Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made a real ‘statement’ in last night's match against Real Madrid.
The Reds' boss made several high profile changes, as Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli were all left on the bench. It might make one ask the question why did these players travel to the Spanish capital in the first place if they weren’t going to start.
Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini all started for the Reds at the Bernabeu in a match that people felt that Liverpool needed something from. A disappointing performance in Switzerland against Basle which ended in a 2-0 defeat hasn’t helped Liverpool’s campaign.
The 18-time English champions went into this Champions League game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. The last meeting between the two sides last month saw Liverpool suffer a ‘mauling’ to Real Madrid,the defending champions won 3-0 at Anfield.
Karim Benzema scored twice that with ‘goal machine’ Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing the other. Ronaldo came into this match one goal short of equalling former Real Madrid striker Raul’s record of 71 champions league goals – but surprisingly the Portuguese captain had a quiet night by his standards.
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Toure and Skrtel superb
That was mainly down to the brilliant performances of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel on the night. If I was to be harsh I would say thatToure was a little bit at fault for the only goal of the game that was scored by Benzema.
Lazar Markovic was another player who impressed tonight, but on one occasion in the first half he wasn’t quite ‘in sync’ with his colleague Javi Manquillo down the right which ultimately allowed Real left-back to deliver a wicked ball in, where Benzema was left in space in the box – and all the Frenchmen needed to do was make some form of connection to the cross, which he duly did to score what proved to be the winner on the night.
Liverpool battle on
That goal was harsh on Liverpool the Reds battled hard. Fabio Borini really did work his socks off upfront. The main plus points for me were that Liverpool had a ‘nice shape’ about them defensively.
Time and time again Real with their vast array of attacking talent, struggled to really threaten Liverpool’s back-line. That was down to Liverpool’s well organised defence, the Reds defended in numbers, and when Real did attack they struggled at times due to Liverpool’s defence.
Skrtel, who was captain for the night, did make the occasional error – but Simon Mignolet the (Liverpool goal keeper) made some magnificent saves, the one from James Rodriguez early on being the pick for me.
Rodgers must drop Lovren
So many times this season Dejan Lovren has looked incompetent and error prone – but the performance of Toure alongside Skrtel for me was good enough to make Brendan Rodgers say that this is his defensive partnership for Saturday's game against Chelsea at least.
Although Liverpool did lose this game, Rodgers can be very pleased with this performance. Players such as Borini and Toure in my opinion have really staked their claims to play in the Saturday lunchtime game against Chelsea.
Liverpool’s problems have been in attack and in defence. The Reds haven’t scored in their last three games and are conceding too many goals.
The performance tonight reminded me of the Liverpool performances of last season, their pressing was excellent and Borini was one of the main examples of that – that’s possibly why the Italian got the nod ahead of his countryman Mario Balotelli.
There might have not been any goals scored tonight , but Liverpool's back 4 and the midfielders sitting in front of the back four, really did impress me tonight.
Liverpool had no Sterling and Gerrard tonight, both players were really missed tonight – but there are good signs after tonight's performance.