Liverpool host Spanish giants Real Madrid at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night. We look at the Opta supercomputer’s prediction and preview the first leg of this round of 16 UCL tie.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid: The Quick Hits
- Liverpool the Opta supercomputer’s favourites for a first leg win against Real Madrid (48.9%).
- Mohamed Salah looking to become the top African scorer in UCL history.
- In-form Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior is the biggest threat to Liverpool yet again.
Tuesday night will see a meeting between two of Europe’s most illustrious clubs, as Liverpool host Real Madrid at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League last 16.
Liverpool will be hoping to avenge their UCL final defeat to Los Blancos last May, but this will be a stiff test against the LaLiga giants. The Reds haven’t won any of their last six meetings with Real Madrid, drawing one and losing five of these games – this is their longest ever run of winless games against a single opponent in the history of the European Cup/Champions League. This is a big shift from the early European meetings between these two clubs, with Liverpool winning each of their first three matches versus Real Madrid between 1981 and 2009.
Real will be making their fourth trip to Anfield to face Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. They lost the first game there in March 2009, suffering a humiliating 4-0 defeat, but haven’t conceded a goal in their last two visits, winning 3-0 in October 2014 and drawing 0-0 most recently in April 2021.
However, the Spanish club haven’t had the best run of form away in England in the competition in recent times, winning just one of their last seven away games at English clubs in the UCL (D2 L4).
Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: 28 May 2022 (UEFA Champions League Final)
This match will be a repeat of the 2021-22 UCL final, where Real Madrid picked up their 14th European Cup/Champions League title in Paris versus Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
This was Klopp’s third UCL final loss – the most of any manager, while only Juventus (five) have lost more Champions League finals than Liverpool (three). Conversely, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is the first manager in European Cup/Champions League history to win the trophy on four separate occasions. The Italian has won four of his five UEFA Champions League finals, failing only against Liverpool in 2005.
At 21 years and 320 days, Vinícius Júnior became the second youngest player to score in the final of the competition for Real Madrid, after Marco Asensio in 2017 (21y 133d), but the main reason for their victory was goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian made nine saves against Liverpool in this game, the most on record by a goalkeeper in a single UEFA Champions League final (since 2003-04).
Overall, Liverpool attempted 24 shots in this final – 20 more than Real Madrid. This is the highest tally on record (since 2003-04) for a side not to score in a UCL final, while Mohamed Salah attempted six of these shots – the most on record by a single player in a Champions League final.
This defeat stopped Liverpool from winning a cup treble in 2021-22, having already secured the English League Cup and FA Cup double. Strangely, despite this, the Reds failed to score in any of their three finals last season – winning the two domestic trophies via penalty shootouts. This meant that they didn’t score a single goal in five-and-a-half hours of football in major finals in 2021-22.
After an awful start to 2023, Liverpool will hope their last two results mean that they have turned the corner. Back-to-back 2-0 victories against rivals Everton and Newcastle United ended a sequence of just one win in seven competitive games, which included poor Premier League defeats to Brentford, Brighton and Wolves, plus an FA Cup elimination away in Brighton at the fourth-round stage.
January signing Cody Gakpo has scored in both of Liverpool’s recent wins following his move from PSV, while Darwin Núñez scored for just the second time in 10 post-World Cup appearances in the 2-0 victory at Newcastle on Saturday evening.
Real Madrid have had a ridiculously busy 2023, with the Spanish club having already played 14 matches this year – six more than opponents Liverpool. Ancelotti’s side have had to make long trips to Saudi Arabia to play in the Spanish Super Cup (which they lost in the final to rivals Barcelona) and Morocco to play – and win – the FIFA Club World Cup.
Real are currently on a four-game winning streak following a LaLiga defeat at Mallorca (1-0) on 5 February. Their winning run began with semi-final and final wins in the FIFA CWC against Al Ahly and Al Hilal respectively, before back-to-back LaLiga victories versus Elche and Osasuna without conceding a goal. Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde has scored four goals across these four games, while Marco Asensio has netted in both LaLiga matches in this run.
Real Madrid’s form in the UCL this season was enough to see them top Group F on the way to making it to the round of 16. Their four wins from six games (D1 L1) placed them above RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic with 13 points, with their only group stage defeat coming on MD5 away in Leipzig (3-2).
After losing their opening match of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League campaign (4-1 vs Napoli), Liverpool have won each of their last five European matches. Only once previously have they had a longer winning run under Jürgen Klopp in the competition, winning seven in a row between September 2021 and February 2022.
Despite finishing level on points with Serie A leaders Napoli in Group A (15 each), Liverpool ended in second place due to inferior head-to-head goal difference. They still qualified ahead of Ajax and Rangers to set up this last 16 match with Real Madrid, however. The total goals scored by Liverpool in the 2022-23 competition (17) is below that of only Benfica (18) Bayern Munich (19) and Napoli (20).
Players to Watch
Liverpool: Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah helped himself to seven goals in the 2022-23 UCL group stage, with only Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé level with him in the top scorers chart. In fact, this tally is just one off his total in the competition last season (eight) and three away from his all-time competition high in a single campaign (10 in 2017-18).
Salah’s seven goals in six UCL appearances are only one fewer than he’s managed in 22 Premier League games this season (eight), but he’ll have to improve his scoring record against Spanish clubs in the competition. He’s scored just four goals in 16 appearances (1,387 minutes) versus Spanish teams in the Champions League, with two goals versus Atlético Madrid, one against Real Madrid and Sevilla and none against Barcelona or Villarreal in the history of the competition.
But there is little doubt that Salah is among the elite scorers in the competition. He’s scored 43 goals in the UEFA Champions League overall, and if he finds the net in this match, he will equal Didier Drogba (44) as the top-scoring African player in the competition.
Real Madrid: Vinícius Júnior
Vinícius Júnior was Real Madrid’s hero in the 1-0 UCL final win over Liverpool last May. The Brazilian has been in strong form across the 2022-23 UCL season, with his four goals already tying his best in a single campaign in the competition – level with last season.
Viní Jr has been directly involved in seven goals in his last eight away games in the UEFA Champions League (five goals and two assists), with three of those coming in away games against British sides – an assist at Stamford Bridge (vs. Chelsea) and goals at the Etihad Stadium (vs. Man City) and Celtic Park (vs. Celtic).
Despite still only 22 years of age, the forward has been involved in 24 goals (16 goals, eight assists) in 34 competitive appearances this season for Real, with eight of these coming in his last seven games (five goals, three assists). No player has been involved in more for the club in 2022-23, with his total four more than Karim Benzema (20 – 16 goals, four assists).
Real Madrid might need him to perform, considering Benzema has played 324 minutes in the UEFA Champions League since he last scored (versus Man City in May 2022), with the Frenchman failing to find the net in each of his last five appearances in the competition.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid Prediction
The Opta supercomputer predicts that Liverpool will defeat Real Madrid at Anfield on Tuesday night, giving them a 42.8% chance of doing so. The chance of a Real Madrid win at full-time on Tuesday isn’t that much lower, at 32.2%, but the supercomputer believes that their six-game unbeaten run versus the Premier League club will come to an end ahead of the second leg in Spain on 15 March.
You’ve seen how the Opta supercomputer thinks the match will play out this weekend, but what do you think will happen? Let us know…
How do you see the match going tonight?— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) February 21, 2023
As for overall winner of the UCL this season, the supercomputer is still very high on both Bayern Munich (27.3%) and Manchester City (20.5%) to lift the title – with those two combined almost having as much chance as the other 14 clubs overall. Bayern won their first leg against PSG last week, while Man City have to face Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on Wednesday night.
Napoli are third favourites at 11.6%, just ahead of these two sides, with Real Madrid (7.0%) just ahead of Liverpool (6.2%). Eintracht Frankfurt (1.0%) and Tottenham (1.5%) are the rank outsiders, while Ligue 1 giants PSG are given just a 2.0% chance of winning the 2022-23 UCL after a first-leg defeat to Bayern. Chelsea’s first leg defeat to Borussia Dortmund last week means that they are now also given just a 2.0% chance of winning the UCL this season.