A mammoth clash in the Champions League round of 16 awaits us as Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the first leg on Tuesday, February 21.
Liverpool are in miserable form and are struggling in the Premier League but we all know how Anfield is a completely different place on Champions League nights.
The second leg of this game will be played at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu stadium on March 15.
Here a list of 5 players who we think will have a huge impact in this game over two legs:
French forward Karim Benzema was an injury scare heading into the final week before this clash, but the Real Madrid legend has made a timely return to the team.
After unleashing his absolute best in the Champions League last season, the Frenchman made a slow start to the group stage this season, playing just four games out of six while scoring none.
It is obvious Benzema will be hungry for some goals and with a struggling Liverpool side that is leaking goals at the moment, this might be the exact type of game the Frenchman will relish.
Liverpool’s midfield has been exposed on multiple occasions this season in the Premier League and they will now go up against an evergreen Luka Modric, who is expected to dominate the centre of the park with his immaculate vision and switch of plays.
A midfield of Thiago and Henderson might be kept busy with the likes of Vinicius and Rodrygo, leaving Modric to sway the game in Real Madrid’s favour at any given time.
If Liverpool are to have any chance of beating Los Blancos over two legs, they desperately need Mohamed Salah to start firing, right from their next games against Everton and Newcastle United before facing Real Madrid.
We all know what the Egyptian maestro is capable of, but sadly, he hasn’t been at his best, scoring just 17 goals in 31 games, which is still a great return in a struggling side, but the way Salah has kept his standards so high in the last few seasons, this number looks low!
Maybe Real Madrid is the exact type of game for Salah to remind fans of his class.
We couldn’t possibly leave Vinicius Jr out. The Brazilian has been in sensational form in the 2022-23 season, especially in the Champions League.
He has scored 16 goals and provided 7 assists in 33 games in all competitions this season with four goals and 1 assist coming in the Champions League group stage.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to deal with Vinicius and it is a known fact that the English defender is vulnerable against high-paced wingers running at him.
Additionally, Trent will miss the second leg if he earns a yellow card in the first leg. Vinicius could get that out of him. Expect the Brazilian to come out the winner in this clash.
Virgil van Dijk
Whenever Liverpool are in a fix, they look up to Virgil van Dijk as their leader, not only in defence, but in their team as a whole.
The Dutchman is having quite an indifferent season which is understandable considering the position Liverpool are in.
But, this is a completely different competition and Van Dijk’s mindset will be quite at it’s peak heading into this clash. If Van Dijk manages to marshal his defence and come up with the performances that the Reds’ fans know he can produce, Liverpool can cause a major upset.
Liverpool predicted starting XI:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson; Bajcetic, Fabinho, Henderson; Gakpo; Jota, Salah
Who will miss the second leg if booked with a yellow card? – Trent Alexander-Arnold
Real Madrid predicted starting XI:
Courtois; Carvajal, Eder Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Valverde, Camavinga, Modric; Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior, Benzema
What have the manager’s said before this game?
“We’ve played Real Madrid in a couple of recent finals but it is not so often that our two clubs have met in a two-legged tie so now we can look forward to this happening. Real’s European record is the best around. But we also know that ours is not too bad. On top of this, we know that we have Anfield and everyone knows what this means”
“It’ll be a very entertaining tie and a very, very tough one. There’ll be a great atmosphere at Anfield and also at the Bernabeu. It’ll be a spectacular tie. We have not gone to the market (in January) because we did not need to. If you plan well and carry out your plan, it is not necessary to go into the winter market. We thought that it was not necessary to intervene in the winter market because the squad is fine.”
Liverpool and Real Madrid’s results in their last five games in all competitions (most recent first as of February 21, 2023)
Liverpool – W W L L D
Real Madrid – W W W W L