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Liverpool predicted XI vs Real Madrid

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We move onto fixture four of the Champions League group stages and on Tuesday night current holders Real Madrid take on five-time winners Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Both teams enter the game in very different form. The hosts have been in outstanding shape for near two months after a slow start, and have not dropped a single point since their 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid on September 13. 

In fact, Carlo Ancelotti's men have been frighteningly good. In their last five matches, they've netted at least three times and at the weekend the Spanish giants defeated Grenada 4-0 away from home.

Liverpool are quite the opposite. The Reds sit seventh in the Premier League, on just 14 points from ten games and put in another dismal display on Saturday when defeated 1-0 by Newcastle United.

Tuesday's game will be the second time the pair meet this season. The first time the two sides met in Group B, Madrid cantered to a 3-0 win at Anfield, with Karim Barzema grabbing a brace and Cristiano Ronaldo also getting on the score-sheet.

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Brendan Rodgers men travel to the Spanish capital in desperate need of a result if they are to qualify for the knock-out stages of Europe's elite competition. The Merseyside club sit on just three points after playing as many games and still face a tough trip to Ludogorets Razgrad and have to host FC Basel at Anfield.

Here is my predicted starting XI to play at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Goalkeeper - Simon Mignolet

It's highly unlikely that the Belgian will lose his place in the Liverpool goal, however he is under pressure to perform.

Mignolet is a man of consistency - but not consistency in a positive sense.

Shot-stopping wise, he is one of the best in the game. His reaction saves are fantastic and we saw this when he denied Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half in the reverse fixture at Anfield. On Saturday during the defeat against Newcastle, the former Sunderland man also made two superb saves in the second period to keep his side in the game.

However, Mignolet comes troubled when coming to claim the ball. He does not command his box well, which is half the battle as well as lacking confidence when leaving his line to either claim or clear crosses. The game against the Magpies at the weekend highlighted this issue twice, once when he should have gathered a dangerous cross and the second when he air-punched a corner that was never his to come and collect.

It's likely Mignolet will be extremely busy on Tuesday night and will be have to be at his very best if the Reds are to get anything from the game.

Right-back - Javier Manquillo

Whoever is given the nod to be playing on the right-hand side of defence will have the up-most task of marking no other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Glen Johnson was assigned the task in October, but he had little success in doing so. On Saturday, the England international struggled to keep tracks with Sammy Ameobi and it is likely he will drop to the bench after a poor performance.

Liverpool will be all about defending in this fixture and trying to score on the counter attack. Being solid at the back is the most important thing and Manquillo is much stronger defensively than Johnson.

Although he only joined in the summer, the Spaniard - who is on loan from Real's rivals Athletico Madrid - has settled into the squad very well and put in some decent performances. He's been impressive with his tackling, with his large stature making it difficult for wingers to get passed him. 

Centre-back - Martin Skrtel 

The Slovakian has been out of form this season and will have to put in a career best effort if Liverpool want a result from this game.

Skrtel has a tendency of being very clumsy in dangerous areas - as displayed against Newcastle on Saturday when committing a foul no less than 20 yards out.

However, the 29-year-old always seems pumped up for the big games and he was superb in fixtures against top clubs last term. He will have to keep Karim Benzema at bay, as well as dealing with the other attacking players of the Madrid side, and must not be dismissed if the Reds want to travel back to Merseyside with a result.

Centre-back - Dejan Lovren

These type of games are the reason why Lovren moved to Liverpool from Southampton.

He is playing on one of the biggest stages in club football and must not flop. However, that means finding form first.

The Croatian is yet to display all of his capabilities since he arrived at Anfield and has been badly out of touch. The 25-year-old is playing with little confidence and showed that again on Saturday - he gave the ball away far too needlessly too often and this angered his manager.

Although it's unlikely to be enough to find himself on the bench, Lovren has to impress here. He faces a stiff task in denying Ronaldo and co. but a good performance will do wonders for his confidence and could kick-start a solid run of appearances.

Left-back - Alberto Moreno

For the most part, the Spaniard has done well since switching Sevilla for the Reds in the summer.

However, against Newcastle at the weekend, Moreno put in his worst performance for Liverpool. He was constantly troubled by Gabriel Obertan before he limped off injured and then found the task of marking Rolando Aarons just as difficult.

The 22-year-old will be up against a much better line of attack in this fixture and his defensive duties must come first.

Nonetheless, the power and pace Moreno possesses will not only aid him when defending, but if Liverpool are going to score. The only likely way the Reds will score is on a quick counter-attack and this is something the Spanin U21 international thrives off.

We saw in the game against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season how good is ability to break on the counter is, when he dispossessed Andros Townsend and took the ball all the way to slot past Hugo Lloris. 

Defensive-midfield - Steven Gerrard 

The Liverpool skipper will have a big role to play on Tuesday night, playing just ahead of the back-four.

You could still very much see Gerrard's passion was still there against Newcastle - he was Liverpool's best player on the pitch, making himself busy and attempting to create chances for his side.

The 34-year-old will very much need his running shoes in for the Madrid game. When the two sides met at Anfield, Gerrard spent much of the game chasing the ball around from Luca Modric and Toni Kroos and will likely do the same in Spain. 

For the Reds to score, they may rely on an inch-perfect long ball from Gerrard to strike on the counter attack, and he certainly had his passing boots on, on Saturday when almost providing for Martin Skrtel and Philippe Coutinho.

Right-midfield - Raheem Sterling

The England international has been stuck out very wide of late, and I see Brendan Rodgers ordering Sterling to do the same again.

The Northern Irishman usually prefers a 4-3-3 formation with Sterling playing further up the field, but playing away from home against such a strong side, he'll be needed more defensively.

Liverpool will need plenty of pace if they are to score and of course the 19-year-old has this. He has blistering speeds and excellent skill and hopefully he can make an impact.

Centre-midfield - Emre Can

Can has been in good form of late, impressing against both QPR and Hull, in particular. I was surprised that he did not feature in the North East at the weekend, and one suspects he must have been rested in preparation for this game. 

The German is massive physically and that should very much help his side. Both Kroos and Modric aren't the biggest of centre-midfielder's and I'd like to see Can attempt to get into a physical battle with them as that will cause them to make mistakes.

Can starting also benefits Steven Gerrard - the former Bayer Leverkusen man is so hard in the tackle and has excellent defensive attributes. Gerrard recognises this, and knows that he will have cover from Can if he is commit himself to an attack.

Centre-midfield - Jordan Henderson

Liverpool will need plenty of energy in this game - Henderson brings that.

The 24-year-old has an incredible engine, never stopping throughout any game to try and win the ball back for his side.

We saw when the two met in October that Henderson had some success against Modric and Kroos. His high energy levels helped the former man close the Madrid pair down quickly and caused the two to make mistakes, which began attacks for his team.  

If the England international has a similar influence, as well as helping out when Liverpool get an attack, he should put in a big performance.

Left-midfield - Adam Lallana

Lallana has found himself out of the Liverpool team of late, starting in just one of the Reds last four games.

He was left out of the game against the Magpies, replaced by Joe Allen, which was a poor move from Rodgers.

It's likely that the 26-year-old will see himself come back into the side, especially after his performance against the Spanish side at Anfield.

He came on as a half-time substitute against Madrid two weeks ago, and changed the dynamic of the Liverpool side. Lallana was extremely busy and had a lot of creativity going forwards, and produced several chances for his team-mates.

Striker - Fabio Borini

Mario Balotelli was terrible against the current Champions League holders last time, likewise in Saturday's fixture.

Liverpool need a forward who will give his all, especially in a tie like this. 

With the Italian's work ethic questionable, his fellow countryman's is not.

Borini was superb when starting against Swansea City in the League Cup, putting his whole heart into the performance and his movement caused problems for the Welsh side's defence.

If Rodgers wants to get anything from this game, he needs to select players who are willing to put their body on the line and go the extra mile. Borini is desperately trying to gain a place in the Liverpool side and would definitely do this.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Premier League
Real Madrid
Liverpool
Football

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