It has been a long 9 years since the last time Liverpool reached the Champions League round of 16. It was February 2009 when we faced Spanish giants Real Madrid, the first leg was away at the Bernabeu and the Reds returned to Merseyside with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Yossi Benayoun, the 2nd leg was a dominating 4-0 win with goals from Gerrard, Torres and Dossena.
Liverpool had the advantage of being at home for the second leg and with a 1-0 lead going into the game they couldn’t have been in a better situation. Liverpool nearly extended their lead in the fourth minute thanks to a clever piece of play from Torres to set Gerrard up for a shot at goal but Casillas managed to deflect the shot to safety. The Reds broke the deadlock on the 16th minute, Torres was chasing a Jamie Carragher long ball, the Spaniard then dispossessed Pepe in the box and managed to toe poke the ball into the back of the net with Dirk Kuyt getting the assist.
The Reds lead was extended again after Gabriel Heinze handled the ball in the area and Gerrard stepped up to put the ball in the back of the net from the spot, sending Casillas the wrong way. Two minutes into the second half Liverpool further exposed Madrid’s defence after Ryan Babel delivered a brilliant cross into the box and who else but Steven Gerrard was on the end of it to send a spectacular half volley into the roof of the net at the Kop end.
Liverpool showed they weren’t done yet and on the 88th minute Andrea Dossena latched on to a cross from Mascherano and put the ball into the back of the net. A fantastic 4-0 win over the Spanish giants proved Liverpool’s intent in the competition and I doubt many teams would have wanted to face them in the Quarter-finals.
Liverpool went on to face rivals Chelsea in the Quarter-finals but it wasn’t meant to be as they were defeated 3-1 in the first leg at Anfield and had a 4-4 draw at Stamford bridge in the 2nd leg, overall it was a 7-5 defeat on aggregate.
In terms of a preferred starting eleven I’m hoping that Henderson comes in to replace a suspended Emre Can and I think Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain will make up the midfield three, it has been shown over recent games that Henderson and Milner make a difference in midfield when they play and hopefully tonight they put in another dominant display. In defence I would stick with Matip and Van Dijk as the CB partnership as I think they did well against Southampton on Sunday and it will help to try and keep the same pairing in defence and develop a good partnership. And obviously there is no chance you would change the front three especially with the form that Firmino and Salah are currently on and i’m hoping they will both be on the scoresheet tonight.
If tonight’s Round of 16 tie is anything like the one from 2009 then Liverpool fans will be travelling back from Porto very happy and looking forward to the home tie on the 6th of March.
Article by Lauren Black
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