How Liverpool Are Expected To Line Up Against Real Madrid

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Two giants of European Football meet on Wednesday night at Anfield for their third game in Group B of the Champions League. Ben Twelves discusses how Brendan Rodgers should shape his team for the clash.

European Football - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad

 

Liverpool return to Champions League action on Wednesday night when they host the current European champions in as big a clash as they come at Anfield, in a game that the Reds will be looking to get their European adventure back on track.

Brendan Rodgers’ side slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Swiss champions Basel almost three weeks ago, tightening the group and denting the their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage in the process.

Two wins from two league games so far this month for Rodgers’ men has improved Liverpool’s Premier League position and the Reds will be looking to carry the positive results, but not performances, onto the European stage starting against Carlo Ancelotti’s fantasy football-like team on Wednesday.

The glamorous encounter will be the second match in just four days for Rodgers and his team, and the Liverpool boss is going to have to use the full depth of his squad over what will be a testing period for Liverpool who play six games in just 18 days in a hectic schedule of games – finishing with Chelsea arriving at Anfield.

 

The Team

Liverpool welcomed back Joe Allen and Emre Can to the match day fold in Sunday’s abysmal display against QPR, but Rodgers is still without top striker Daniel Sturridge, who it was revealed late on Friday night is frustratingly out for a further month after picking up a calf muscle injury in training.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 16, 2014: Liverpool's Mario Balotelli scores the first goal against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The England striker’s presence is sorely missed in the starting XI, with Mario Balotelli desperately struggling to replicate anything like his promising performance when played alongside Sturridge in a two man partnership.

Mamadou Sakho is still unavailable for selection and with Kolo Toure being a last resort, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel should continue their ‘work in progress’ partnership against one of the most frightening strike forces in world football on Wednesday.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 31, 2014: Liverpool's Alberto Moreno celebrates scoring the third goal against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alberto Moreno is set to be welcomed back into the squad and he along with fellow Spaniard, Javier Manquillo, should both come straight back into the starting XI for the clash in place of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique who filled their shirts at Loftus Road.

Allen and Philippe Coutinho – who both helped rescue the Reds as second half substitutes on Sunday – will be hopeful of playing from the beginning this time and they should both be involved from the start, in place of Adam Lallana and Emre Can, who looked off the pace against QPR on Sunday in his first game back from injury.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 21, 2014: Liverpool's Mario Balotelli during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group B match against Real Madrid at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mario Balotelli’s continued poor has led to frustration within the fan base with calls for the Italian to be dropped to the bench in place of a pacey, hungry and direct approach against Madrid, but it seems more likely that he may receive the partner in attack that he claims he needs to be able to perform.

 

The Line Up

Rodgers must move away from the rigid 4-2-3-1 formation for the match to avoid a complete demolition job from the away side and that leaves the Liverpool boss with two genuine options the first of which is a return to the diamond shaped midfield set up.

The back four will see Moreno returning on the left, Rodgers will have to decide whether to bring Manquillo back in or stick with Glen Johnson for his experience.

In the midfield, Steven Gerrard in the deeper position should be partnered by Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen with Philippe Coutinho at the tip, allowing Raheem Sterling to partner Mario Balotelli up front, giving the Italian the strike partner he says he needs.

Those changes to system and personnel would see Liverpool line up like this against the European champions:

madrid diamond

The other alternative for Rodgers is to play a highly energetic and aggressive 4-3-3 system as pointed out by Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football.

This would allow Liverpool to play with a mobile pressing midfield and attack and thus dropping the underperforming Balotelli to the bench – utilising Sterling as a ‘false 9’ and central attacking figure.

If Rodgers chooses to shape his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, this is how the starting XI should look:

madrid 4-3-3

With the reverse fixture to come before crunch clashes against Basel and Ludogorets, a result on Wednesday night would be a massive boost to Liverpool’s qualification hopes.

It proposes to be a monumental challenge for Brendan Rodgers’ struggling Liverpool and the Reds will have to improve immeasurably if they want to pick up anything other than a crushing defeat against arguably the best team in world football currently.

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