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Preview: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The Liverpool faithful will be praying that lightning strikes twice against Spanish opposition at Anfield this week when Real Madrid pay a visit for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash on Wednesday.

Los Blancos travel to Merseyside boasting a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid, where Vinicius Junior bagged a brace and Marco Asensio capitalised on a defensive error to put the visitors firmly in control.

Both sides also claimed vital league wins by the slenderest of margins at the weekend, as Liverpool ended their wretched home run with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa while Real Madrid came out on top in El Clasico by the same scoreline.


Match preview

 Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates scoring their first goal with Toni Kroos against Liverpool in the Champions League on April 6, 2021© Reuters

As the two European heavyweights seek to march to what would be the 20th European crown between them, a 20-year-old by the name of Vinicius Junior came up with the goods in the first leg, as the youngster's well-taken brace propelled Real Madrid to a deserved 3-1 triumph on April 6.

Vinicius broke the deadlock on the 27th minute after a mesmerising pass from Toni Kroos, and Marco Asensio proceeded to double Los Blancos' lead nine minutes later after an error from the much-maligned Trent Alexander-Arnold before Mohamed Salah pulled one back in the 51st minute.

However, Zinedine Zidane's men were once again indebted to their Brazilian starlet as Vinicius found the bottom corner in the 65th minute to secure a first-leg triumph for Real Madrid, whose performance deserved an 80,000-strong Bernabeu crowd rather than an empty Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Then again, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are a team who know a thing or two about historic Anfield fightbacks against the giants of the Spanish game - it is impossible for one to forget their storming comeback against Barcelona after a 3-0 first-leg defeat - but Los Blancos will surely do their homework on quick corner routines and cult hero Divock Origi is expected to miss out through injury.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pictured on April 10, 2021© Reuters

The Liverpool manager has been quick to bemoan the absence of supporters for his side's turmoil on home soil, and the Premier League champions would ideally hope to be welcoming the La Liga champions to a full and raucous Anfield crowd, but having fans enter through the turnstiles remains a pipe dream for most clubs across Europe.

Nevertheless, Liverpool finally managed to end their six-game losing run at home in the top flight with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the weekend, as Alexander-Arnold silenced his critics - in particular Gary Neville - with a sublime winner in added time, although the Reds were far from convincing once again.

While Klopp's side have seen their Anfield walls crumble in the Premier League, they have secured three victories from four home matches in this season's Champions League - keeping clean sheets in all three of those triumphs - and they have lost just two of their last 21 European fixtures on Merseyside.

Back-to-back Premier League titles are now out of the question, but Klopp's side at least head into the second leg having won four of their last five matches across all competitions, and a certain Mohamed Salah will be particularly keen to impress as speculation over a move to the Spanish capital intensifies.

Liverpool have only ever lost 11 home matches in the Champions League, but five of those have come against Spanish opposition, and they have only progressed twice in 13 attempts after losing the first leg by two goals, so the odds are not exactly in Klopp's favour as he attempts to formulate another spectacular Anfield comeback.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane pictured on February 14, 2021© Reuters

Just four days after assuming control of the quarter-final, Real Madrid prepared for another clash of gargantuan proportions against old foes Barcelona, with both sides eyeing the prize in La Liga and hopeful of usurping Atletico Madrid at the top of the standings.

Zidane's men managed to do exactly that with a 2-1 triumph in Saturday's Clasico, during which Karim Benzema took just 13 minutes to draw first blood with a cheeky backheel before the effervescent Kroos witnessed his free kick take a deflection on its way into the net past a hapless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

As the conditions worsened in the Spanish capital, Oscar Mingueza managed to pull one back for Barcelona, but by that point it was too little too late for La Blaugrana as Real Madrid held on for a priceless three points, despite Casemiro's late red card.

Zidane's side claimed their rightful spot at the top of the table with that Clasico triumph, but they have since been knocked off their perch by Atletico - who could only muster a point from their battle with Real Betis - so the prospect of a domestic and European double is very much alive for Los Blancos amid their remarkable spate of successes.

Real Madrid's Toni Kroos celebrates scoring their second goal against Barcelona in La Liga in April 10, 2021© Reuters

Zidane's future in the Bernabeu hotseat continues to be a major talking point, but the former Galactico has now overseen six consecutive victories across all competitions, and Real Madrid have also managed to string together a 13-game unbeaten run since their shock defeat to Levante on January 30.

However, Los Blancos have only managed to keep a clean sheet in one of their last eight matches across all competitions - a worrying statistic as they prepare to make do without inspirational centre-back pairing Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane once more - but they have not conceded more than one goal in any game during their unbeaten run.

Furthermore, Los Blancos travel to Merseyside having taken the spoils from five of their last six away matches in all tournaments, although an underwhelming group stage in the Champions League saw them win just one of their three games on the road before they scraped past Atalanta 1-0 at the Gewiss Stadium.

History certainly favours the visitors, though, as they have come up trumps in 15 of their last 16 second-leg ties when winning the first leg by a margin of two goals or more - the outlier being their 2003-04 exit to losing finalists Monaco - and Zidane's side have found the back of the net 23 times in a row in the Champions League knockout stages.

Los Blancos will be fully aware of what can happen to Spanish sides who fail to turn up at Anfield - albeit an empty one - but without their impassioned supporters roaring them on and no Origi ready to catch Real Madrid napping, Klopp's dream of more European success with Liverpool may remain a fantasy for the time being.

Liverpool Champions League form:
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L

Liverpool form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Real Madrid Champions League form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Real Madrid form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W



Team News

Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez in action on December 20, 2020© Reuters

With Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip all occupying spots in the long-term section of Liverpool's infirmary, inexperienced duo Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak must prepare for another taxing evening against Zidane's bright attacking crop.

Jordan Henderson is not ready to make his comeback just yet either, and fellow midfielder Curtis Jones sat out the win over Aston Villa as a precaution due to a muscular problem, but he should be in the squad this week.

Origi is an expert in Anfield comebacks against Spanish powerhouses, but the Belgian striker's torrid season continues as he remains sidelined with a muscle injury of his own, while Sadio Mane was benched at the weekend so will return to the first XI here.

Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota continue to battle for the final spot in Klopp's formidable front three - the Portuguese was trusted from the first whistle in the first leg but Klopp may opt for a more creative flair in Firmino this time around.

The final spot in Liverpool's midfield three is also up for grabs, as the experienced James Milner and Thiago do battle for the chance to start against the 13-time winners, and it would not be a surprise to see the former get the nod in the absence of Henderson.

With Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Ramos (calf) and Varane (coronavirus) already missing, Real Madrid have been dealt a further injury blow in defence after it was confirmed that Lucas Vazquez's issue in El Clasico was more serious than initially feared, and the makeshift right-back could be out for the season after a cruciate ligament sprain.

Having just recovered from a problem of his own, Alvaro Odriozola - usually nothing more than a fringe player - is therefore likely to be handed the daunting task of keeping Mane quiet on Wednesday.

The unlucky Federico Valverde also re-entered the treatment room during El Clasico, but the Uruguay international has a chance of recovering from a bruised foot in time for the second leg, although it will still be too soon for Eden Hazard to take to the field.

Casemiro's sending off at the weekend means nothing for the Champions League, and with Valverde now considered a doubt, Marco Asensio is sure to return to the first XI as he aims to build on his strike from the first leg.

The veteran Luka Modric chalked up an assist for Vinicius Junior's second goal on the night in the first leg, and the Croatian midfielder could make history for Real Madrid if he sets up a goal for the fourth time in a row in the Champions League this week.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Odriozola, Nacho, Militao, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr


Head To Head

Wednesday's second leg represents the eighth meeting between Liverpool and Real Madrid, with the Reds boasting three wins compared to Real's four - all of which have come in the last four meetings between the clubs.

Liverpool have welcomed Los Blancos to Anfield twice previously, and the Merseyside giants stormed to a 4-0 win in the last 16 of the 2008-09 tournament before losing 3-0 in the 2014-15 group stage.

Benzema's four goals in this fixture sees him lead the way as the top scorer, and having lost four in a row to the Spanish giants, Liverpool could set an unwanted record of five consecutive defeats to a single opponent in Europe this week.


SM words green background

We say: Liverpool 2-2 Real Madrid

Both Liverpool and Real Madrid have defensive weaknesses ready to be exploited by the other, as Klopp and Zidane continue to work around the absences of their first-choice centre-backs at the worst possible time.

Another historic Champions League comeback on the Anfield turf is not beyond the realm of possibility, and Klopp's side would have received a much-needed injection of confidence after pulling themselves out of their home rut against Aston Villa.

We can envisage another goal-fest in the second leg, but an in-form Real Madrid have the upper hand and will surely possess too much quality for an inconsistent and wounded Liverpool, so we are backing Los Blancos to book a place in the final four after a high-scoring draw.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or draw in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Draw:data


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How you voted: Liverpool vs Real Madrid

Liverpool
40.7%
Draw
11.5%
Real Madrid
47.8%
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Karim Benzema celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Alaves on January 23, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City35255572264680
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd352010568383070
3Leicester CityLeicester362061065442166
4Chelsea351810755322364
5West Ham UnitedWest Ham351771155451058
6Liverpool34169957391857
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs351681161412056
8Everton34167114642455
9Arsenal351571349381152
10Leeds UnitedLeeds35155155353050
11Aston Villa34146144941848
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves35129143547-1245
13Crystal Palace35119153757-2042
14Burnley35109163347-1439
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle35109164058-1839
16Southampton35108174262-2038
RFulham35512182547-2227
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom35511193268-3626
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3552281862-4417

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