So after a long break the side jumps back into the Champions League action again tonight.
This game, against Real Madrid and the next one against the Mancs will define our season, one way or the other, win or lose. Said Rafa yesterday.
“This week is very crucial, these two important games could make a very big difference.”
“Could” is slightly understating it I feel. Win both and its renewed vigour and optimism lose both and there’s very little chance of getting anything back? However, amidst all this it should be remembered that despite both club’s rich and varied European history this is the first time Real have visited Anfield, amazing I can’t believe it, all those games and we haven’t invited them over for tea!.
No doubt Real will want to make an impression and I can’t believe that they will be as impotent as they were in the first leg. True they are without van Nistelrooy (injured) and Huntelaar (ineligible) but they know they have to attack tonight. This is a double edged sword for us. Clearly we need to be on guard to avoid conceding but as Madrid will have to come forward, they could become even more open at the back than they were at the Bernabéu? However, we have our own problems.
We might go into tonight’s game without Fernando Torres, who faces a late test on the ankle injury he sustained at the Bernabéu. It’s perhaps ironic that Robbie Keane has seen fit to score twice in two games for Spurs during this period. Each goal a pin prick to Liverpool? Would Rafa have played him tonight? Since the first leg he’s commented on how the season could have better had it not been for Torres’ injuries. This has wrongly been interpreted by mischief makers as a slight against Torres when it should really be over our decision not to find a replacement for Keane. It’s clear that we still have an issue up front and must be thankfully that we go into tonight’s game with a valuable away goal? Rafa’s options are also limited elsewhere via injuries to Benayoun, Agger, Arbeloa and Riera’s suspension.
Because of this I’m wondering if Rafa might spring a surprise or two with his team selection? Surely Babel will feature as both Benayoun and Riera are unavailable? Will Kuyt be the lone man up front with Gerrard in the hole? Or maybe he’ll even put Kuyt and Babel wide and play Gerrard as an out and out striker?
Whatever the line up is it promises to be one of those Anfield European nights. Hopefully, even allowing for the injuries, the side can do it justice? We need it, apart from our visit to Madrid February was a horrible month for us from a footballing point of view.
Prediction? The first leg proved that we have nothing got fear from this Madrid side and if the defending in the first leg is anything to go by, we are likely to get chances. However, as mentioned before, surely they will be more offensive than they were at the Bernabéu so I predict a few hairy moments for the defence? Will Raul be as quiet again? However, I feel Rafa’s resolve will win through. Any joy he had at victory on his home turf will surely mean nothing if we don’t finish the job tonight and I take him to ensure that we do so to the tune of 2-1.
Enjoy the game.
Feb 2009 Real Madrid 0 Liverpool 1