Last year’s finalists Liverpool and Real Madrid meet at the Round of 16 stage of this season’s iteration of the Champions League, and the first-leg tussle between the giants at Anfield this evening promises to be an enthralling encounter.
Recently-crowned world champions Real have won five of their last six meetings with Liverpool in Europe, and two of those victories allowed Los Blancos to get their hands on the Champions League trophy ahead of vanquished Liverpool teams. Can the Reds reverse the trend on Merseyside today?
I’ve compiled an info-packed stats pack for this evening’s heavyweight bout below which should arm you with enough nuggets to stuff your bet builder coupon with plenty of savvy selections. I recommend using the data below in conjunction with my Stats Pack Guide for better results.
Darwin Nunez came off with a shoulder issue against Newcastle at the weekend but surprsingly the Uruguayan doesn’t join Luis Diaz, Ibrahima Konate, Thiago Alcantara and Arthur on the sidelines this week.
Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were both hoping to take Nunez’s place in Liverpool’s XI against Real Madrid. Promising youngster Stefan Bajcetic holds on to his place in midfield following a string of impressive performances.
In a huge boost for Liverpool, Real Madrid have left key midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos back in Spain. Both players have been struggling to shake off an illness and Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde are in line to fill the gaps in Los Blancos’ midfield.
Karim Benzema missed Real’s win against Osasuna with muscle fatigue, though Head Coach Carlo Ancelotti has already said that he expects the French superstar to be involved at Anfield.
Liverpool are still languishing all the way down in eighth position in the Premier League, though many of their attacking metrics are among the division’s best. Defensively, they just haven’t been cutting it domestically, however, and only eight clubs have been posting worse xG against per 90 figures.
In the Champions League, the Reds coasted through Group A, winning five out of six assignments and finishing behind section winners Napoli on goal difference only. Interestingly, only Real Madrid (19.0) averaged more shots per game than Liverpool (18.2) in the group phase.
Liverpool managed to carry their squeaky-clean Premier League disciplinary record into Europe, and only three clubs (including Real) collected fewer cards than the Merseysiders in the group stage. Under 4.5 cards is available at 6/10 today.
Real Madrid are eight points off the pace in the La Liga title race at present, though their domestic metrics still make for impressive reading. Los Blancos have been particularly strong at the back, where they have been conceding just 0.77 goals per 90. Their xG against figure suggests they probably should have shipped more, however.
In the Champions League, the tale of the tape shows more strong performances at both ends of the pitch. Real scored 15 times and conceded just six goals en route to topping Group F ahead of RB Leipzig, though their xG against tally was larger than Liverpool’s in the UCL’s first phase (7.6 to 6.8).
Player Shots and Shots on Target
With the shot-peppering menace of Darwin Nunez possibly removed, Mohamed Salah jumps off the page as the Liverpool attacker equipped with the most-threatening skill set in the final third. The Egyptian mustered four shots on target in his last two appearances for Liverpool and the 30-year-old clocked two attempts on target per runout in the Champions League group stage.
Salah is priced at 6/4 to lodge at least two accurate shots again this evening, while Virgil van Dijk could be an alternative to consider at 8/13 to have just one shot, be it on or off the mark. Van Dijk averaged two attempts per game in the group phase before Christmas and the Dutchman can be a real handful during set pieces.
Karim Benzema has been Real Madrid’s main man in attack in La Liga this term, though the 35-year-old Frenchman has been out-gunned by Vinicius Junior on the continent. The Brazilian averaged a whopping 4.2 shots per game in the Champions League group stage, which dwarfs Benzema’s 3.5.
Vinicius was on target with 2.2 of those punts per contest on average and the 22-year-old is generously priced at 4/6 to hit just one accurate attempt at Anfield this evening. Benzema, out of interest, is 4/11 in the same market, while marauding Uruguayan Frederico Valverde is 10/11. The 24-year-old racked up 1.2 shots on target per outing in UCL Group F before the World Cup.
Player Goals and Assists
With two goals in his last two appearances, January recruit Cody Gakpo is beginning to find his range at Liverpool and the Dutchman carries meaty 12/5 odds in the anytime goalscorer market this evening.
Mohamed Salah, who was the last Liverpool player to score against Real Madrid in April 2021, has claimed three goal contributions in his last four runouts for the Reds and the 30-year-old can be backed at 10/11 to either score or assist again later today.
Karim Benzema is Real Madrid’s leading marksman in La Liga this season, however, remarkably, the French striker is yet to register a single goal or assist in the Champions League this term.
Brazilians, Vinicius Junior and Rodrgyo have been doing some damage in the competition however, chipping in with nine goal contributions between them in the Group Stage. Vinicius and Rodrgyo are 6/4 and 5/4 respectively to either score or assist at Anfield. Vini Jr., of course, broke Liverpool’s hearts when he notched the winning goal in last year’s Champions League final.
Liverpool have been averaging 60% possession per game in the Premier League in 2022/23, though that average has dropped to a more modest 56.8% in the Champions League which suggests they might not have everything their own way in terms of ball control this evening.
The Reds’ keenest passer on the continent this term has been Virgil van Dijk (64.5 passes per game), with Trent Alexander-Arnold (57.6) coming just in behind his defensive comrade and both prolific distributors should feature heavily in that department again at Anfield.
With Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni absent, Real will be without their two most potent passers in the Champions League this season. Luka Modric, who has been averaging 62.8 passes per game in the UCL, should shoulder greater ball rotation responsibilities in their absence.
German defender Antonio Rudiger could also be a decent addition to your bet builder coupons. The 29-year-old has been playing 57.7 passes per outing domestically and 60 per runout in the Champions League.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has picked more cautions (two) than any other Liverpool player in the Champions League this season and the full-back, who can be exposed by opponents with pace, is 7/2 to see yellow again today.
Joe Gomez, who can be just as defensively suspect as Alexander-Arnold, has been averaging one indiscretion per game in this season’s Champions League and the 25-year-old could be a decent coupon-padder at 1/3 to commit just one foul this evening.
In midfield, Fabinho should have plenty of dirty work to get through and the no-nonsense Brazilian anchorman, who has been averaging 1.7 fouls per appearance in the UCL in 2022/23 looks backable at 11/10 to give away two free kicks later on.
Vinicius Junior’s dribbles per 90 figures in La Liga (8.29) and the Champions League (11.0) are insane, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that he is Real Madrid’s most-fouled player in both competitions. The 22-year-old should make life very uncomfortable for Alexander-Arnold this evening.
Karim Benzema will hope to lean on his limitless experience to draw awkward challenges from Joe Gomez, while Eduardo Camavinga, who has been fouled 3.61 times per 90 in the Spanish top flight since August, could be on Fabinho’s radar at Anfield.
Match-Ups to watch
Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Vinicius Junior
Joe Gomez vs Karim Benzema
Fabinho vs Eduardo Camavinga
Real Madrid Cards
Vinicius Junior is no pushover and the terrier-like winger usually gives as good as he gets in games. Indeed, the livewire attacker has been booked five times in his last nine appearances for Real Madrid and the Brazilian is priced at 13/5 to add another caution to his haul this evening.
David Alaba has collected three cards domestically this season and the versatile Austrian should have his discipline tested by Mohamed Salah on the flank at Anfield. On the opposite side, Dani Carvajal, who has been averaging 0.80 and 0.85 fouls per game in the Champions League and La Liga this term, should interest a few at 4/9 to commit just one foul on Merseyside.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s tussle with Vinicius Junior promises to be a fascinating skirmish and the England international is unlikely to finish the contest unscathed following his battle with the bristly Brazilian.
Mohamed Salah, who is listed among Liverpool’s most-kicked players domestically, could face similar aggression from Davide Alaba (11/10 for 1+ foul), while Cody Gakpo, who has been winning foul after foul since his arrival in the Premier League, could be roughed up by the impetuous Dani Carvajal.
Match-Ups to watch
Vinicius Junior vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
Davide Alaba vs Mohamed Salah
Dani Carvajal vs Cody Gakpo
My Bet Builder Picks of the Pack
There’s a few selections I liked the look of from the pack, and you can load them all into your bet builder by using the link below.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid
Scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, Vinicius has continued to be an integral part of this Real Madrid side.
Vini has had the most shots on target of any RM player domestically this season and he averages 1.27 P/90.
In the CL he’s been performing well above that, he’s averaged 2.46 SOT/90. Perhaps most impressively is how consistent he is at hitting the target, 48% of his shots in the CL have been on target.
Madrid heavily targeted TAA in previous iterations of this fixture, I’d expect the same here and for the Brazillian to see plenty of the ball.
Cody Gakpo perhaps hasn’t started as quickly as Liverpool fans would’ve wanted but after scoring in back to back games, the confidence is beginning to surface for the Dutchman.
Gakpo had 2 shots on target against Newcastle and has managed 1 in 4 of his last 5 matches, the only game he blanked in was against Wolves, when he was asked to play a deeper role than the one he’ll feature in tonight.
Liverpool will undoubtedly have sustained spells of pressure in this game as they’re roared on by the home support, they really need to take a positive result to the Bernabeau.
TAA is another who’s foul count isn’t huge, he averages 0.61 P/90 in the PL but this is a whole different ball game.
Vinicius is fouled 4 times P/90, a frankly ridiculous number and he attempts over 8 dribbles/90. Again, an obscene number.
Bigger sides always target Trent, but when your most creative and direct player is also Trent’s direct opponent, that is only going to magnify the situation.
Trent made a foul in last seasons final, when facing Vini JR.
Young Bajcetic has been a real shining light in what has been quite a gloomy season for Liverpool fans.
The Spaniard is excellent with the ball but he’s also got a bit of bite to him, he’s not afraid to get stuck in.
He’s also still very inexperienced and comes up against the likes of Modric (fouled 0.78/90) and Dani Ceballos (fouled 2.18/90).
Bajcetic averages 1.32 fouls/90. He’s made 5 fouls across his last 5 outings, only blanking in 1 of those games.Against quality opposition, 1 foul looks likely to me.
Alaba starts at left back, a direct opponent to Mo Salah. Salah draws 0.78 fouls/90, which isn’t the most outrageous stat but he does attempt 3.32 dribbles/90 which is the highest in the Liverpool squad.
This is a bet about context and value, I think the price on offer for Alaba is generous given the situation. He doesn’t average a huge number of fouls, but against Salah, away from home in a CL knockout game, he’s a good price.
In last seasons CL, his foul numbers increased drastically, particularly when Madrid played away from home.
He made 3 fouls away to PSG, 2 away at Inter and even 2 away at Sheriff.
Madrid will take no prisoners at Anfield. If Alaba has to take down a player, most likely Salah, to prevent an oppertunity then he’ll do it.
Worth noting too that Alaba is primarily a centre back now. He’s not got the burning pace he used to and faced a substantial time on the sidelines recently with a nasty injury. Salah has every chance of exposing the Austrian in those wide areas, particularly with TAA in support.