Alvaro Arbeloa ready for “special” Anfield return in Liverpool-Real Madrid Champions League clash

Defender Alvaro Arbeloa watched from the bench as Real Madrid were crowned European champions for a 10th time in May but admits his toughest moment in the competition came as a Liverpool player.

MADRID, SPAIN - Sunday, March 28, 2010: Real Madrid Club de Futbol's Alvaro Arbeloa celebrates scoring a goal against Club Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga Primera Division Madrid Derby match at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. (Pic by Hoch Zwei/Sprimont Press/Propaganda)

The full-back returns to Anfield this week five years after he left to return to his native Spain and admits the place has fond memories for him.

However, the crushing disappointment of losing the 2007 Champions League final to AC Milan, when he came on as a late substitute, remains his lowest point.

"Suffering injuries is hard but one of the most difficult moments for me was the defeat in the final in Athens with Liverpool," said the 31-year-old, who was allowed to move to the Bernabeu for just B£3.5million in 2009 despite becoming Real's first-choice right-back for a number of subsequent seasons.

"I've lost in the semi-finals four times but I always thought about the missed opportunity in Athens.

"Going back to Liverpool after five years will be very special. I spent two wonderful years there and I got used to a new culture.

"I grew a lot, both as a player and as a person. It will be great but not just for me: I have told my team-mates to enjoy the match at Anfield as much as possible.

"Champions League nights and big games like this one at Anfield are very special.

"We're going to be up against a team that will come out to fight to the last and will give everything, because they need to win too."

Barcelona, Spain - Wednesday, February 21, 2007: Liverpool's Alvaro Arbeloa and FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round 1st Leg match at the Nou Camp. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Arbeloa's Liverpool debut came in the famous 2-1 Champions League win against Barcelona in the Nou Camp in 2007, when he was played out of position at left-back to negate Lionel Messi.

"It was my first game in the starting line-up and my debut in the Champions League," he told

"What more can you ask, having come up through the ranks of the Real Madrid youth system, than to make your debut at the Camp Nou and win there?

"It was a magic, special night, playing for a great club and wearing the shirt of the European champions. We played a fantastic match."

Real go into Wednesday's game top of Group B, after winning their first two matches, with the pressure on their hosts after a disappointing defeat in Basel last time out.

Real are likely to be without Gareth Bale because of a buttock muscle injury.

A statement on the club's website read: "After tests carried out on Gareth Bale by the Real Madrid Sanitas medical services he has been diagnosed with a muscular injury in the right pyramidalis muscle. His progress will be monitored."

However, his absence will not lesson Real's attacking potency with the free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo set to take centre stage.

"There's no doubt that Cristiano is the best player in the world at the moment," said Arbeloa.

"He is a great professional and a player who improves every day. No-one can imagine what he does.

"Training and playing with him helps you to grow and improve. For us, it's a privilege to have Cristiano with us."

How big a game is Liverpool v Real Madrid on Wednesday night? Let us know your pre-match thoughts and predictions in the comments section below.