By Alex Al-Kazzaz
Next week, the second leg between Real Madrid and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 will take place. Real Madrid took the win in the first leg on the road at Anfield in Liverpool, gaining a 5-2 aggregate lead. And now, Los Blancos are looking to eliminated the Reds at the Bernabeu and advance to the tournament's final eight.
There's quite a history between Real Madrid and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. From the 1981 final where Liverpool triumphed to the 2018 and 2022 final where Real Madrid took their 13th and 14th titles respectively. Real Madrid is determined to finish writing the latest chapter in their rivalry with the Reds. On the other hand, Liverpool is looking to pull one of the biggest upsets and comebacks in Champions League history.
Liverpool is coming off a humiliating 1-0 loss on the road to A.F.C. Bournemouth. It's unfortunate for the Reds to go from a brilliant 7-0 win at home against Manchester United to a loss to a team that was in the English Premier League's relegation zone! Unfortunately, what really throws salt into Liverpool's deep and painful wound is that club talisman Mohamed Salah's terrible penalty miss that would have tied the game. The way the penalty went is arguably Salah's worst penalty take in his career.
Real Madrid has been very unfortunate since their 5-2 win against Liverpool in the first leg. A 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid, a 1-0 loss to Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, along with a scoreless draw against Real Betis. Los Blancos did pick up a much-needed 3-1 win at home against Espanyol yesterday. The club is hoping that talisman Karim Benzema will tbe fit for the second meeting against Liverpool.
It's clear that anything can happen in the second leg between Los Blancos and the Reds. Madrid's questionable defensive and midfield abilities are well-documented. In addition, if Benzema is not available or not in top form, Madrid's attack will be negatively affected. Vinicius Junior is perfectly capable of leading his club but with Benzema, the threat duplicates. Furthermore, if the midfield is at full strength, Madrid's offensive attack strengthens further.
Liverpool's front-three attack is capable of inflicting damage. The trio consisting of Salah, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez is exciting and legitimate. However, in the first leg, the trio's threat did not pull through despite Salah and Nunez initially giving Liverpool an early 2-0 lead, which soon disappeared. Therefore, it's obvious that Liverpool's defense is going to have to hold off Madrid while the offensive trio manages to score goals.
At this point, if Real Madrid is the one that can score and keep scoring, Liverpool's chances will quickly go up in smoke. Los Blancos are adamant in not allowing Liverpool to inflict damage on their home turf. In addition, Real Madrid wants to prove that they're capable of defending their title and winning it again for the 15th time.