Absolutely huge classical match in the Champions League, two Spanish managers face-to-face. Ironically it is likely that Liverpool, the English side, will field more Spanish players than Real Madrid in the starting line-up.
Liverpool: Second in the Premier League with 51 pts from 25 (W: 15 D: 9 L: 1) (GF: 42 GA: 17)
Real Madrid: Second in the La Liga with 50 pts from 23 (W: 16 D: 2 L: 5) (GF: 49 GA: 27)
Both teams only have two titles to challenge for: their national leagues and the Champions League.
Juande Ramos; replaced sacked coach Schuster on 8th December 2008. Has managed Los Blancos for 10 games (W: 9 L: 1) guiding Madrid to 8 consecutive wins in the La Liga.
Ramos is not worried about his short term (six-month) contract. He considers his mission in Real Madrid to get them out of their results and form crisis they suffered this season under Schuster.
Under the German, Madrid suffered two humiliating loses against Juventus. They were also eliminated from The Copa Del Rey by humble Real Union. Not to mention the increasing unpopularity in the dressing room and the injury crisis.
Benitez’s team this season is a main contender for a first League title since 1991. They have secured great results like beating Man United and Chelsea (twice) but were held by teams like Stoke City, Hull, West Ham, and Fulham.
Real Madrid SWOT analysis
- Juande Ramos is master of cup competitions, with Sevilla he won five trophies in 15 months (2 Uefa Cup, 1 European Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup, and 1 Copa Del Rey).
- Great full-backs
- Devastating winger (Robben)
- Hunger for Champions League success
- Guti sophisticated, and intelligent passes are back
- Lack of wide players (except Robben)
- Key players are under the bar in terms of form (Van der Vaart, Sneijder)
- Three key players are out for the rest of season due injuries (Nistlerooy, Diarra, and De la Red) plus Huntelaar is ineligible for the Champions League.
- Liverpool main man Gerrard is back from injury but may be unfit for the first clash
- Lack of attacking options for Rafa Benitez after R.Keane departure to Tottenham so at his disposal: Torres, Kuyt, Babel and N’Gog only.
- Positive atmosphere in the Bernabeu after good results.
- Golden boy Raul is in-form and freshly after having a break, Di Stefano all-time top scorer for the White Club.
- The Champions League is their only realistic opportunity to win a trophy this season.
- Rafa Benitez is a tactical genius and has the know-how and knowledge to handle cup matches.
- The Bernabeu supporters could at any time easily turn against their team, many players suffers from Bernabeu anxiety (Drenthe, Marcelo)
- The injury prone Robben, it will big setback if the Dutch man gets injured.
- The presidency elections chaos and under fire Mijatovic keep the in-stability around in Real Madrid.
Liverpool SWOT analysis
- Wonderful Champions League record with Benitez (one Champions League, 2 finals, and 1 semi-final) in the last 4 Champions League campaigns.
- Solid defense with great counter attacking abilities
- Great understanding between Gerrard and Torres
- Benitez maybe is the best manager for cup ties (beat Ancelotti, Mourinho ….etc)
- Their full-back are way behind the other big four full-backs (Chelsea and Man United have better options)
- Liverpool do not have a world class option for the right wing, although Riera has been a key player on the left this season.
- Benitez is ofter considered too conservative, trying to hold on to a 1-0 lead rather than going for the kill, a tactic which has led to a few last minute 1-1 draws this season.
- Voronin loaned to Hertha Berlin, and R.Keane sold back to Tottenham. Torres most of this season sidelined through injuries.
- This Real Madrid team “the weakest Madrid sides we have seen in a very long time” according to Guillem Balague
- The Anfield crowd, especially the famous Kop, acts as a 12th player for Liverpool, a tremendous football ground to go back to for the second leg.
- Real Madrid are weak when they don’t have ball possession.
- The second leg is in Liverpool.
- Real Madrid have skillful players and attacking flair.
- Rafa Benitez Contract renewal dilemma.
- Internal problems between owners.
Real Madrid have proven that they are not dependent on Robben as they trashed Sporting Gijon away (4-0), but Liverpool are not Sporting and Gijon are considered one of the worst defenses in the La Liga.
Juande Ramos now facing his second challenge to end Real Madrid's last 16 jinx in the Champions League. He already passed his first challenge which was to build a real football team, unite the players, and teach them their roles within the team.
Lassanna Diarra and Gago are essential, especially when we are talking tactically they must face Alonso-Mascherano, that will be interesting to watch. Robben, Higuain, and Raul are the crucial attacking force for Madrid, positively, all of them are now in-form.
I think Rafa Benitez's priority is the English Premier League. This is his fifth season with Liverpool and not winning the league title is a black point to the Rafalution.
Many predict the game will be very tight and defensive, although the tactical battle will be interesting to watch.
Liverpool have a small advantage over Real Madrid, as the second leg will be at Anfield.
Raul: He is the top Champions League scorer, his experience will be vital and his clever positioning will give the Liverpool defenders hard time.
Robben: The man who must exploit Liverpool weaknesses on the flanks, he will also be the main weapon to open the tight defense by Liverpool at the Bernabeu.
Casillas: His record against Torres is so impressive, only one goal conceeded.
Gago & Diarra: They are the shield for Real Madrid Defense, big battle versus Alonso & Mascherano
Gerrard: His long range shots and forward runs, linking up with Torres should be the main threat for Madrid defense.
Torres: The new golden boy for Spain against the old boy Raul, marvelous test for both players from different generations
Jamie Carragher: The leader of Liverpool backline, and maybe for Liverpool if Gerrard isn’t fit for the match. Raul and Higuain should keep Carra busy Wednesday night.
Kuyt: Benitez's all-round player, winger or striker he does his best and top hard worker, a player type admired by any manager.