When Real Madrid take on Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday, centre half Sergio Ramos says that the defenders will be wary of Liverpool’s ability to break quickly on the counter and focused on shutting down Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
It’s not, perhaps, the most surprising revelation—it’s become clear this season that to stop Liverpool means stopping them getting chances from their high press, quick counter game. Being easy to identify, though, doesn’t make it easy to stop.
“They are very fast going forward and can really hurt you on the break,” Ramos noted in conversation with UEFA’s official website this week. “Firmino and Salah are such quick and direct players who are very difficult to get hold of.
“We’ll try to keep them under control and ensure they don’t have one of their inspired days, because they can certainly cause you damage. They are very good technically and are full of pace, but our players have similar attributes.”
While Liverpool have a deadly, fast-break counter game, so too do Madrid, with Ronaldo, Isco, and Gareth Bale posing a similar sort of threat—what Madrid will to do to Liverpool won’t be so different from what Liverpool try to do to them.
It should make for an exciting game for the neutrals. And an at times nerve-wracking one for the defenders on both sides, who could regularly find themselves one-on-one against some of the game’s best attacking talent.
Whichever side comes out tops will be counting not just on their attackers executing, but also on their defenders holding just that little bit more steady at the back, and in the end Ramos thinks the difference could come down to set pieces.
“We know we can also cause them problems on the counter,” the Spanish centre half added. “We’ll try to take advantage of that and we also know we are a threat from set pieces.”