Liverpool welcome Real Madrid to Anfield in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie on Tuesday, hoping to avenge their last season’s UCL final defeat to Los Blancos in May 2022.
The Reds have endured mixed results this season. They have failed to find any sort of momentum in the Premier League and are eighth in the table. Back-to-back impressive wins over Everton and Newcastle United should give Jurgen Klopp’s side the confidence to get a result against Real Madrid in front of the Anfield crowd.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are eight points behind arch-rivals Barcelona in La Liga but come into this game on the back of four wins from their last five games across all competitions. Considering Liverpool’s shaky form, Carlo Ancelotti’s men will be fairly confident of getting a good result in Merseyside.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at three key player battles that could determine the outcome of the mouthwatering European clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
#Vinicius Jr. vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
Vinicius Jr. scored the Champions League final winner against Liverpool last May and will hope to have a similar impact on Tuesday night. The in-form Real Madrid winger is the biggest threat to Liverpool yet again.
The Brazil international has netted 16 goals and registered eight assists in 34 appearances for Real so far this season. Vinicius’ dribbling skills, pace and directness could cause a lot of problems for the Reds’ shaky backline, and monitoring his movements on the left flank will be a tough task.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will definitely have his work cut out. The Liverpool right-back has not enjoyed the best of seasons, making errors and defensive lapses that has led to goals. On Tuesday, he must produce his best performance and be defensively alert to keep Vinicius quiet.
#Fabinho vs Luka Modric
Fabinho is another Liverpool player who has struggled royally for form this season. Regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in recent years, the Brazilian’s series of poor displays has had a huge impact on Liverpool’s overall form.
However, having started the last two games and done well, Fabinho will be keen to produce a solid performance in the middle of the park against Real Madrid. He is likely to come up against Real’s midfield maestro, Luka Modric.
Without Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni, Modric’s responsibility in the Real engine room will be a lot bigger. The experienced Croat will look to control the tempo of play, make driving runs with the ball and find the forwards in and around the opposition’s box. Knowing Modric’s ability to decide games, Fabinho will definitely need to stop him.
#Karim Benzema vs Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk started in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Newcastle in the Premier League last weekend after returning from a recent injury layoff, and the Dutchman stressed his importance for Klopp’s side with a strong defensive display.
While Liverpool have been defensively suspect with Van Dijk in the side for large parts of the season, his presence certainly gives the home side an aura of assurance and stability at the back. Against a Real Madrid side boasting someone like Karim Benzema in attack, the Netherlands international will have a massive role to play.
Benzema has been plagued by injuries and fitness problems since the start of the season, so his availability for such a big European game is a massive boost for the visitors. The former France international is one of the most lethal strikers in Europe and can decide games single-handedly.
As a result, Van Dijk has to be near flawless in the Liverpool defence and keep Benzema under close watch if he intends to come out on top in this interesting battle.
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.