Brendan Rodgers could rest some key figures from tonight’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid in Spain…
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Live on ITV
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted that he is set to prioritise Saturday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea over tonight’s Champions League glamour tie with Real Madrid.
The Northern Irishman leads his side out at the famous Santiago Bernabéu on Tuesday night knowing the odds are firmly stacked against the visitors.
Madrid, the reigning European Cup holders, are on a scintillating run of 11 successive wins, scoring 46 goals in the process.
The Reds, out of form and without a single goal in their last two league outings, are firmly expected to receive another heavy beating, a fortnight on from their chastening 3-0 defeat to the Spanish giants at Anfield.
Strangely, such an occurrence is unlikely to impact too much on their prospects of advancing from Group B with the club’s fate set to rest on the following fixtures with FC Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad.
Perhaps partly as a consequence, Rodgers has hinted that he may rest some key personnel, most notably skipper Steven Gerrard, with an eye on the weekend meeting with domestic rivals Chelsea.
“I need to look at a number of players to look at the games we want them to play in,” remarked the 41-year-old at his pre-match press conference. “That is something I will look at and we will see how that shapes up…
“But there is no doubt that our priorities are the Premier League and the Champions League. But in that order.
“If we want to develop we need to ensure we are in the top four.”
That admission doesn’t necessarily mean all hope of pulling off a shock result against Carlo Ancelotti’s men has been dismissed.
“You have to have the belief and courage to go out and play in the big games like this,” added Rodgers. “We can’t only show our football qualities, we have to disrupt their game as well. We have to be ready to fight and do our best.
“Over my time here I have been so proud of my players. We are on the next curve of our development and it’s started slower than I would have hoped.
“But these are games that provide great opportunity. You go into a game like this here and if you get a positive performance and result then it can kick you on.”
If Liverpool are going to avoid suffering a third successive European defeat for the first time since 1968, much is likely to rest on containing Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese sensation has scored 20 goals in his last 12 matches – by contrast Liverpool have scored just 19 goals in all competitions this season (15 games).
Ronaldo also needs just one more strike to draw level with ex-Madrid star Raul’s Champions League scoring record of 71.
He isn’t the only threat of course and world record signing Gareth Bale is available again after missing the first meeting with a muscular problem.
For the Merseysiders, striker Daniel Sturridge has travelled with the squad but is unlikely to feature after being out since August with two separate injuries.
Defenders Mamadou Sakho (thigh), Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique (both knee), plus attacking midfielder Suso (groin), remain in the treatment room.
Mignolet, Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Allen, Lallana, Coutinho, Balotelli.
The last time I checked, odds for a Liverpool win were 10/1, and that could conceivably lengthen as kick-off approaches and the teams are known. To put the figure into perspective, Ronaldo is far more likely to score a hat-trick (6/1) than we are to pull off a shock, according to the bookies at least. In truth, even the most bias and optimistic Red will also be expecting defeat but there is always a glimmer of hope to cling to if you look hard enough. One of our biggest issues this season has been breaking down teams who have defended deep and in number. Madrid by contrast should come at us and that could provide opportunities on the counter-attack. Clutching at straws maybe, but, despite our recent struggles, this is still a squad full of very good players. With the pressure off maybe they will relax and express themselves a little more. Of course that will count for nothing if the defence isn’t on the top of its game – Madrid certainly don’t need the help scoring given to Newcastle United on Saturday.
Vital Liverpool predicts a 3-1 defeat
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