Think they will play attacking ball tomorrow, don't think they will try for the draw.

1-1 is my prediction.

Abhiram said...

Important read! An eye-opener!


This was much before my time. How can we do this to the best manager we ever had?