Beat Liverpool, Madrid does not need the best team

Real Madrid won 3-1 over Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final first leg without the best player.

Since long ago it was known that captain Sergio Ramos would miss the 2018 Champions League final replay due to a calf injury. Without Ramos, the ‘spice’ of the match will be reduced. Ramos and Mohamed Salah’s duel in the top match three years ago was canceled.

Apart from not being reinforced by Ramos, a few hours before the match it was discovered that Zinedine Zidane could not play Raphael Varane who was known to be positive for Covid-19.

In the match to host Liverpool, Madrid also cannot play Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard who are the new ‘glass people’ at Los Merengues.

Without Ramos and Varane, the Madrid center-back duo will be filled with Eder Militao and Nacho. Instead of playing a back three by placing Ferland Mendy as a center defender, Zidane relied on the usual 4-3-3 formation.

It was quite surprising to see Madrid immediately appear aggressive from the first minute and already made Alisson Becker familiar with the ball.

Madrid is able to appear solidly, making it difficult for Liverpool to develop the game. Pressing The Reds seemed unable to prevent Madrid from building attacks.

A quick game with one touch looks easy for the Los Blancos players to perform. Even though playing in this way requires players to be fast in making decisions and have good bait accuracy skills.

On the other hand, every attempt at Liverpool to start an attack often runs aground in the middle. Madrid meeting games make it difficult for guests to find a gap.

The attack from the wing, which is usually carried out by two Liverpool full-backs, was nowhere to be seen. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were kept busy with defense because Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio often pressed Liverpool from left and right.

Especially Vinicius, the Brazilian player looks to be used as a motor for Madrid’s attack. The left side of Madrid was also noted to be brighter on the heat map because of Vinicius’ activity, who often combed the wings, tearing apart the Reds.

Vinicius, who was brought in by Madrid from Flamengo in 2018, deserves to be called one of the winning stars in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 20-year-old was not only actively exploring the flanks and making Alexander-Arnold confused, but also scoring goals.

Vinicius appeared calmly sneaking in the Liverpool defense. Alexander-Arnold and Nathaniel Phillips could not anticipate Vinicius ‘movement and Toni Kroos’ genius pass which assisted El Real’s first goal.

Apart from Vinicius, another star of Madrid’s victory was Toni Kroos. The German midfielder sent another pass that started the process for Madrid’s second goal.

Kroos’ magic ball failed to be cleared by Alexander-Arnold. Instead of throwing the ball away, the England national team right-back offered the round leather to Asensio, who then had no trouble beating Alisson.

In order to respond to being two goals behind and intending to reduce the host’s midfield, Jurgen Klopp then put Thiago Alcantara to replace Naby Keita ahead of the end of the first half.

Entering the second half, Liverpool’s game seemed to change. It is clear that Sadio Mane and his friends don’t want to be left any further behind Madrid.

After being without a shot in the first half, Liverpool then recorded a series of shots on Madrid’s goal in the second half.

The Liverpool possesion looks more running than the previous 45 minutes. Six minutes after referee Felix Brych blew the second half’s whistle, Salah scored.

Liverpool closed the gap and raised hope, but Madrid then responded in kind. Karim Benzema and his friends then returned to playing pressure and closed the spaces for Liverpool.

Vinicius then returned to play an important role by scoring a goal that marked Madrid not yet finished in the Champions League. A simple Madrid game that started from a throw-in situation was completed by Vinicius firmly and with measurement.

Madrid does half the job quite well. The duet of Eder Militao and Nacho, who is feared to be a problem at the back, because they are rarely played together, does not cause problems.

Madrid’s defense that starts from midfield is a factor that makes Liverpool fail to play in the final third of the field.

When Madrid caught off guard, Jota and Salah proved their abilities as capable attacking actors with a goal that will capitalize on next week’s home game.

The effectiveness of Madrid’s game also deserves credit. Of the total ball possession of around 46 percent, Madrid can fire 16 shots. While Liverpool only had seven shots.

A score of 3-1, which is similar to the results of the 2018 Champions League final, will not ultimately determine who will progress to the semifinals.

Madrid and Liverpool still have a chance. A two-goal advantage is an advantage for the ruling club of the Champions League, but two goals at home is also not a difficult matter if Liverpool are in their best game.

Moreover, there is the El Clasico factor this weekend that will have an impact on Madrid.

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