With barely four days to the final of the Uefa Champions League between Liverpool and Real Madrid, not many football fans fancy the Reds walking away with the title. And quite rightly too, owing to performances over the past decade and caliber of players each team has on its payroll.
However, Liverpool have shown, more than ones, in this season’s Champions League that they’ve got quality and confidence and they can attack any team, no matter their pedigree.
But the question remains whether or not their obvious quality in front of goal is enough to see off a Real Madrid side that is equally, if not more proficient in front of goal. Above that, they are vastly experienced at this stage of the competition.
Like we’ve seen from Liverpool throughout this season, the Reds’ front trio and midfield work aggressively to get the ball back before the opponent can arrange an attack. Their successes this season has been built on this style of play.
With this strategy, we’ve seen quality teams, including Manchester City struggle against Liverpool. However, teams like Chelsea and Manchester United who more or less invite pressing so that they can counterattack have flourished against Liverpool.
The problem with this style of pressing is that it stretches the team, leaving a gap behind the forward/midfield line and the back line that opponents can and do take advantage of. If Madrid has an ‘on’ day, then Liverpool’s pressing will work in Madrid’s favour.
Like Chelsea and Man United, Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid is a team that absorbs pressing well. So much so that they lure rival teams into pressing them at the back just to break out on the counter.
Madrid is not a creative team, they rely on crosses and counters when playing, even when they have most of the ball. This is a Zidane thing.
With Kroos and Modric, they find it easy to get the ball far out, stretching the opposition defence. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Karim Benzema and Marcelo and Dani Carvajal, they have very fast paced and direct players suited to the counter attack. The last thing in Liverpool’s mind should be to fall into Madrid’s trap.
Most goals scored against Madrid come from counters particularly from the left side where Marcelo plays, and not from creative play. Liverpool should press in their own half or near the half line to get Madrid off guard and break from there otherwise it’s too risky.