UCL Preview: Liverpool, Real Madrid at Anfield, Bayern efficiency, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Two clubs with great history in Europe will clash at Anfield.

Real Madrid will look to keep their pace at the top of Group B while Liverpool will look to rebound from their 1-0 loss to Basel.

Madrid has yet to beat the Reds in European competition in three times and were well beaten to the tune of 4-0 the only time they’ve visited Merseyside.

Despite having a tough time against Ludogorets, Madrid may still be the favorites, even away from home. They’ve won five of their last seven away games and face a Liverpool side that hasn’t looked great in the competition so far.

After struggling in a win over Ludogorets, they lost in their next fixture. Mario Balotelli has yet to set the Anfield pitch alight and at times Steven Gerrard is starting to show his age. They will need a much improved performance all around if they are to take points off the visitors.

The key to watch is the Liverpool backline and how well they cope with a presumed attacking trio of Cristiano RonaldoJames Rodriguez and Karim Benzema.While it’s a tough test normally, it’s an even more difficult challenge for a side that has kept a dearth of clean sheets – two in 20 matches in all competitions.

One thing is for certain, there should certainly be goals in this one.

What To Look For

1. Bayern efficiency– Two games. Two goals. Two wins.

That’s been the story of Bayern Munich’s jaunt into the Champions League so far.

However, at some point the German giants will need to take the next step. It won’t get any easier when they face Roma.

The Italians have been in good form in the competition with a resounding 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow and a late draw through a Francisco Totti goal against Manchester City. They’ve also have a strong record hosting Bundesliga clubs with seven wins in 11 tries.

Bayern has been strong, even when they play away. They’ve only lost one time in their last 11 Champions League games.

The Germans are blessed with a host of attacking talents. They could very well show more of that efficiency in Rome, but may need more goals to get a third consecutive win in Group E.

2. Man City looks for first win– Things could be looking so much different for Manchester City. They are a two late goals conceded a way from a draw against Bayern Munich and win against Roma.

Instead, they sit in third in Group E.

However, all is not lost. While City has struggled in advancing from group stages in their forays into the Champions League, there still is a great opportunity to do so. With Bayern Munich and Roma playing each other, City can get right back into the reckoning with a win over CSKA Moscow.

While a trip to Russia can always prove difficult, City has won their before. It wouldn’t be too far out of the memory either. On the third matchday in group play, City defeated CSKA 2-1. They will look for similar fortunes this time around to earn their first win in Group A this season.

Sergio Aguero is coming off a four goal effort in the Premier League and could be the catalyst if inserted into Manuel Pellegrini‘s Starting XI. City will have to be wary of Ahmed Musa, who could cause problems at the back for the visitors.

3. Looking for separation in Group A– Two games played by each side and there is nothing to separate them thus far. As it stands, Group A is the most competitive group with each club on three points.

Atletico Madrid will face Malmo, while Olympiacos squares off against Juventus. Both of the home sides this week won their previous home game.

Atleti will play Malmo for the first time in 49 years, with the Spanish side winning two games in the 1966/67 European Champions Clubs’ Cup. They will be favored to win this one as well. The home side have won their last 18 of 20 matches at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and it should very well be another.

Despite losing in their most recent Champions League fixture – away from home – Olympiacos has a strong run in Greece. They’ve won their last four games there.

However, Juventus has struggled when traveling on European nights having not won in their last five – four losses, one draw. Carlos Tevez has scored the club’s only two goals in the competition and will look to get back on the score sheet to help clarify their chances of advancing.

 4. Zenit, Leverkausen wrestle for control– Group C has been well contested by three of the four teams thus far. While Monaco, who sits atop the group, plays Benfica, at the bottom, it’s the other match-up that could prove to be more intriguing.

Zenit or Bayer Leverkausen could position themselves nicely to either take control of the group or at leas be in a prime position the first time through the group games.

Both sides are currently separated by a point – Zenit’s four to Leverkausen’s three.

The Germans should turn to their youth to overcome their Russian opponents. Hakan CathanogluSon Heung-Min and recently dubbed German international Karim Bellarabi could all prove influential if Leverkausen are going to get the result.