Tim Stannard looks ahead to a glittering night at Anfield, as Cristiano Ronaldo aims to break a rare goalscoring hoodoo...
There must be a certain air of annoyance where Marc-Andre ter Stegen is concerned. Claudio Bravo gets all the glory holding back the terrifying hordes of merciless strikers found among the ranks of Elche and Granada, while the young German is thrown into the Champions League shark pool every fortnight with barely a chance to warm his goalkeeping cockles.
While his Chilean counterpart can boast 720 minutes unbeaten in La Liga, Ter Stegen has now shipped three goals from two European contests. To be fair, Tuesday’s conceded effort against the ever-disappointing Ajax didn’t really mean that much considering Leo Messi, Neymar and Sandro Ramírez popped in three at the other end.
Once again, it was the wee Argentine who was on top of his game and probably rather looking forward to the Clásico on Saturday. “We have two Messis in one; one that creates goals and another that just keeps on scoring,” oozed J.M Artells in Mundo Deportivo.
Not so good news in the world of Athletic Bilbao, though, after another defeat in the Champions League to Porto that leaves the side pretty much out of this year’s competition. “There is not much to think about,” shrugged Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde, “except winning the next game and the one after that.”
Just like Walford
The two Madrid clubs are in action on Wednesday night in matches that are fairly different in terms of excitement levels. Atlético are down at the Vicente Calderón taking on super Swedes Malmö, a team Diego Simeone seems to have taken a shine to. “I rate Malmö as they have a virtue,” chimed the Atleti coach.
“They play as a team, they work with various systems and adapt to what the manager wants.” LLL can’t image what the Argentine might admire about that.
Of course, Real Madrid are in the big showpiece event of the evening with a trip to Anfield, in a clash that has more storylines than an over-ambitious episode of EastEnders. Are Liverpool as bad as fans may fear? Are Real Madrid as good as the local media claim? Can Mario Balotelli wake up when the big moment arrives?
And most incredibly of all, can Cristiano Ronaldo score at Anfield, something that the striker failed to do on five occasions with Manchester United?
Highly interesting to the Madrid press (that have three eyes on the Clásico) was the absence of Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao from the squad which travelled to England. “It’s incredible. We are in Anfield and we are speaking about those who are injured or not called up,” snapped an irate Ancelotti.
The Italian boss is discovering that, while the Champions League is an obsession for the Madrid media (along with English opponents), an even bigger passion is very much in view.
Ancelotti will claim not to be thinking about the Clásico during the Liverpool clash, but everyone else will be, no matter how much that may bother the Madrid boss.