Real Madrid v Liverpool
Tuesday April 6, 20:00
Madrid warm up with a win
Real Madrid secured a strong and dominant 2-0 home victory over Eibar in La Liga at Valdebebas on Saturday afternoon. Marco Asensio opened the scoring for the hosts with Karim Benzema securing the result in the second half, putting further pressure on rival pair Barcelona and league leaders Atletico Madrid as we enter the final furlong of the campaign.
Zinedine Zidane altered his system - perhaps with Tuesday night's match in-mind - by selecting a back-three featuring Ferland Mendy alongside Nacho and Eder Militao with Marcelo and Lucas Vasquez operating as wing-backs. Both Toni Kroos and and Raphael Varane were rested with in-form Benzema flanked by Isco and Marco Asensio.
Madrid will be missing inspirational skipper Sergio Ramos at centre-half for both legs after the Spanish international was injured on international duty. Nevertheless, Zidane remains confident in his charges ahead of the first leg, saying: "We know where we come from, we've suffered a lot this season and now it's time to enjoy. We're in a good moment."
Liverpool excel at The Emirates
Liverpool thrust themselves firmly back into the battle for a place in the Premier League's top four as they outclassed Arsenal 3-0 at The Emirates on Saturday. Jurgen Klopp's men - making their first appearance for three weeks - produced a stylish display that brought the Reds back to within touching distance of a Champions League qualification berth.
The only surprise was that it took dominant Liverpool so long to make their superiority count. The Merseysiders finally managed to make the breakthrough they deserved after 64 minutes when Diogo Jota headed Trent Alexander-Arnold's brilliant delivery home, before Mohamed Salah doubled the advantage and Jota completed the rout late on.
Speaking post-match, Klopp said Liverpool "It was a very important statement" when asked about the Reds getting back in the running for a Champions League place. He added, "As a package it was a good performance. We finished our situations off. Arsenal were not really in the game for the whole 95 minutes. That was down to us."
Tuesday night's tussle is a repeat of the memorable 2018 Champions League final and the first competitive meeting between Real Madrid and Liverpool since the Spaniards won that showpiece event 3-1. Victory on that occasion means Los Blancos have beaten the Reds in each of the last three meetings in Champions League action.
Madrid 2.789/5 have won the first leg of eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, losing the other at home to Man City last season. The La Liga side were overawed by the pace and precision by the Premier League outfit that night and come here without Sergio Ramos; Los Blancos have lost seven of their last 10 UCL games without their skipper.
Liverpool 2.727/4 appeared rested, refreshed and will be hugely satisfied following their one-sided success at Arsenal on Saturday. Fabinho gave a masterclass in the midfield anchor role, demonstrating what the side missed when he was deputising in central defence. The new-found confidence makes the Reds a major danger heading to the Spanish capital.
Real Madrid are no longer the swashbuckling side with a wealth of free-flowing attacking superstars that waltzed their way to Champions League glory. Zinedine Zidane's team have evolved to a more attritional style as key players have departed and current squad members have aged. And that has to be a concern for the hosts coming into this clash.
Stylistically, Los Blancos don't have the capacity to match Liverpool's press and probe approach and therefore we're unlikely to see this first leg fixture burst into a basketball-style shootout. It's therefore unsurprising to see Under 2.5 Goals trading around the 2.0621/20 mark, although there's arguably a better-priced alternative option to take.
Supporting Liverpool in the Double Chance market, combined with Under 3.5 Goals, pays an appealing 1.9620/21 on the Same Game Multi at Valdebebas, and that's my preferred play. La Liga sides have struggled with the pace and precision on the Champions League stage over the past 18 months and this particular match-up doesn't suit Madrid on paper.