When Liverpool lost to Basel despite having been the better side on the day, their two matches against Real Madrid took on added significance. Previously, it had been fairly easy to imagine a route to the knockout rounds for Liverpool that didn't require a result from their two matches against Europe's best club side. Afterwards, it was difficult to imagine a route that didn't.
Fortunately for the Reds, while they were busy losing to Madrid at Anfield, Ludogorets were springing the upset on Basel, leaving the three group trailers on three points apiece behind Madrid with group play half way through. It meant it was once again possible for Liverpool to advance without getting anything against Madrid, though at least point tomorrow would make them favourites again to finish second.
"It will be a tough test for us," said Jordan Henderson when asked what Liverpool's goal will be heading into their match against the reigning European champions. "But it's also a great opportunity to go out and show what we can do. It's a big game, and we're going into it with a view to getting something out of it. We feel we have got good enough players and are a good enough side to come here and get a result."
If Liverpool are good enough, they certainly haven't shown many signs of it on recent form. Particularly in the attacking third. Luis Suarez may be gone, but so much that was good last season came from the players around Suarez—players like Henderson and Raheem Sterling, who a year ago were often seen pushing past the strikers and who were integral pieces in one of Europe's most exciting attacking units.
This season, so far at least, that attacking support from the midfield and wide areas simply hasn't been there, regardless of who's up top, and it's been that as much as the absence of a proven, line-leading striker that has hurt them. Henderson, though, insists that the players and manager know where the problems lie and that they're working hard on getting things right, maybe even as soon as by tomorrow.
"We know we need to be more ruthless and creative in the attacking third," said the midfielder. "We've been working on that and hopefully we can deliver on it. We're going to continue to work on that in training because we know we can improve in that area."
It would certainly be a pleasant surprise if they did. Two and a half months into a difficult season and facing the top team in Europe on the road, though, means most would be happy just to see them look mildly threatening in attack and generally competitive.