Given an impossible task after a relatively even match at Anfield ended in a comedy scoreline, Liverpool didn’t have much hope heading to the Santiago Bernabeu looking to overturn a 5-2 deficit against reigning champions Real Madrid, and although they put up a valiant effort in the first half, they fell well short in the second, ultimately falling to a ridiculous tap-in for Karim Benzema.
It could have been different, as Darwin Núñez and Cody Gakpo both had good opportunities well-saved by Thibault Courtois, but similarly, the scoreline could have been much worse had Real taken the chances they were gifted by sloppy passing and defending on the Reds end.
Ultimately, tonight’s result means every trophy is off the table for the Reds, and all that matters now is making sure they get to partake again next year, as they head into the final sprint of the Premier League season looking to break into the top four for the first time all season.
Ibou: Not much to get excited about on the Liverpool end tonight, but, one lapse in concentration as Benzema tapped home following some arbitrary ping-pong in the Liverpool area, Ibrahima Konaté was immense, and has established himself as comfortably the preferable partner to Virgil van Dijk in the heart of defense.
Playing on the right side, the Frenchman is tasked with covering for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who — as much as his defensive struggles are overplayed by media and rival fans with regard to regular opposition — does not have the speed or mobility to handle the likes of Vinicius Jr on his own, and as such, Ibou gets plenty of work.
Where Trent made one tackle on seven attempts tonight — i.e, he was beaten six times — Ibou went 4/4, all in dangerous areas as Vini looked to break into the Reds box, and had the 23-year old not been as switched on as he was tonight, the scoreline might well have looked even worse in the end.
The Fixture List: Slimmed down a bit, hasn’t it. Liverpool have one competition left, and one goal to achieve. There are 12 games to go, and ten weeks to play them in. The Reds will only have to play twice a week three more times this campaign, and whichever malady has lead to them looking as flat and hapless as has been the case at times this season should be remedied somewhat by a kinder schedule. Should.
Trent: While his assists tally is misrepresentatively low compared to his underlying production — two assists from 7.3 expected — there’s no denying Trent Alexander-Arnold has had a sub-par season. He’s not alone in this, of course, in fact you’d be hard-pressed to find a single Liverpool player who has lived up to expectations this year, but a combination of a system that exposes him to many difficult situations, undeniable athletic limitations, and opponents targeting him, means that the 24-year old looks comparatively worse than many others when he’s off the pace.
When his set-pieces and passing aren’t up to their usual standard either, there’s just not many positives to bring up for the future club legend, and he had one such night tonight. One to forget.
General Competency: It’s probably a result of physical and mental fatigue, because this didn’t use to be the case, but the Reds just looked like a worse football team at doing the basic stuff tonight. Recognisable patterns of play were hard to spot, awareness and ability to locate and occupy opponents in defense and open space on offense seemed to elude them, and precision in the passing game was nowhere to be seen.
Exactly what has gone wrong with the team that competed for every major trophy on offer until its final day last year will be hotly debated among club staff, but an answer must be found, or even a top four spot and a shiny new midfielder or two won’t be enough to get this club back on track.
What Happens Next
It’s an international break, before the Reds are welcomed back to action by Manchester City on April 1st, one of very few teams Liverpool have beaten twice this season.