By Rob Peters @RobPeters_14
So, we’ve finally played Real Madrid, possibly the greatest team in the world at this present moment in time, who are in the fortunate position to boast the world’s greatest player, as well as an all-round fantastic squad. Question is though: What did we learn from the performance at Anfield?
Brendan needs to re-think his outlook at times
Even the most stubborn Liverpool fan knew we were no match for Madrid if we tried to go toe to toe with them attacking wise, it was suicide to even attempt it. Pressing for the first 15 minutes was all well and good but we needed to keep that intensity and pressure for at least an hour then see where we were from there. Sadly, we couldn’t do it, we pressed well for all of 15 minutes and then once we dropped off, Madrid and their quality struck. There was no shame in the first goal, it was something special from two players worth a combined total of £140m. The second and third however was a different story. Hopefully Rodgers has now realised that we just can’t afford to go for it against a team as strong as Real. They will hurt us. In Madrid we need to just try and soak up pressure and hit them on the break, it’s not Rodgers’ way or the way we want to play but in Europe, at times, it’s the only way you can possibly attempt to do well if you’re the weaker team.
Balotelli is not a lone striker
It’s became pretty clear now that Mario Balotelli is not a lone striker and cannot cover ground quick enough (or at all some would say) in order to help the team out in any way possible. He needs a strike partner, at Spurs we saw him and Sturridge link up okay, not brilliantly of course but nevertheless, we weren’t calling for Mario’s head after that game. I don’t think we can truly write Balotelli off until we’ve seen him in a good run of games with Sturridge. I am not suggesting he will set the world alight or that he will provide us with breath-taking moments but maybe they may have a fruitful partnership and help each other out on the goal front. As for the shirt swap, that’s just a media snowball that will only roll on and on. Anything to get Mario’s name in the headlines.
Our set pieces as a whole need sorting out
We know Liverpool can’t defend set pieces too well, we’ve seen it time and time again now and it’s not just this season, the fact we haven’t sorted it out yet is quite worrying. It’s not just defensively though, this season I just feel like we haven’t threatened from any corner or free kick yet. A lot of our corners just hit the first man, with corner takers such as Gerrard, Coutinho and Lallana this is just unacceptable. Last season we were the best team to score from set pieces in the league, this season we look scared to try and get a goal. We should arguably be stronger with the presence of Lovren, it’s very strange how weak we look attacking the ball from a corner or free kick.
We need consistent top four finishes
I don’t want that Madrid game to be an everlasting memory for another 6 years until we’re back in Europe’s elite. We need to make sure, first and foremost that we consistently break into the top four regularly, if we do this then the pulling power will come. When players see that Liverpool are a guaranteed Champions League team they will be more convinced to join than maybe they were this summer just gone. Until that day we can forget trying to go head to head with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich like we did during the Benitez era.
We miss Daniel Sturridge
A lot would say we miss Luis Suarez. Of course we do but even if we’d kept him, he was not available for that game against Real anyway so we have to look at what we do have and will have in the coming months. Sturridge’s presence up front puts everyone at ease, our midfielders know they have someone who will run the lines and get in different positions and they know he will keep the ball long enough for them to break forward into the box. How many times when Coutinho had the ball last night were you wishing Sturridge was on the pitch to make a run into space for him to play an inch perfect pass? I’m not saying we’d have won last night but I’m convinced we’d have got a goal or two if Sturridge had been on the pitch, he just creates things and makes space for other players to get into and we miss it desperately.
Lastly, there is no need to be worried or embarrassed.
As I said earlier, there is no shame in losing like that to the World’s greatest team. Real beat Bayern Munich 4-0 at the Allianz in the semi-final of the Champions League only 6 months ago. To stumble to a 3-0 defeat is not great but it’s no shambles. We have a long way to go before we’re able to compete properly with the best teams in Europe but hopefully we’re on the right path and if Rodgers and the players get more experience in Europe’s top competition, we should be fine. Also, on the league front, we play Hull on Saturday. A win in this game will place us within the top four and we all know that we haven’t been anywhere near our best except for one game against Spurs, this to me shows that there is something to be positive about going into the future league games and European games. Bring on Madrid at the Bernabeu!