Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Analysis, Prediction, Team News
Tuesday 21st February 2023
As part of our Champions League predictions, we take a look at a replay of last year’s finalists, Liverpool and Real Madrid. On the back of two consecutive 2-0 victories, can Liverpool take a lead to Madrid? Read on with our Liverpool vs Real Madrid prediction.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Match Preview
Following a highly publicised period of poor form and having to face accusations from all corners about their inexorable decline, Liverpool come into this marquee clash against 14-time Champions League winners Real Madrid on the back of two consecutive 2-0 victories against local rivals Everton and Champions League-chasing Newcastle. While it is perhaps too early to suggest that Klopp’s men have turned the corner, two back-to-back clean sheets will be a welcome boost for a side who have struggled defensively this season.
In the Champions League, however, it has been something of a different story. Though they were humbled 4-1 by Napoli in their opening match of Group A, Liverpool proceeded to win their remaining five group fixtures. Highlights of their Champions League campaign so far include a 2-0 home win over a very strong Napoli side who are the runaway leaders in Serie A, a 3-0 away win against an Ajax side who are perhaps a shadow of their former selves but nevertheless a great win, and a 7-1 away victory at Rangers.
Real Madrid are in something of a downturn when measured by their own lofty standards. Over the last 10 matches in La Liga, they’ve accrued a modest if not altogether terrible 19 points, whereas their fierce rivals Barcelona have earned 28 points during the same period. This run of relatively indifferent form sees Carlo Ancelotti’s side eight points adrift in second place with just over half the season played. A team known for their goalscoring prowess, Madrid are averaging just 1.7 goals per game during this period.
In the Champions League, Madrid qualified from a relatively easy Group F containing a Shakhtar side without home advantage from war-torn Ukraine, and Celtic who struggled throughout. At times, Real made heavy work of qualification, with a 95th-minute equaliser from Antonio Rudiger sparing their blushes in a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar. A wasteful performance against the same side for a 2-1 victory which kept the Ukrainians in the game for a tense finish and a 3-2 defeat away to RB Leipzig didn’t inspire confidence. However, Real will only care about topping the group and reaching the CL knockout stage yet again.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might Not Play: Nunez
Will Not Play: Arthur, Diaz, Konate, Ramsay, Thiago
Might Not Play:
Will Not Play: Diaz, Kroos, Mendy, Tchouameni
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Lineups (Predicted)
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold; Fabinho Bajcetic, Henderson; Gakpo, Nunez, Salah
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Courtois; Alaba, Rudiger, Militao, Carvajal; Camavinga, Valverde, Modric; Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Benzema
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Analysis
Liverpool are Beginning to Adapt
For much of this season, Liverpool have perhaps been guilty of adopting a square-peg, round-hole approach to pressing and team shape. In previous seasons, Liverpool’s dynamic midfield was packed with more complete players/more complete versions of players who could press, dribble, and get back in transition – they were generally horrible to play against. This season for the most part hasn’t panned out that way for the Merseysiders.
It can be argued that Wijnaldum wasn’t replaced, and to compound this problem Henderson and Fabinho have been struggling to provide badly need impetus in the middle of the park. This is a real issue because though Thiago is a wonderful technical footballer, his defensive work is not his strong suit. Naby Keita has not been the kind of player Liverpool thought they were signing when they paid £52.75 million to RB Leipzig for the Guinea international, and indeed his final season at Leipzig was disappointing.
However, Liverpool are beginning to alter their tactical approach to a less intense version of their famous high-pressing, high-energy tactics. It’s perhaps notable that Liverpool are now presenting more of a threat on the break than they were previously – both goals against Everton came via counterattacks.
By maintaining their shape better and ceding territory to the opposition at times, not only do Liverpool look more defensively solid, they’re now able to use the pace and invention of the likes of Salah, Nunez and Gakpo and get their flying fullbacks Robertson and Alexander Arnold available in space out wide. It’s a delicate balancing act, but it appears to be an improvement thus far.
Real’s Big Game Temperament
Recent history has shown that it’s incredibly difficult to write off Real Madrid in a knockout format. While this may sound reductive in the same way that the Germans should ‘never be written off’, the fact that time and time again Real have dragged themselves over the line in huge European ties simply cannot be dismissed as variance or luck.
Last season, Real came from 2-0 down on aggregate in the last 16 to defeat PSG 3-2, found a way past Chelsea in extra time despite being second-best for long periods of the match, and looked dead and buried against Man City at 5-3 down on aggregate until 90th and 91st-minute goals forced extra time and Benzema bagged the winner from the penalty spot in the first half of extra time.
While we often talk about systems, tactical battles and weaknesses, cup ties more often swing on moments of individual brilliance and a strong mentality. This is because, in a 38-match league campaign, the emphasis is on systems and tactical consistency, trusting that the variance from game to game will even out. Dropping a few unexpected points here and there is disappointing but there’s plenty of time to recover. In the Champions League, teams are forced to adapt their approach because of the quality they’re up against. Man City for example aren’t as ball-dominant in the Champions League knockout stages as they are domestically – it’s too risky.
Real Madrid have two star attackers that can be rightfully classed as big game players in Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. as well as a world-class midfield playmaker in Luka Modric who even now is normally the best midfield performer in any given game. When faced with this kind of threat, we see teams abandoning their usual approach in favour of a more cautious one. On the one hand, this is understandable; after all, the stakes are so high, but dropping deeper and allowing Real Madrid to dictate proceedings is a mistake given their propensity to drag themselves back into knockout ties.
We think this match will prove to be highly entertaining. Liverpool are starting to show what a threat they can be on the counter, and they seem to be enjoying playing without the pressure to dominate from start to finish. As we’ve alluded to in our preview, they no longer appear capable of the 70% possession, 20 shots on goal performances that they were churning out regularly at their peak. We get the impression they have started to adapt and they come into this match in a more positive frame of mind.
Although we hate to talk about this because so much has been said and the man has been pilloried from post to post this season, but an intriguing matchup here is Trent Alexander-Arnold against Vinicius Jr. We feel the Brazilian has the talented full back’s number here, and with Real able to take advantage of any positional slips from Trent and indeed the entire Liverpool back line, we expect there to be goals in this one at both ends, with Liverpool also being able to take advantage of a Real Madrid side who haven’t been brilliant either of late.
Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Betting Tip – Draw Odds:
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