Real Madrid are undoubtedly a daunting prospect for any side in Europe, particularly given that they have already seen off the champions of France, Italy and Germany in the Champions League this season, but there may be hope yet for Liverpool.
Zinedine Zidane’s team have struggled domestically this campaign and find themselves 18 points behind league champions Barcelona, who were, of course, earlier knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool’s semi-final opponents AS Roma.
Los Blancos are on track for their worst points return since Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club from Manchester United in 2009 and this week’s surprising defeat to Sevilla, who Liverpool drew with both home and away in the group stage, showed some weaknesses which will have Jurgen Klopp licking his lips.
The first thing to point out is that Real Madrid were without many of their key men, the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo were all rested whilst Gareth Bale was suspended. Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Carvajal and Isco were all absent through injury and whilst the latter returned to training on Friday, the first two could face a race against time to be fit for Kiev.
Despite that, the weaknesses on show were not new to Real Madrid this season as they again struggled against a side who were not afraid to be physical and attack on the counter.
Early on, Zidane’s side dominated but Sevilla twice countered incisively, once by going long through the middle, as Liverpool were accused of doing time after time against Roma with a stunning impact, and once down the flanks with pace, just as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane possess in abundance.
After going behind, the nerves got to Real Madrid and even captain Sergio Ramos seemed to struggle with the pressure as he fired a penalty onto the crossbar and then deflected a cross into his own net.
A late comeback with Ramos not making the same mistake again and Borja Mayoral scoring after coming on as a substitute saved some face for the reigning European champions, but Liverpool will relish facing a disjointed defence like that.
Of particular interest, beyond Real Madrid’s struggle with pace on the flanks and long balls through the middle, will have been Zidane’s experimenting at right-back, this time choosing versatile Nacho at full-back in place of Carvajal, rather than Lucas Vazquez who started there against Bayern Munich.
Nacho, who would be favourite to play against Liverpool if Carvajal is not fit, is a reliable option who makes few mistakes, but has previously struggled up against the pace of a player like Sadio Mane.
Liverpool may have a mountain to climb, but tactically, the path is there for Liverpool to exploit Real Madrid’s weaknesses.