The Champions League returns as the Reds look to draw first blood in the battle for the semi-finals.
After a four-week hiatus, the Champions League returns, and in a quarter-final round brimming with clashes between big clubs, two of the competition’s historical giants will face each other in Madrid.
As one of only two teams to have won more European Cup titles than Liverpool, Real Madrid are legitimately considered the most successful club on the continent of all time. Their manager doesn’t half have a good record either, as Zinedine Zidane has lifted the trophy four times, once as a player, and three times as a coach, most recently after beating the Reds in Kiev back in 2018.
Tomorrow night will mark only the seventh time the two titans face off in official competition, with the sides recording three wins each, having bested the other in finals once.
None of that matters much tomorrow, however, and both teams will head into the game with confidence they can do what it takes to progress. While Liverpool’s centre-back woes are well-documented, los Blancos have injury troubles of their own, as Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal and captain Sergio Ramos are all expected to miss out.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago; Firmino, Mané, Jota; Salah
After a three-week break, hard on the heels of an historically bad run of results, the Reds appear to be closing in on something that resembles squad stability, with only captain Jordan Henderson joining long-term physio bench warmers Virgil van DIjk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip in the stands.
That means the club’s most consistent centre-back pairing, Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips, who have managed an astonishing 264 minutes together this season, will feature again, likely flanked by the ever-present Andrew Robertson and a rejuvenated Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Midfield is where it gets interesting, as, after an hour of controlled but relatively sterile possession against Arsenal at the weekend, the introduction of Diogo Jota and transition from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 saw the Reds break through and score twice in seven minutes. It’s an option that has been tested in the past, but that perhaps could feature more prominently in the season run-in, as Liverpool look to battle their way back into a top four finish and a Champions League semi-final.
The pairing of Thiago and Fabinho certainly provides a mixture of ball winning, control and progression that suggests they can man the double pivot, Roberto Firmino was one of Europe’s five best central attacking midfielders before he signed for the Reds back in 2015, and the change would allow Jürgen Klopp to deploy all of his four best attackers at the same time, on paper a combination that should be able to overwhelm the most durable defensive line.
Jürgen Klopp: “.”
Zinedine Zidane: “We are not thinking about Liverpool’s revenge situation in 2018. The past is the past. These matches will be a different scenario for both teams.”
Referee: Felix Brych
Assistant referees: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp
Fourth official: Tobias Stieler
VAR: Marco Fritz, Sascha Stegemann
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.
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