December 14, 2018, 2:22

Real Madrid vulnerability gives Liverpool Champions League hope

Real Madrid vulnerability gives Liverpool Champions League hope

Real Madrid have reached the final but their obvious vulnerability only adds to Liverpool’s Champions League excitement, as Dennis Wise and Ian Wright point out.

The Liverpool fans have more immediate concerns as they look to see off Roma in their Champions League semi-final second leg in the Italian capital, but any of them watching Real Madrid somehow squeeze through against Bayern Munich would be encouraged. The two-time defending champions have a formidable reputation but the flaws are obvious.

Bayern exposed them time and again. James Rodriguez should have scored long before he did and was later denied his second from eight yards out. Keylor Navas produced key saves and, when he did not, Thomas Muller, given the freedom of the Real Madrid penalty box throughout, was uncharacteristically inefficient in front of goal. The champs rode their luck.

Watching the game for Sky Sports, former Chelsea captain Dennis Wise felt Madrid were fortunate. “Bayern had so many opportunities but Real Madrid just had the luck on their side,” said Wise. “Even towards the end of the game they put the ball into the box and they were in but Muller could not quite reach it. So everything fell for them quite nicely.”

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There is a temptation to attribute an element of fate to Madrid’s ongoing success. Such is the club’s long association with the trophy – they are the 12-time champions, after all – that the myth-building around the club in Europe is seductive. But luck has played its part and Liverpool have qualities that can make a mockery of their long grip on the competition.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have been irrepressible thus far. They are the top scorers in this season’s Champions League, the top scoring English team in the competition’s history. They will create chances against any team but there will still be concerns that, should they overcome Roma, Madrid’s nous on the big occasion will be enough.

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That may have been true of the 2014 version under Carlo Ancelotti, a Madrid team that blew away a far better Bayern side than this by five goals to nil at the same stage four years ago. It may even have been accurate in recent seasons when Zinedine Zidane managed to bring the best out of his players in the biggest games. It is not so clear this time around.

The statistics show that Madrid have given up 29 clear chances so far in this Champions League campaign. That is more than any other team in the competition and it is not just due to the fact that they have played more games than many of the rest. They are conceding an average of 2.4 clear-cut chances per game, more than any side to reach the knockout stage.

Even more revealing is the fact that Real Madrid have now conceded more clear-cut chances in this campaign than they did in both of their last two Champions League successes under Zidane combined.

“I just look at it and think that Liverpool can get through the Roma game I can actually see Liverpool beating Real Madrid just because of that openness,” added Wise. “I just do. I know Madrid have a lot of qualities but there are a lot of older players. Sergio Ramos is getting older, Cristiano Ronaldo is getting older and Luka Modric is getting older.

“At one stage there were six Real Madrid players in the Bayern Munich box and four back here [on the halfway line]. There was nobody really in the middle so you were wondering what kind of game this was. It was bizarre to watch it and see how they played. It was just so open and I was a bit gobsmacked this was the semi-final of the Champions League.”

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Ian Wright, alongside Wise for The Debate, was similarly unimpressed and believes Liverpool have the tools to succeed where the German champions fell short. “I don’t think this was the kind of pressure that Liverpool will be putting on them,” said Wright. “Liverpool will give them more of the run around and they looked to me like they were hanging on.

“I feel Liverpool could do the same to them in terms of blasting them early and not knowing what has hit them. If they do that with Liverpool then two passes and, bang, they are into their final third. That is the problem that Real Madrid will have. So I saw a lot of stuff tonight that made me think that if I were Liverpool, I would not be bothered about facing them.”


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