The last time Liverpool FC faced Real Madrid in competitive action was the European final in 1981. Alan Kennedy’s goal was enough to secure the trophy for the Reds. At the time Liverpool were footballing giants both in Europe and at home.
Rafael Benitez has yet to win the Premier League title since taking the helm in 2004, but Liverpool’s presence in Europe has been formidable under the Spaniard’s leadership.
Between Benitez’s success at Valencia and winning the Champions League his first season with Liverpool, the Reds have been able to attract a lot of fine talent to Merseyside. Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Dirk Kuyt, Jaiver Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Albert Riera and one Fernando Torres have all gladly joined Rafa’s ranks and the smell of European glory has had no small lure for these capable players.
Rafa’s side is already much stronger than the one he inherited from predecessor Gerrard Houllier. And while Liverpool once again have faltered in the Premier League with far too many draws. The Champions League may continue to be the arena where Liverpool add to their sizable trophy cabinet.
Since 2005 Liverpool have overcome Leverkusen, Juventus, Chelsea, AC Milan, Barcelona, Eindhoven, Chelsea again, Inter Milan and Arsenal in European elimination play. Real are an imposing side, but Liverpool beat Barcelona two years ago, first securing a lead and two away goals in the away leg before returning to Anfield. This was without the talent of Fernando Torres, who will be hungry to score his first goal at the San Bernabeu stadium.
When Liverpool were selected to play Real, the Spanish giants were in a rut. But Madrid have too much quality to stay down for too long, and a recent burst in form shows they are definitely ready and hungry as the match with Liverpool approaches.
The big question for England’s most succesful side is the fitness of skipper and eternal lighting rod, Steven Gerrard. If he is ready to play today, the rest of the side can attack with more confidence and drive. Along with Fernando Torres, Gerrard is a true match-changer and could provide the inspired edge Liverpool will need to add to Alan Kennedy’s tally against Real Madrid.