Not Vinicius or Benzema – the weapon that Real Madrid have that could bury Liverpool

Liverpool need to be wary of the incredible set-piece threat that Real Madrid carry as they aim to come from behind to beat the La Liga outfit and progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

The Reds were dreadful in Madrid as they allowed their hosts to win 3-1 at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Now, Jurgen Klopp’s side once again needs a heroic 90 minutes to progress to the next round of a European competition.

They’ve done it before against Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona and will once again need to do it without key players. Against the Catalonians, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were injured while Andy Robertson was withdrawn at halftime.

This time around, Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are absent.

MUNICH, GERMANY – MARCH 13: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool (4) celerbates as he scores his team’s second goal with Joel Matip and team mates during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Liverpool at Allianz Arena on March 13, 2019 in Munich, Bavaria. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The absence of Klopp’s tallest defenders with the greatest aerial ability will be a serious miss as they look to overcome Madrid.

The La Liga Champions have been dominant in the air again this season and while they will be without Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane again, the technical ability that Toni Kroos has from set-pieces will still worry Klopp and his coaching staff.

Los Blancos (10) have been the joint strongest team from set-pieces, as they and Real Betis lead the way in Spain. Per 90 minutes, Zinedine Zidane’s side wins an average of 11.8 aerial duels which is actually second lowest in the division.

Only Barcelona win fewer aerial duels but this is a testament to how many of their aerial duels come from set-piece situations and how they manipulate when and where to play the ball in the air.

MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 10: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga Santander match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 10, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Liverpool have scored just six times from set-pieces this season which really highlights how the absence of Virgil van Dijk and co. has negatively impacted their ability to decide games with a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

It’s clear that with 10 assists this season, one coming against them last week, Toni Kroos is the man for Liverpool to limit as he can change a game with one single pass and from anywhere on the pitch.

The pass the German played to Vinicius came from well within his own half and while he was under little pressure, that highlights just how dangerous he can be when given the tiniest bit of space.

Liverpool’s game plan needs to be centred around throttling Real Madrid high up the pitch and limiting the ability they have to play on the counter-attack.

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Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.

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