Tonight’s a big night for the English teams in Europe. Chelsea may have beaten Maribor convincingly last night, but I doubt Liverpool or Arsenal will have it so easy.
Brendan Rodgers’ men face off against possibly the greatest club side in Europe at the moment in the form of Real Madrid. Madrid have been impressive home and away this season and I’m really struggling to see anything other than a Madrid victory at Anfield tonight.
If Liverpool are to get anything from tonight’s match, they need to be solid at the back. Madrid’s fire-power would strike fear into the heart of any defence so Liverpool will need to be a lot sharper than they were last weekend against QPR.
The key battle for the game tonight revolves around whichever Reds defender has the misfortune of marking Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is Real’s main threat for obvious reasons.
Liverpool’s first and hardest job of the night will be to ensure the Portuguese goal-scorer is kept under tabs. It won’t be easy but it will be a start. After that, Liverpool still have to worry about keeping Rodriguez and Chicharito quiet. No one said it would be easy.
Trying to find a weakness in the Madrid side has baffled managers this season. The only real weak point I can see in the Madrid team at the moment is at the back. In previous games Madrid have looked shaky dealing with crosses into the box.
With the likes of Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling at the Reds’ disposal, Liverpool have the potential to hit Real where it hurts. Whether they do or not is another matter. Every Liverpool player will need to give complete commitment to the cause tonight, including Mario Balotelli.
Question marks remain concerning which Balotelli will show up for tonight’s match. The young Italian has failed to live up to his ability at Liverpool so far this season and if there was ever a time to step up, tonight’s the night.
The QPR game at the weekend exhibited the very worst about the Italian’s game. He strolled around the pitch, failed to make his mark and generally looked disinterested throughout. An attitude adjustment is in order. It’s up to the player and not the manager.
Things will be tough for Liverpool tonight, but with a packed Anfield behind them, they may nick something from the game. Anfield is made for European nights. Who knows what can happen?
Whilst Liverpool are undoubtedly underdogs for tonight’s match, Arsenal will travel to Belgium as heavy favourites for their group stage match against R.S.C. Anderlecht, despite their poor performance at the weekend.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home against Hull City wasn’t the most convincing of Arsenal performances to put it nicely. Arsene Wenger’s men have been failing to fire on all cylinders this season and the Hull game was further evidence of this.
Coupled with their inability to play at their best, they have been suspect at the back in a number of games. In the aftermath of the Hull draw, Gunners’ Boss Arsene Wenger admitted his own side have conceded goals too easily this season, something I can’t disagree with.
Matters haven’t been helped for Arsene by Arsenal’s continued injury crisis. The Gunners travel into the match tonight missing several key players and even have third choice keeper Emiliano Martinez lining out between the sticks.
Yet despite Arsenal’s injury woes, I still expect the Gunners to leave Anderlecht with all three points. The return of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta should mean the Londoners have enough to put the Belgians to the sword.
No doubt we’re in for another excellent European night.
Paul Devlin, Pundit Arena