Liverpool take on holders Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie tonight. The Reds, fresh off the back of consecutive victories, face the unenviable task of knocking out the fourteen time champions of Europe. Here’s the predicted XI for the Reds.

For a match preview, you can head over here.

In terms of team news, the sight of Darwin Nunez training with his teammates last night was a real boost. The Uruguayan is in good form at the minute and was facing a race against time to be fit for tonight’s showdown after picking up a shoulder injury at Newcastle.

Despite the short turnaround between Saturday night’s victory over Newcastle and this meeting with the holders of the competition, Jürgen Klopp is unlikely to make many alterations to his side. He seems to have settled on a combination in midfield and attack.

The manager made a quadruple substitution just shy of the hour mark on Saturday as all of Bajcetic, Henderson, Gakpo and Darwin were given a breather. They are all therefore likely to be handed another start tonight.

In goal will be Alisson Becker. The Brazilian was in supreme form at the weekend (as he has been all season really), denying Newcastle on a number of occasions. The last time these two sides met, Thibaut Courtois stole the show with a breathtaking performance to guide Real to a 14th title.

With the form Ali is in, he should be aiming to upstage his counterpart this time round. In defence, Virgil Van Dijk marked his return from a hamstring injury with a solid display at the St James Park. The 31 year old will have to be at his best to keep the Ballon d’Or holder, Karim Benzema, quiet.

The Dutchman will have Joe Gomez alongside him once more, with the 25 year old’s pace potentially key against the electric Vinicius Junior. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will line up at full back to complete the backline.

In midfield, the Bajcetic – Keita – Thiago combination was undressed at the Molineux a few weeks ago and hasn’t been used since. Thiago’s hip injury has played a part in that but Fabinho and skipper Jordan Henderson have returned to the side and acquitted themselves ever so well.

The duo will surely be handed a start here in what is the ultimate test up against the wily Luka Modric. They will be joined in the engine room by 18 year old Stefan Bajcetic. The Spanish youngster has been a breath of fresh air since he broke into the side a few weeks ago.

He was named Liverpool Player of the Month for January recently, with Mohamed Salah admitting he has been the side’s best player since breaking through. He put in a Man of the Match performance in the Merseyside derby as he showed no signs of nerves.

If tonight is the ultimate test for Fabinho and Henderson who have won every trophy there is at club level and played in multiple Champions League finals, how much an 18 year old with less than twenty senior appearances under his belt?

If he can once again play with the same level of calm he’s shown thus far, in what is without a doubt the biggest game of his young career, then it can no longer be denied that we have a serious talent on our hands.

Upfront, Darwin Nunez will line up on the left wing after overcoming the shoulder issue. He will be joined by Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah. This front three have started each of the last three and finally seem to be clicking as a trio. The onus will be on them to lead the Reds to victory.

The likes of James Milner, Harvey Elliott, Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino will offer an injection of energy off the bench if and when required.

Predicted team:

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Bajcetic, Salah, Gakpo, Darwin.

Subs: Kelleher, Matip, Phillips, Tsimikas, Milner, Keita, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jota, Elliott, Carvalho, Firmino,.



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