No, we aren’t trying to comment on Gareth Bale’s appearance. The somewhat hilarious reason as to why Bale will be sitting out this Champions League fixture is an injury to a muscle in his buttocks. That’s right, no joking, Bale’s butt is keeping him out of a Champions League match. Add in a Sergio Ramos injury, and Real will have to replace two regulars in the lineup at Anfield. Two more players, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, have come down with illness and will most likely be last minute decisions.
As for players who WILL be playing for Real Madrid on Wednesday, the main event will as always be Cristiano Ronaldo. An interesting piece though, is that CR7 has never scored against Liverpool at Anfield. If Ronaldo is voodoo’d and can’t find the back of the net, new additions Chicharito and James Rodriguez will probably be looked to provide a goal scoring spark.
The overwhelming question on the other side is “will Mario Balotelli ever find his goal scoring form?” The young Italian has yet to score for Liverpool in the Premier League, although he does have one goal in two appearances in the Champions League this season. He has struggled without the help of a pairing striker, particularly Daniel Sturridge, who has been out with injuries. Balotelli has seemingly been in the spotlight for years, but the striker is still relatively young at 24 years of age.
Besides Balotelli’s lack of goals, the Reds have a problem at the back as well with a leaky defense that has allowed 12 goals in 8 Premier League matches. While many point to the departure of Luis Suarez as the beginning point of Liverpool’s struggles, there are plenty of other things that the Reds need to fix before they will be able to compete consistently in the Premier League.
As for implications of this Champions League match, this will certainly be a critical juncture for both teams. Real Madrid sits atop Group B with 6 points from two matches, and will be sitting comfortably atop the group if they can secure a win at Anfield. FC Basel and Liverpool both have 3 points, although Basel have a -3 goal differential. Ludogorets are at the bottom without a point, despite only losing 2-1 to Liverpool and Real Madrid. A win for Madrid would probably signal them as tops in the group, while Liverpool may be sent scrambling to progress to the knockout stage.
The last time these teams met at Anfield was in 2009 with Liverpool dominating 4-0. Many players have switched teams since then, and both have new perspectives heading into this matchup. A lot of people expect a similar drubbing, but with Real being the victors this time around. Not so fast, the injury bug has bit Real in the butt (literally), and may have a part to play this time around. Can Ronaldo shake off his Anfield scoring voodoo curse, or will it be Mario Balotelli who breaks out of his slump to thump Madrid? Either way, there are valuable points to be captured and an entertaining spectacle to be seen.