A day of speculation about the future of Rafa Benitez has meant speculation over Steven Gerrard’s fitness was almost forgotten about. But Liverpool’s captain won’t be risked from the kick-off tonight, having not played since a hamstring injury sustained against Everton.
He’ll be on the bench, but if the players in the starting line-up can all put their best performances in, he should be able to stay there all game.
Daniel Agger is injured and didn’t travel, so Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel get the centre-back roles. Sami Hyypia is on the bench having only just been restored to Liverpool’s Champions League squad. Fabio Aurelio and Alvaro Arbeloa are the full-backs.
Xabi Alonso is back in the eleven, having sat out Sunday’s draw through suspension, and will join Javier Mascherano in central midfield. How Rafa chooses to use Yossi Benayoun, Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt remains to be seen, but we all know where Fernando Torres will play.
Like Torres, goalkeeper Pepe Reina grew up as a fan of Real’s rivals Atletico Madrid and will have extra reason to fight for a decent result tonight. Added to that, all the players need to respond to the recent speculation and pressure by making sure the critics have far less to talk about. And of course, the badge on their shirt should always add a massive incentive to perform.
Real have a familiar name on the bench, Jerzy Dudek is their reserve keeper. One-time Reds target Heinze is in the starting eleven, as is the renowned play-actor during his Chelsea days, Pepe Reina.
Real Madrid: 1 Casillas, 4 Sergio Ramos, 3 Pepe, 5 Cannavaro, 16 Heinze, 11 Robben, 8 Gago, 6 Diarra, 12 Marcelo, 20 Higuain, 7 Raul
Subs: 25 Dudek, 9 Saviola, 10 Sneijder, 14 Guti, 21 Metzelder, 22 Miguel Torres, 23 Van der Vaart
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 12 Aurelio, 15 Benayoun, 14 Alonso, 20 Mascherano, 11 Riera, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 2 Dossena, 4 Hyypia, 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel, 21 Lucas, 24 Ngog
Referee: Roberto Rosetti