Liverpool might cause a major upset by unleashing Roberto Firmino on Real Madrid
Liverpool must overcome Real Madrid in the Champions League after suffering a humiliating 5-2 defeat at Anfield in the first leg.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have fallen from grace this season, finishing fifth in the English Premier League and falling in the early stages of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, with continental football the only realistic chance of silverware this season.
Even that may be too much to ask; Liverpool raced to a 2-0 lead against Real Madrid early on, but an inexplicable collapse allowed the visitors to score five goals in front of a stunned Anfield crowd.
Yet, if Klopp’s previous efforts against Spanish opposition in the Champions League are any indication, a glimmer of hope remains.
Liverpool lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the 2018/19 edition of the renowned event before shockingly defeating La Blaugrana with a four-goal romp on Merseyside.
But, the circumstances are starkly different to the former enthusiasm that Liverpool exploited to build a path to Champions League triumph, but steadfast Roberto Firmino must be used to achieve the achievable.
Will Firmino make his debut against Real Madrid?
Since joining Liverpool for £29 million from Hoffenheim in 2015, Firmino has scored 108 goals and contributed 79 assists in 355 games, helping the Reds win the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup, among other major titles.
Despite Liverpool’s problems this season, the 31-year-old has ten goals and five assists in 16 games, offering a cutting edge to the Reds’ attack amid a lack of fluidity.
Hailed as a “leader” by journalist Henry Winter, the 55-cap attacker has risen dramatically among forwards competing in Europe’s top divisions over the past year, demonstrating both his direct danger and creative flair.
According to Sofascore, the £180k-per-week South American has an average rating of 7.07 in the Champions League this season, scoring two goals and providing one assist from four starts, generating 1.4 critical passes per match and completing an assured 81% of his passes.
Firmino’s poise and selfless attacking arsenal will only help his teammates around him against Madrid, who will be bolstered by their advantage and the cacophonous Santiago Bernabeu crowd.
He should replace Cody Gakpo, who has four goals in 13 games since his £35 million January signing from PSV Eindhoven.
Gakpo has shown lots of promise since joining the struggling club at a difficult time, but he struggled against Madrid in the first leg, being substituted after 64 minutes, having made only 25 touches and failing to take a shot.
Firmino must be deployed in a game of critical importance, with the likes of Darwin Nez and Mohamed Salah only profiting from his dynamic ubiquity.
Although unlikely, the change might cause a major upheaval in the Spanish capital.