The Real Madrid midfielder on how growing up in Uruguay shaped him as a footballer and facing Liverpool in the return leg
“And they play in black and blue,” Fede Valverde says, “Everton blue.” The Real Madrid midfielder is laughing now. Last week was not, it turns out, the first time he had played against Liverpool; it wasn’t even the first time he had beaten them. That was five years ago: 30 March 2016, Uruguayan clausura, Peñarol v Liverpool Fútbol Club at the Estadio Campeón del Siglo. “There’s a difference, though. They’re not pronounced the same: Uruguay’s is Liverpúl,” he says, stressing the final syllable, before revealing the colours and the score: “One-nil, goal from Carlos Valdez.”
Valverde was 17; within four months, having played 13 games for Peñarol, he had signed for Madrid, heading to another world. A league champion in Spain, he watched on television as 6,166 miles away Liverpool, the name inspired by the ships docking in Montevideo, finished top of the 2020 clausura, the first title in their 106-year history. “They played very well, deserved it. They’re a good club who bring through youth. Their ground’s very nice, the grass is good.”
I had to decide whether to continue studying or play football, as I missed a lot of school. To make it, I had to leaveContinue reading...
Jürgen Klopp has said Liverpool must deliver the perfect performance and not rely on their reputation for rousing Anfield comebacks to overcome Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final.
Liverpool require another European recovery to salvage hopes of a third Champions League final in four seasons after last week’s 3-1 defeat in Spain. The second leg takes place on the fifth anniversary of Liverpool’s Europa League quarter-final comeback against Borussia Dortmund, when Dejan Lovren’s stoppage-time header sealed a 5-4 aggregate win after the Reds trailed 4-2 overall in the 66th minute.Continue reading...
Rodgers prizes discipline over principle, Martinelli cheers up Arsenal while Guardiola’s reserves let him down
Manchester United are highly familiar with a José Mourinho team riding their luck against them. A key moment in his rise to prominence was Porto’s 2004 triumph at Old Trafford, where Paul Scholes had a goal chalked off for offside. The simmering rage on Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s face when Edinson Cavani’s “opener” was wiped away by VAR echoed Sir Alex Ferguson 17 years ago, and nine years after that when the disputed dismissal of Nani handed Mourinho’s Real Madrid a passage into the Champions League quarter-finals. A United team containing many of Mourinho’s former players will have been familiar with Tottenham’s botched blueprint to stay in touch with the top four. Keeping shape in defence and midfield was the bedrock for the brilliance with which Lucas Moura set up Son Heung-min to score. But unlike those Porto and Madrid teams, this Spurs team does not have the same resilience or quality to exploit good fortune. John BrewinContinue reading...
Fear has become the manager’s defining principle and at Anfield a typically defensive substitution was the unravelling
Nine days before Christmas was not really so very long ago, yet it feels like a different world. Manchester City had just been held to a draw at home by West Brom that left them eighth in the Premier League table. Southampton were third. And Tottenham went to the league leaders, Liverpool, knowing that a win would put them top. In the confusing period between the second and third lockdowns, it seemed possible that this slog of a season might just provide an environment in which José Mourinho’s attritional style could thrive.
Yet Spurs host Manchester United on Sunday afternoon having begun the weekend in sixth place and 25 points behind the leaders, City. They have lost eight of their last 18 league games and been bundled out of the FA Cup and the Europa League. Last Sunday, they were outplayed by Newcastle and escaped with a 2-2 draw.
Perhaps it’s come a year earlier than in the Mourinho template, but it’s different players, same coach, same outcomeContinue reading...
The forward was wayward in his finishing at times in the win over Aston Villa but his equaliser underlines his importance
With 13 minutes played at Anfield, Mohamed Salah was presented with a chance to score for Liverpool after a glaring error by Tyrone Mings but, with only Emiliano Martínez to beat, he poked his shot wide.
With 51 minutes played at Anfield, Mohamed Salah was presented with a chance to score for Liverpool following a pass by Georginio Wijnaldum but, despite having a reasonable amount of time and space inside the area, he dragged his shot and, via a deflection, saw it dribble out for a corner.Continue reading...
Liverpool required redemption at Anfield and there was no better person to deliver it than Trent Alexander-Arnold. A trying week for the England international, indeed a trying year on home soil for the Premier League champions, ended with the release of an emphatic 91st-minute winner against Aston Villa that maintained Liverpool’s momentum for a top-four finish. A long and damaging wait is over.
At the eighth time of asking, and after an unprecedented run of six successive defeats, Jürgen Klopp’s team could finally celebrate victory at Anfield in 2021 and one tinged with the satisfaction of avenging October’s 7-2 humiliation at Villa Park. Celebrate it they did. Klopp roared with a mix of joy and relief when Alexander-Arnold swept a stunning shot beyond Emiliano Martínez in stoppage time. His backroom staff sprung from the bench in all directions while the defender, widely criticised after an error-strewn display against Real Madrid on Tuesday, stood in front of an empty Kop pointing to the Liver bird on his chest. Three invaluable points won and one important point made to the watching Gareth Southgate.Continue reading...
The latest scores in our featured games
“So, mathematically, Liverpool can’t overtake Man City?” says David Hayhurst. “To quote Jez from Peep Show, Rob, do you have to live so relentlessly in the real world?”
Haha. That’s ripe for a rewatch, the early series certainly.
An early blow for the League Two leaders Cambridge, who have gone behind to a goal from the prolific Ryan Bowman. It was a precise header, steered off the inside of the post from a flat cross into the area.
Alexander Sorloth has headed Leipzig into a two-goal lead! As things stand they are five points behind Bayern with 10 games to play.
“Afternoon Rob,” writes Simon McMahon. “It’s the first set of post-split fixtures in the Scottish Premier today, the pick of them being Dundee United’s trip to Hamilton, which could have a bearing at both ends of the bottom six. Micky Mellon’s Tangerines could go seventh with a win, while three points for Hamilton would move them off bottom spot, as Kilmarnock and Ross County above them meet each other.
“Other games include Celtic v Livingston, Motherwell v St. Mirren and St. Johnstone v Aberdeen. A mention too for the Classified Check derby in Scottish League One between Forfar and East Fife. Nine-goal thriller, anyone?”
If Bayern do drop points - and it’s not beyond the realms with the team they’ve picked - Leipzig could close the gap to five or five points. They have taken the lead in Bremen through a brilliant team goal, finished by Dani Olmo.
Bayern Munich 0-0 Union Berlin Marius Bulter has just missed an excellent chance for Union, heading straight at Manuel Neuer from eight yards.
“Now Leeds have blown the title race Wide Open, Liverpool can start their late-season charge,” says Matt Dony. “Number 20 is on, Rob! It’s going to happen! To borrow a phrase, It’s coming home!”
I hate to puncture this euphoria with hardcore mathematics, but if Liverpool win all their remaining games they will finish on 73 points. City are currently on 74. I suppose they could be deducted a couple for an impromptu brawl, like Arsenal in 1990-91.
Bayern 0-0 Union Berlin A quiet start in Munich, where Bayern have picked a weakened side due to injuries and the proximity of their second leg against PSG.
Cambridge v Exeter team news
Plymouth v Hull team news
Peep peep! A glorious win for Leeds, who were down to ten men for more than half the game but stole the points when Stuart Dallas scored in injury-time.
A terrific win for Swansea. Andre Ayew scored a cracker just before half-time, then Jamal Lowe saw his goal and raised it with two jazzers in the second half. Swansea’s win means that Norwich cannot be mathematically promoted today.
Stuart Dallas has put ten-man Leeds in front with his second goal of the game!
Preston v Brentford team news
Preston (3-5-2) Iversen; Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; van den Berg, Ledson, Whiteman, Potts Barkhuizen; Riis, Evans.
Substitutes: Hudson, Huntington, Molumby, Browne, Bayliss, Sincair, Gordon, Bodin, Moult.
Swansea are having a day out in London. Jamal Lowe has scored another outstanding goal. He dragged his studs over the ball to take it away from Jake Cooper, turned in one smooth movement and leathered it into the roof of the net.
Derby v Norwich team news
Derby County (4-2-3-1) Marshall; McDonald, Wisdom, Mengi, Forsyth; Bird, Shinnie; Roberts, Lawrence, Jozwiak; Kazim-Richards.
Substitutes: Roos, Buchanan, Ebosele, Baningime, Knight, Watson, Shonibare, Sibley, Cresswell.
City have finally broken Leeds down. Bernardo Silva - who was seriously close to being offside, although the VAR check was cursory at best - set up Ferran Torres for a cool finish.
Swnsea are heading for victory in south London. Jamal Lowe has put them 2-0 up with a fine solo goa, running across the line of the Millwall defence and finishing emphatically.
Liverpool v Aston Villa team news
Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Milner, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Jota.
Substitutes: Adrian, Thiago, Keita, Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Davies, R Williams.
And promotion-chasing Swansea are still 1-0 up at Millwall with 25 minutes remaining. Andre Ayew scored a cracking in first half injury-time.
Andre Ayew gave Swansea the lead on the stroke of half-time with this wonderful strike.
Watch the second half live on Sky Sports pic.twitter.com/7zbyrKB4uH
Leeds’ 10 men are hanging on to their 1-0 lead at the Etihad. It all happened just before half-time: Stuart Dallas scored and Liam Cooper was given a straight red, after a VAR check, for a dangerous follow through on Gabriel Jesus.
Werder Bremen v RB Leipzig team news
Werder Bremen (3-4-1-2) Pavlenka; Toprak, Moisander, Friedl; Gebre Selassie, Mbom, Gross, Agu; Sargent; Dinkci, Selke.
Substitutes: Zetterer, Veljkovic, Mohwald, Rashica, Bittencourt, Schmid, Gruev, Erras, Osako.
Bayern Munich v Union Berlin team news
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Sarr, Martinez, Boateng, Stanisic; Kimmich, Dantas; Musiala, Muller, Coman; Choupo-Moting.
Substitutes: Nubel, Pavard, Sane, Nianzou, Alaba, Vita, Oberlin, Scott.
Good afternoon one, good afternoon all. This has been a season full of ludicrous results, but one game stands out: Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool on 4 October. And it looked even weirder then than it does now. This was before Virgil van Dijk’s injury, before Liverpool’s title challenge had turned into an unfathomable fiasco. Today, the teams meet again at Anfield, and it’s fair to assume Liverpool will be after one or all of the following clichés: revenge, redemption, closure.
But what they really, really need is three points. They are fighting for their Champions League life, both this season and next, and start this match in seventh place. They are five points ahead of Villa, having played a game more. At the same stage last season, there were 57 points between them.Continue reading...
With Manchester City and United on course for top-four finishes, we examine the six clubs battling for two places
Optimist’s view: Brendan Rodgers’s team have evolved since last season, when they lost key players in the run-in and failed to hold their nerve, slipping out of the top four on the final day. This season their squad is stronger – thanks to purchases such as Wesley Fofana and Timothy Castagne and progress made by the likes of Youri Tielemans, unsurprisingly, and Kelechi Iheanacho – and their resolve is greater, too, enabling them to stay towards the top despite continuous injuries. They underperformed against Manchester City last week but have generally done particularly well against the top teams this season, which is why they are unlikely to be spooked by a run-in that looks difficult on paper, starting with Sunday’s trip to West Ham and finishing with matches against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Leicester West Ham (a), West Brom (h), Crystal Palace (h), Southampton (a), Newcastle (h), Manchester United (a), Chelsea (a), Tottenham (h)Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp has denied the exertions of recent seasons have caught up with Sadio Mané but admits a lack of goals is preying on the Liverpool forward’s mind.Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp said October’s 7-2 defeat at Villa Park will be on his mind as Liverpool look to end a damaging sequence of six successive losses at Anfield. “We have to put things right,” he said of Liverpool’s heaviest league defeat since 1963. Victory, which would be Liverpool’s 100th in all competitions at Anfield under Klopp, would not only enhance prospects of a top-four finish but improve confidence before next week’s Champions League return against Real Madrid. Aston Villa, however, can move to within two points of the champions with an eighth away win of the campaign. Only Manchester City and Chelsea have kept more clean sheets this term than the visitors’ 14. Andy Hunter
Saturday 3pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
Tottenham and Everton both need a result while Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa may serve up another feast of football
When the dust settles on José Mourinho’s Tottenham tenure - and that could be one day soon - 4 October’s 6-1 win at Manchester United will probably be a high watermark. It happened on a day when the Premier League took on a demented quality. That Sunday also featured Liverpool’s 7-2 loss to Aston Villa. Six months on, Spurs announcing themselves as title contenders feels like a dim, surreal memory. United have since regrouped and victory in north London would further frank their passport into next season’s Champions League. Meanwhile, Spurs continue to scrap on the peripheries of the top four with their manager running his playbook of running battles with his own players. “Same coach, different players,” was his explanation at Newcastle for yet another concession of a late goal, also suggesting his team “create instability to ourselves”. Back in October at Old Trafford, he was “very happy with the squad that I have”. JB
Tottenham v Manchester United (Sunday, 4.30 pm, all times BST)
Manchester City v Leeds (Saturday, 12.30pm)
West Ham v Leicester (Sunday, 2.05pm)
Fulham v Wolves (Friday, 8pm)
Liverpool v Aston Villa (Saturday, 3pm)
Sheffield United v Arsenal (Sunday, 7pm)
Crystal Palace v Chelsea (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Burnley v Newcastle (Sunday, 12pm)
West Brom v Southampton (Monday, 6pm)
Brighton v Everton (Monday, 8.15pm)Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp’s side’s history of comebacks is one of the few things in their favour when Real Madrid return to Anfield
Eradicate the mistakes, pass the ball better and Liverpool will be unrecognisable against Real Madrid next Wednesday with or without the backing of a frenzied Anfield crowd. That, at least, was Jürgen Klopp’s hope during a post‑match press conference at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano that veered towards straw-clutching even before he mentioned Barcelona. Twice. Liverpool must transform themselves at Anfield to give substance to their manager’s flickering belief.
“With all the problems we had tonight,” the Liverpool manager said, “Real Madrid had to score at least one goal with us giving the goal away and the other goals were because of mistakes from us as well. If we don’t make these mistakes and if we play better football, both of which we can do, then it is a new game and we will see how the result will be then.”Continue reading...
Liverpool have called for “the strongest possible preventative measures” to be taken over racist abuse on social media after Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keïta were targeted. Both players received replies featuring monkey emojis to Instagram posts in the past few days.
“Once again we are sadly discussing abhorrent racial abuse the morning after a football game,” the club said. “It is utterly unacceptable and it has to stop. LFC condemns all forms of discrimination and we continue to work with our inclusion partners through our Red Together initiative to campaign against it.”Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp accused German referee Felix Brych of having a personal issue with Sadio Mané but admitted Liverpool had only themselves to blame for a damaging 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final.
Liverpool require another momentous second-leg comeback at Anfield next Wednesday after suffering a repeat of the 2018 Champions League final scoreline, and their 10th defeat of 2021, courtesy of two goals from Vinícius Júnior and one from Marco Asensio. The Spain international scored following a dreadful mistake by Trent Alexander-Arnold and seconds after Brych dismissed Liverpool’s appeals for a foul by Lucas Vázquez on Mané. An incensed Klopp made his feelings known to the match officials at half and full time, and claimed the referee was “unfair” on the Senegal international throughout the first leg.Continue reading...
Elegant German midfielder revelled in the space and time he was afforded by a Liverpool who are down but certainly not out
With 35 minutes gone at the Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano, Toni Kroos was yet to misplace a pass, or indeed, break into a jog. He looked fresh. He looked unhurried. At times he seemed to be carrying his own respectful green space around the pitch with him, ringed by discrete royal protection, like Edward VIII having a game of golf.
With 36 minutes gone Kroos finally missed his mark. Unfortunately for Liverpool his diagonal pass was met with a terrible defensive header by Trent Alexander-Arnold, and the ball nodded straight to Marco Asensio, who bundled it past Alisson to put Madrid 2-0 up on the night.Continue reading...
The electric Vinicius Junior scored twice as Real Madrid punished some nervous Liverpool defending to take control of their quarter-final
Sid Lowe’s match report has landed, so I’ll leave you with that. Thanks for your company and emails. Goodnight!
I won’t tell you the score in the City-Dortmund game, in case you plan to watch it on delay. But if you do want to read all about it, click this.
The score is a fair reflection of an imperfect yet very entertaining game. Real were more composed, more controlled, more secure, and in Vinicius Junior they had the most electric player on the pitch. And though Liverpool were better in the second half, they paid a big price for some jittery defending. They’ve had too many glory nights at Anfield for anyone to write them off, but Real are in a helluva position.
Peep peep! It finishes 3-1 to Madrid, just as it did in the 2018 final, but at least Liverpool get a second chance this time.
90+4 min Real break three on two, but Rodrygo’s pass is poor and Liverpool get away with it.
90+3 min Real haven’t crossed the halfway line for about five minutes.
90+2 min Salah makes a little bit of space in the D and hits a shot that is blocked by Eder Militao (I think).
90+1 min Four minutes of added time.
90 min “Liverpool have been poor today despite having Fabinho back in midfield,” says Yash Gupta. “But the bigger picture is when they face a team of passing midfielders (unlike Arsenal who were beyond pathetic even by their recent standards) their pressing goes awry and the main reason is their nonsense high line. Yes they may win the second leg but their high line looks far too dangerous for their own good.”
89 min Alexander-Arnold’s dangerous inswinging corner is bravely headed away by Eder Militao. He’d had an extremely good game.
88 min Wijnaldum’s long-range shot is blocked. It’s all Liverpool now, with even Benzema behind the ball some of the time.
87 min Felix Brych seems to be on a mission to remind the world that football is a contact sport. It’s been a fascinating refereeing performance. I suspect Liverpool fans will use a different adjective.
86 min A goal now for either side would mean so much. Mane goes over in the D after an excellent run. But for the umpteenth time tonight, Felix Brych isn’t interested.
84 min A change for Real: Rodrygo replaces the superb Vinicius Junior.
83 min Alexander-Arnold is booked for giving the assistant referee a mouthful.
81 min A double change for Liverpool: Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri replace Jota and Kabak. Fabinho has moved back into defence.
80 min Real have their first extended spell of possession in the second half, a good way to easte a couple of minutes. Eventually Valverde’s lobbed cross skims the head of the stretching Phillips, a vital touch that takes it away from Benzema.
77 min Lots of possession for Liverpool, who are desperate for a second goal. Thiago wafts over the bar from the edge of the D.
75 min Mind you, football has been so perverse this season that Liverpool will probably win the second leg 7-2.
74 min An injury-hit Liverpool came back from 3-0 down against Barcelona a couple of years ago, though that was with supporters at Anfield. Given their recent home form, they could do with at least one more goal tonight.
72 min Vinicius Junior will get the headlines, and quite right too, but Benzema’s movement and link play have been masterful. He is a quite brilliant allround No9.
71 min Vinicius Junior goes on another dangerous run infield before finding Benzema, whose low shot is comfortably saved to his left by Alisson. At the other end, Jota heads wide from Salah’s cross.
70 min A Real Madrid change: Fede Valverde replace Marco Asensio.
69 min I can’t keep up with this. The second half has been wildly entertaining.
68 min “Any news on why Keita was subbed so early by Klopp?” says Oliver Driesen. “An injury, surely?”
I’m not certain but I don’t think he was injured. The tactical change made perfect sense, but to do it after 42 minutes – rather than 45, or even 35 – is unusual.
66 min Dear me, it was almost 4-1 a moment ago. Vinicius Junior charged down the right and played an inviting ball into the area for Asensio, who tried to turn away from Alexander-Arnold and Alisson but slightly mistimed his touch.
It’s another soft goal I’m afraid. Modric moved infield from the right and played a square pass to Vinicius Junior, 15 yards out. He screwed a first-time shot that went through the legs of Phillips and then through the hands of Alisson, diving to his left. He probably saw it late, but having got hands on it Alisson will be pretty disappointed that he didn’t keep it out.
Real score from the throw-in!
64 min: Great defending by Alexander-Arnold! Real break two on one - two on one! - from the resulting corner. Asensio tries to put Vinicius Junior through on goal, but his pass is too close to Alexander-Arnold and he knocks it out for a throw-in. Alexander-Arnold’s positioning was perfect.
63 min: Great defending from Mendy! Liverpool were so close to an equaliser. Jota, in the inside-left channel, played a smooth one-two with Robertson and surged into the area. He decided not to shoot and instead flicked the ball across the six-yard line towards Mane, who was about to shoot when Mendy appeared on his blind side to clear. That was vital.
61 min Kroos thrashes over from 18 yards. That was a fair chance for his player of his quality, even on his left foot. The opportunity came after a mistake from Thiago, who tried to chest a cross down in his own area. Instead he gave it to Asensio, who rolled it back towards Kroos on the edge of the area.
59 min Salah’s cross is taken off Mane’s head by Vazquez, a vital interception. The ball runs across the area to Robertson, whose cutback is blocked. There’s a desperation to Liverpool’s attacking play, which is making for great entertainment.
58 min Benzema slithers infield from the left, away from a couple of defenders, and rifles a shot that is well blocked by Phillips. This is really open now.
56 min Liverpool have been so much sharper since half-time. Thiago is a bit too lively: he gets a yellow card for a foul on Asensio.
53 min A booming cross from Alexander-Arnold is headed wide by the stretching Jota beyond the far post. It was a half chance at best but a spectacular ball in from Alexander-Arnold.
GOAL GIVEN! Yep, Salah was onside and Liverpool are back in it.
Wijnaldum charged through midfield and found Jota just outside the area. He ran at the heart of the defence and hit a shot that was blocked by Modric. The ball ricocheted towards Salah, who got it out of his feet and forced it past Courtois from close range. Courtois got a touch on the shot, which bounced up onto the underside of the bar and into the net. They are still checking for offside but I think he’s okay.
Mo Salah gets a precious away goal!
49 min Real are sitting a lot deeper, happy for Liverpool to have the ball. Lucas Vazquez is booked for a lunge at Jota.
47 min “Rationally, I’m telling myself that there is an awful long way to go in this tie (along with other assorted tired clichés),” says Matt Dony. “Plenty of time to take stock, change the dynamic, turn it around. Nothing to worry about yet. As ever, though, the irrational part of me is much, much louder. Football is awful. I hate everything. Happiness is a myth. I’ll probably die alone.”
46 min Peep peep! Liverpool begin the second half. On BT Sport, Michael Owen makes the excellent point that Anfield won’t be as big a factor as usual in the absence of fans. They really need a goal tonight.
Books etc “For Colin Eldridge,” says Steve Tayler. “He could travel the Whitbread Sports Books of the Year. One that didn’t win was The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, about an Italian team on an amazing season. One of those books about sport that is about life, like Friday Night Lights, or Beyond a Boundary. What do they know of football who only football know?”
Apparently there were 27 seconds between the challenge on Mane - which looks a foul when you see it again - and Asensio’s second goal.
Peep peep! That was a slow-burning horror movie for Liverpool. They were impotent in attack and, after a solid start, a bag of nerves in defence. Real Madrid were good without being exceptional, and unpicked Liverpool with a series of long passes from Toni Kroos. His quarterbackery led to both goals, scored by Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, and it would have been worse but for a very good save by Alisson just before the break.
Liverpool aren’t out of it - never give up and all that - but they need to play so much better for the rest of this tie.
45 min One minute of added time.
43 min Asensio misses a great chance to make it 3-0. Kabak’s backpass was woefully short, putting Asensio through on goal on the right edge of the area. He slid a low shot with his right foot that was crucially saved with his legs by Alisson.
42 min Blimey, Jurgen Klopp has made a very early substitution: Thiago Alcantara is on for Naby Keita. It makes sense, because Liverpool’s passing has been hopeless, but the the timing is interesting to say the least.
41 min Real have had eight attempts at goal to Liverpool’s none. I’m slightly shocked by the poverty of this performance.
40 min Real Madrid have really targetted Alexander-Arnold, a tactic that has worked perfectly so far. Vinicius Junior got between him and Phillips for the first goal, and the second came from a bad mistake.
39 min Mane is booked for dissent, presumably over the free-kick that never was.
38 min Wijnaldum and Klopp are very unhappy that a foul wasn’t given at the other end just before the goal. I’m not sure it was a foul, in truth. Even if it was, that second goal was so avoidable.
That was a terrible goal to give away. Kroos, near the halfway line, lofted a pass down the inside-left channel towards Vinicius Junior. Alexander-Arnold read it well but then headed the ball across the face of the penalty area, straight to Asensio. His insouciant lob was half stopped by Alisson, but the ball bounced kindly and Asensio was able to run the ball into the net with appreciable glee.
Marco Asensio makes it two after a howler from Trent Alexander-Arnold!
36 min Mane goes over on the edge of the area after a collision with the last man Lucas Vazquez. The referee Felix Brych waves him up.
34 min Liverpool have been so disappointing. Any team can play badly, it happens, but it’s hard to explain the sluggishness of Liverpool’s performance.
33 min The resulting corner is headed away to the edge of the area, where the unmarked Asensio sprays a half-volley into orbit. It was on his right foot, hence the orbit bit.
32 min While that’s being checked, Vinicius Junior’s shot from the edge of the area takes a slight deflection off Phillips and whistles past the far post. It looks like Kabak has got away with that tackle on Benzema; I think he’s a bit lucky. Or, to put it another way, I think that would have been given in the Premier League.
32 min Benzema appeals unsuccessfully for a penalty after a desperate challenge from Kabak. This will be checked by VAR.
It was made by Toni Kroos, who received possession halfway inside his own half, turned and assessed his options. He drove a fantastic long pass over the Liverpool defence towards Vinicius Jr, who got behind Phillips and controlled the ball superbly with his left shoulder. That touch took him across Phillips and into the area, and his second touch was a confident drive back across Alisson. Liverpool will be annoyed at the simplicity of the goal, but the pass and first touch were immaculate.
Real take the lead with a majestic goal!
25 min A dreadful pass from Alexander-Arnold goes straight to Asensio on the halfway line. He gives it to Kroos, who slides a through ball towards Benzema in the inside-left channel. Benzema moves into the area and hits a shot that goes behind off Kabak. That was good defending from Kabak, who tracked Benzema all the way.
23 min Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips have had a really solid start to the game. That’s the biggest positive for Liverpool at the moment.
21 min “I happen to be watching this match on a Spanish-language feed,” says Peter Oh. “I don’t speak the language but understand some bits and pieces. One of the commentators said ‘...Freddie Mercury!’, causing his colleague to break into a hearty chuckle. It was either a reference to Alisson Becker’s moustachioed look, or maybe Sergio Ramos got an edgy new Queen-themed tattoo?”
Are you sure you’re not watching repeats of the Fast Show?
20 min It’s still pretty cagey. Madrid’s passing has been better than Liverpool but neither side has created any clear chances.
18 min Fabinho has started strongly, with and without the ball. We’ll never know, but I wonder how the Premier League table would look had he not been seconded to the defence.
16 min A wicked cross from Alexander-Arnold is superbly headed away by Lucas Vazquez, who was facing his own goal and had Mane waiting behind him to score.
15 min Real Madrid have been the better team so far, though there isn’t a huge amount in it. Liverpool haven’t pressed as aggressively as most of us expected; most of the time they are sitting deep and playing for counter-attacks.
13 min Mendy beats Alexander-Arnold with ease, gets to the byline and stands up a cross towards Vinicus Junior. He flicks a header across goal that bounces a few yards wide of the far post. Alisson was scrambling a bit, but it never really looked like going in.
12 min Modric goes over in the D after a challenge from Gini Wijnaldum. Felix Brych waves play on, but VAR are checking in case it was a) a foul and b) in the area. No penalty: it was definitely outside the penalty area, and probably not a foul anyway.
10 min Salah gets away from Nacho, who slips in the centre circle, and would have been able to run through on goal but for some good covering by the left-back Mendy.
10 min “Hi Rob,” says Niall Mullen. “Liverpool’s fist job here, as with any European away, is to silence the crowd early doors.”
Arf, very good.
9 min Neither side has yet been able to expose the opposing central defenders. It’s been a fairly scruffy start to the game, in truth.
8 min “Ah, how boring, traditional kits,” says Mary Waltz. “What, no sherbet, tiger stripes, peach or chartreuse kits that have no connection to history and are only cynical cash grabs? What fun is that?”
6 min Both teams are pressing high, and it’s been a fairly frantic start to the game.
5 min ... and nothing comes of it.
5 min Asensio wins the first corner for Real Madrid. Kroos strolls over to take it...
2 min Benzema works Alisson with an low left-footed shot from 25 yards. It was a comfortable save for Alisson.
1 min Both teams are playing 4-3-3, as expected, but Liverpool have Diogo Jota rather than Sadio Mane at centre forward.
1 min Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep peeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Real Madrid kick off from left to right. I won’t insult your knowledge by telling you what colours each team are wearing.
Two players in the starting XIs are on a yellow card, Ferland Mendy and the Liverpool captain Gini Wijnaldum.
“There’s been so much turning of corners these days,” says Ian Copestake, “that I am quite shocked Klopp has decided to bench Thiago as soon as he seemed to have turned one.”
Maybe he wanted to protect him from turning another one.
The players are out on the field, all with their gamefaces carefully applied. It’s time for Real Madrid v Liverpool!
“The key for us tonight is not stylish football but menace,” says Andy Gracie. “The kind of menace we showed in the early stage of the 2018 final, and especially when Gerrard and Torres terrorised them back in 2009. If there is one thing that puts the frighteners up Real Madrid it’s menace. Failing that I’ll take a clumsy 0-1.”
“Prediction tonight, Rob?” says John Ryan. “I can see goals...”
I think Liverpool will win, maybe 3-1 or 3-2, but it’s a hard game to call for a few reasons: the missing centre-backs, the absent crowd, Liverpool’s inconsistency, the inherent unpredictability of football and life itself.
“Smyth,” writes Colin Eldridge. “I need to buy my brother-in-law a football book for his birthday. Any tips?”
Hmm, how old is he? If he’s of a certain age, I can heartily recommend When the Seagulls Follow the Trawler by Tom Whitworth, which is all about football in the 1990s. I wasn’t sure about the concept but it’s very cleverly done, a mix of travelogue and interviews with key characters like Roy Evans and David Dein. And you can feel the love – of football and the nineties – on every page. Not enough love around these days.
If you’re looking for alternative entertainment, there’s a repeat of Yes Minister on BBC Four at 8pm. Oh, and this.
Real Madrid v Liverpool: a YouTube history
If this doesn’t whet the appetite...
The in-form Diogo Jota starts ahead of Roberto Firmino, while Naby Keita is surprisingly preferred to Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones and James Milner in midfield.
Real Madrid, who have been dabbling with a back three of late, look to have reverted to 4-3-3. Eder Militao and Nacho are covering for Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at centre-back.
Pre-match reading galore
“Hi Rob,” says Tony Barr. “I was reading a poll earlier in which a surprising number of readers put Nat Phillips in a combined LFC/Real ‘available’ combined XI. I think he’s exceeded expectations for Liverpool, but surely it’s all about Fabinho back in midfield isn’t it? What’s your take on the Bolton Baresi? Is it too early for beer? I usually wait until the team are up, but hey...”
Blame the beer on lockdown while you still can. As for Phillips, he has done pretty well, and it’s a charming story, but I agree that Fabinho moving back is the bigger deal. I thought it was daft to move both Fabinho and Henderson into defence earlier in the year, and I think subsequent events have confirmed that I am a better football manager than Jurgen Klopp.
The first email of the night!
“Hi Rob,” says Peter Oh. “So Liverpool face the mighty Real Madrid for the first time since Kiev 2018. Boy oh boy have I been looking forward to this! You do know what dish is best served cold, right? Gazpacho.”
Good evening. Real Madrid and Liverpool know all about the healing power of the European Cup. Between them they have been champions of Europe 19 times - yet in 14 of those seasons, they weren’t champions of their own country. On a few occasions, they finished as low as fifth in their domestic league, but nobody cared about nine months of domestic misery when they were lifting the big one.
I doubt we’ll forget Liverpool’s surreal 2020-21 title defence in a hurry, but we’ll see it through very different eyes if they end the season by lifting a seventh European Cup. Real could still win La Liga - they are third, three points off the leaders Atletico Madrid, but it’s unlikely, especially with Barcelona in such rampant form. Real could live with being third in Spain and first on the continent. They, more than any other club in Europe - arguably the world - are defined by European competition.Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp insisted there was no anger left from 2018 but Tuesday night might be a different matter. Some things have changed since these two teams last met in that Champions League final yet the result remained the same, two goals from Vinícius Júnior and one from Marco Asensio taking Real Madrid to another 3-1 victory. The difference is that this time Liverpool will get a second chance and that is the hope to which they must cling after a reunion in which they extracted neither revenge nor redemption.
Anfield, though, is not the same without fans and on this evidence that hope will be limited, Liverpool beaten by a side that might even have lamented that their lead is not larger. Klopp may reflect that they were also complicit in their own demise, Madrid finding imposing themselves easier than they had dared expect and a mistake from Trent Alexander-Arnold gifting the second of the three goals they did score.Continue reading...
The Real Madrid defender Raphaël Varane has tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the Champions League match against Liverpool on Tuesday.Continue reading...
Our cartoonist looks at Mino Raiola’s hawking of the Dortmund forward around some of Europe’s leading clubs
Liverpool manager knows his side can salvage something this season with defence improving before Champions League tie
Jürgen Klopp was referring to the contrast in temperatures between a chilly Liverpool and a balmy Madrid but his words were equally applicable to his team’s attempt to polish a trying season with more Champions League glory. “We do it the hard way,” the Liverpool manager said on arrival in Spain, where he had no use for the gilet he brought on the flight over. The hard way often suits.Continue reading...