Liverpool vs Real Madrid
| Tuesday, February 21st |
Champions League | Anfield
8PM BST / 3PM EST
After nearly four months since the end of the group stage, the Champions League is back, and an out-of-sorts-but-perhaps-resurgent Liverpool take on one of their oldest European rivals, as they look to pay Real Madrid back for beating them in last year’s scandalous Paris final.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men qualified for the knockout stages by finishing first in Group F, beating out RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic, scoring 15 goals and generally looking like a steadier side than the one that went all the way last year. They are only second in the La Liga, however, eight points behind a Barcelona side living on borrowed time and money, but with top four never really in danger, los Blancos are generally happy to finish second if it means a run at yet another European Cup.
Dynamic full-back Ferland Mendy notwithstanding, Ancelotti boasts a full and healthy squad, including top scorers Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr, as well as the dynamic midfield quartet of Luka Modric, Aurelien Tchouameni, Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga, bolstered by the veteran savvy of Toni Kroos.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Bajcetic, Henderson; Núñez, Gakpo, Salah
For the Reds, don’t expect massive changes from the team that appears to have found some sort of form in recent weeks. Virgil van Dijk is back and although he’s not quite as imperious as he has been in the past, he’s the first name on the team sheet when available, and likely to be partnered once more by Joe Gomez in central defence, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson rounding out the back line.
In midfield, Thiago will miss out once again with a groin injury, but otherwise Jürgen Klopp can pick and choose, and the triumvirate of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Stefan Bajcetic has offered a combination of veteran experience and youthful fearlessness recently that appears to be functioning well. Naby Keïta, Curtis Jones and James Milner are all potential dark horses, while the more attacking option of Harvey Elliott is unlikely to feature in midfield for this one.
Up top, Darwin Núñez’s shoulder injury will be assessed further, right up until kick-off, but if fit, the Uruguayan is likely to start alongside Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah. Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota are both available, however, and could be rotated in should fatigue or gameplanning dictate it.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “We need to play two super games to go through. Madrid don’t need to play special and they still have a chance. I’m really happy we can play this game now rather than a few weeks ago. I expect Anfield on their toes. Let’s go together again.”
Carlo Ancelotti: “.“
The Officials (ROU)
Referee: István Kovács
Assistant referees: Vasile Florin Marinescu, Ovidiu Artene
Fourth official: Horatiu Fesnic
VAR: Massimiliano Irrati, Marco Guida (ITA)
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.