Liverpool are at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu tonight to take on Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. The Reds are three goals down after the 5-2 defeat in the first leg at Anfield three weeks ago. Here’s how Jürgen Klopp could line his side up tonight.

For a match preview, you can head over here.

The manager reported two potentially crippling ‘injuries’ in his pre-match press conference yesterday. Skipper Jordan Henderson has been ruled out with illness, as has youngster Stefan Bajcetic who is struggling with an adductor problem.

It’s a huge blow as both players were in line to start in midfield tonight. An already problematic midfield problem has been exacerbated by this news and the continued absence of Thiago Alcantara who is still out with a hip injury. The side is at least full strength in defence and in attack.

Alisson Becker is set to start in goal, with likely the same back four infront of him that has started each of the the last two games. The Brazilian committed a gaffe to let Real back into the game last time out and will have to make up for that error with a top class performance here.

Infront of him, we should see Konaté and Van Dijk continue their partnership in the heart of defence, with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson occupying the full back slots. The Ibou x Virgil partnership has only lost two games when starting together, with one of those coming in the Champions League final last May.

In the middle of the park, the manager’s options are severely limited. A Bajcetic – Henderson – Thiago midfield trio could have realistically started the game tonight if fit. With all three unavailable, the manager has to pick between Fabinho, Milner, Elliott, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carvalho.

That’s a load of names but in reality the quality is thread bare. The manager must decide if he would be best served with a change in shape considering the circumstances (4-2-3-1 perhaps). In that case he would only need to pick two central midfielders.

It’s a real dilemma to grapple with. Maybe a two man midfield away to Real is too risky when trying to overturn a three goal deficit. The defence hasn’t exactly been watertight (a recent run of five consecutive league clean sheets notwithstanding) to warrant the trust of sacrificing a midfielder for an extra forward.

Fabinho is a shoo-in to start. He’s returned to a semblance of his normal self in recent weeks after he dipped to shocking depths earlier in the campaign. Alongside him, James Milner will have to be called upon again. He will be up against a fellow 37 year old in Luka Modric and will have the unenviable task of keeping the Croat quiet.

Harvey Elliott will in all likelihood complete the midfield trio. The 19 year old has started each of the last three games, and despite being hooked at the break last Saturday, can generally be relied upon. The manager obviously trusts him, as seen by the fact that he’s the only player to feature in every single match this season.

Upfront, the manager has options. Does he go with the same front three or does he opt to freshen things up by introducing Diogo Jota and/or Roberto Firmino? Cody Gakpo struggled against Los Blancos in the first leg so perhaps we might see a change there.

Jota has been preferred to Bobby since they both returned from injury so it’s safe to assume he’ll be first in line if the manager wants to change things up in attack, with Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah surely set to start again.

Whichever lineup is selected, the Reds will face an uphill battle. Three goals down against the kings of the competition and away from the comforts of home. Never say never though.

Predicted team:

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Elliott, Milner, Salah, Jota, Darwin.

Subs: Kelleher, Adrian, Matip, Phillips, Gomez, Tsimikas, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita, Gakpo, Firmino, Carvalho.

Real predicted XI:

Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho, Tchouameni, Modric, Kroos, Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.


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