Ronaldo looking to break records with Real Madrid at Liverpool
Without doubt the plum clash of Group B, this eagerly-anticipated encounter between European heavyweights Real Madrid (odds-on favourites to win at 4/5) and Liverpool (7/2) promises to deliver with a series of intriguing sub plots.
Los Blancos have never beaten the Reds in Europe in three attempts, including the 1981 European Cup final defeat, an unusual stain on the 10-time Champions League winners’ record. Carlo Ancelotti, then, will be looking to raise his stock even further by banishing Real’s bogey team.
These two history and silverware-laden giants have only clashed on two recent occasions, back when Rafa Benitez still ruled Anfield in 2009. Liverpool romped to a memorable 4-0 win on home turf then, and are available at 150/1 to replicate that scoreline once more.
Steven Gerrard scored in that rout, and is the only member of that Liverpool side, and the one that lifted the 2005 Champions League trophy against the odds, left in Rodgers’ ranks. The celebrated skipper has netted three times in nine appearances this term, and is available at an excellent 10/3 to score again anytime to lift his team.
Liverpool may often have lady luck, and history, on their side, but in the present Los Blancos could cause them serious problems. Whatever domestic trials the Merseyside men have undergone in the past, there has always been a special reserve set aside for European performances.
Rodgers’ Reds return to the Champions League has so far been fairly lacklustre, though, following a shock defeat away to Basel and a turgid 2-1 win against minnows Ludogorets. With a tough road ahead, Liverpool fans will be hoping the magic of a prestige clash at Anfield can inspire their side to success.
Despite a string of poor performances, culminating in a horrendous miss against QPR last time out, Mario Balotelli is unlikely to find himself on the bench due to Daniel Sturridge’s continued absence. The misfiring forward will be expected to put in a shift against Los Blancos, with energy and pressing from the front essential if the Reds are to snatch a result against Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
Balotell, who can still be brilliant, is 11/5 to step up and be counted in this crucial game by scoring anytime, with main man Raheem Sterling, a supposed transfer target for Real, 10/1 to put himself in the shop window by firing home first.
The visitors’ attack, even minus an injured Gareth Bale, has been something to behold this season, and will no doubt be causing Rodgers sleepless nights. Liverpool’s defence has been suspect to say the least this term, and now face a fearsome offence spearheaded by Ronaldo.
Since being shifted up front, the Portugal captain has scored 15 times in seven La Liga outings, and has two from two in Europe, and now has the opportunity to equal, or beat, former Real talisman Raul’s Champions League top-scorer record in this encounter.
Ronaldo requires another three to do so and, after netting two hat-tricks, plus another quartet of goals, in his last six outings, is an enticing 4/1 to bag a brace or better. Coral are also offering an excellent matchday special, with Ronaldo to score and Real Madrid to win available at 2/1 (maximum stake £20).
A world class defensive performance from summer signings such as Dejan Lovren will be needed to spare the Kop from witnessing a former Manchester United superstar reaching dizzying heights on their home turf.
Despite Ronaldo’s partner in crime Bale being sidelined, with vice-captain Sergio Ramos also on the treatment table, Real have received several fitness boosts. French duo Karim Benzema (7/4 to score anytime) and Raphael Varane are both expected to be available following fitness scares.
Speaking ahead of the clash, former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa stated: “Going back to Liverpool after five years will be very special. I played at Anfield, so it will be great. But not just for me. I have told my team-mates to enjoy the match at Anfield as much as possible.
“Champions League nights and big games like this one at Anfield are very special. We’re going to be up against a team that will come out to fight to the last and will give everything, because they need to win too.”
The ex-Reds right back who played alongside Gerrard in the famous 4-0 thrashing, is unlikely to secure a starting spot for Real in his Anfield return, although his European experience could prove useful, as Los Blancos look to end their Merseyside blues.