How Liverpool could finally overcome Real Madrid
Throughout Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool, the Reds have met Real Madrid on three separate occasions in the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool were beaten in the finals of 2018 and 2022, the other meeting came in the quarter-final of the 2020/21 competition in which they were again beaten over the two legs. Madrid are arguably the biggest football team of all time, but the Reds are also an elite European outfit and it is about time they get one over on Los Blancos.
The UCL can provide a Premier League distraction
Liverpool’s Premier League form has been inconsistent this season, impressive results against strong opposition such as Manchester City have been followed by defeats to teams lower down the table. For those looking to place a Premier League bet on the outright title winner, Liverpool are now well out of the running at 100/1 and the UCL could provide a much-needed distraction. In the latest Premier League tips no one is looking past Arsenal and Manchester City and the latter are still expected to get the job done by many. Liverpool of course still have a top-four position to battle for, but a potential European title this season would make their league finish irrelevant. Beating Madrid is of course the next step to a possible seventh European triumph.
— DR Sports (@drsportsmedia) January 4, 2023
The previous meetings while all featuring different players all had a familiar theme which was Klopp’s typical 4-3-3 system. The German coach has continued to deploy the system throughout the season so far despite the teams struggling form. Liverpool’s system was originally designed to counter-press the opposition effectively, but this has cost them in the past against Madrid. In the most recent meeting in the final of last year, Liverpool’s lack of patience led to the team often pressing too high and being caught up the pitch. This of course led to Madrid’s decisive goal which handed them their 14th UCL title.
A system change is needed
Liverpool could combat Madrid much more effectively this time around with a system change. The 4-3-3 is of course focused on winning the ball back high up the pitch, but the Reds no longer have the profiles required to press effectively in the midfield. A 4-2-3-1 formation could allow Klopp’s team more compactness off the ball with two technically astute deep-lying midfielders – one of which being Thiago Alcantara – to cover the wide areas when Liverpool’s full-backs attack high up the pitch. Four offensive-focused players in the starting lineup could also allow the Reds to sustain possession higher up the pitch without the need to operate an extremely high defensive line that invites through balls in behind
Thiago, Thiago Alcantaaaara 🎶 pic.twitter.com/wuCRXYyYOJ
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 8, 2022
Liverpool’s underperforming midfield has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the team this season. But a change in the system could improve the Reds positioning off the ball, as well as ensure that the abundance of attacking talent in the squad is given ample opportunity to punish Madrid. Liverpool’s attack has at times been isolated this season due to the midfield lacking structure as a result of a mismatch of profiles compared to Klopp’s traditional trio of the past featuring Georginio Wijnaldum. A 4-2-3-1 would certainly help Liverpool maintain possession in all areas of the pitch as well as progress the play vertically. Klopp’s 4-3-3 this season has often featured a right-sided midfielder who has played almost a free role resulting in the right defensive channel being exposed.
Altering the formation would give the team more balance and solidity in defence, which is essential if the Reds are to beat Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the round of 16. It is time for Liverpool to set up as a team prepared to play a patient game. Klopp must move away from high-risk counter-pressing tactics to make his side a solid possession-based team in time for the Madrid encounter.