Rafa Benitez believes Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium could be key to who wins their Champions League clash with Liverpool.
The Reds play the Spanish champions on Tuesday in the round of 16 first-leg at Anfield. With the away leg to come in March, Rafa told Sky Sports that the outcome of next week’s game may have no bearing on the eventual winners.
“I said the same thing to the Spanish press- the second game will be the key,” said the former Reds manager. “Imagine the game finished 1-0 to Liverpool, the Bernabeu can make the difference, and [Madrid’s] top players.
“But imagine it’s 0-1, the [Liverpool] players will be fitter, the match fitness they don’t have now they will have. Firmino will be fit, Jota will be fit, Van Dijk will be fit and then you have Darwin. If it’s 3-0, okay finished but if it’s 2-1, something like that, anything can happen in the second game.”
Rafa predicts unchanged Liverpool team
An insightful segment followed Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Newcastle this evening. Rafa looked ahead to the mammoth tie between two of his former teams.
Asked for his thoughts on what team Jurgen Klopp will put out on Tuesday, the 60-year-old said he expected Liverpool to be unchanged.
“I said at the end both managers are doing well – Klopp giving minutes to Firmino, giving minutes to Jota. It depends on what he has in his head in terms of how can he attack Real Madrid, because Real Madrid have an issue at left-back,” the Spaniard explained.
“When they’re playing Camavinga it’s a problem – you can say Salah can attack this way, but the other day they put Alaba on the left, so it will be more difficult.
“So, depending on the Real Madrid player, he might put a player between the lines, but otherwise Klopp can say go with the same players.
“If I was the manager, I’d put my best players now with confidence and quality. Then you can bring on the other players who are clever and can find the spaces.”
On-screen, the XI Rafa theoretically picked flashed up. Unchanged from tonight’s win over Newcastle. That would obviously place huge faith in young Stefan Bajcetic in particular. But given he once again looked assured in a difficult environment this evening, he’s earned it.
By the time the game at the Bernabeu rolls around, things might be different. There’s a lot of football to be played between now and then. Whatever difference the legendary stadium can make though, Anfield can too. Roll on Tuesday.
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