After a stirring campaign last time round, Liverpool have begun this season in disappointing form and must use the Champions League to instil some positivity, according to Oli Coates.
Liverpool have looked a shadow of themselves so far this season. A barmy end to their Premier League encounter with QPR at least secured three points, but a gigantic fixture with Real Madrid in the Champions League this evening represents an opportunity to kick start the season.
Real may be thinking that now is a much better time to be facing Liverpool than had they come up against them last season, and this would certainly seem the case at the moment. Coping with the loss of one of the world’s top players in Luis Suarez was never going to be easy, and has been compounded by the absence of Daniel Sturridge.
Already with three defeats in their opening eight league games, including a chastening loss at home against Aston Villa, Liverpool also failed to beat Everton in the Merseyside derby on their own turf. There will be little chance of the Afield faithful turning on their team, but the supporters will be expecting better after coming so close last season.
They will be encouraged by the fact that Real never beaten Liverpool in a competitive fixture. Considering the array of talent that pervades the reigning European champions’ squad, should this statistic prevail after the upcoming back-to-back ties, it would inspire confidence on the red half of Merseyside.
In fact, the Spanish outfit have never even scored against them, going down 1-0 in the European Cup final of 1981 at the Parc des Princes, and receiving a 5-0 aggregate humbling in 2009. Cristiano Ronaldo was brought in that summer with part of his expectation to improve Real’s European fortunes.
Instrumental in last year’s success, their star player is in scintillating form once again this time round, yet Ronaldo never scored at Anfield in five appearances when playing for Manchester United. The forward will no doubt be desperate to put this particular statistic to bed, but there will also be another striker on the pitch tonight that is in urgent need of silencing a growing number of doubters.
It would not be unfair to suggest that Mario Balotelli’s form has been the exact opposite of Ronaldo’s so far this term, with his embarrassing miss at QPR emblematic of his time in the famous red shirt to date. The Italian was signed as a replacement for Suarez, but has looked every inch a man worth some £60m less than the departed Uruguayan.
Surely Balotelli’s pride will be screaming for him to put in a performance to lift some of the Anfield anxiety, and point this season in the direction of what was nearly a fairy-tale ending last time round.
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