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Liverpool: Klopp must unleash James Milner vs Real Madrid

Liverpool: Klopp must unleash James Milner vs Real Madrid

Liverpool: Klopp must unleash James Milner vs Real Madrid

When Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah capitalised on a mistake from Thibaut Courtois after 14 minutes of the Champions League last-16 tie at Anfield against Real Madrid, putting the Reds 2-0 up, the thunderous roar from the disbelieving home crowd could be heard for miles around.

About an hour later into the match, a sense of incredulity of a different nature pervaded throughout Merseyside, Liverpool had collapsed, and Los Blancos had blitzed into a remarkable 5-2 lead, taking their advantage back to the Santiago Bernabeu, where they now await Jurgen Klopp’s outfit.
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The Premier League outfit’s onerous task is exacerbated by the absences of captain Jordan Henderson and prodigious teenager Stefan Bajcetic, the midfielders confirmed to be unavailable due to illness and injury respectively.

With passing maestro Thiago Alcantara still sidelined due to his own fitness issue, Klopp will have his work cut out in devising a plan to counter the threat, with Liverpool falling to Carlo Ancelotti’s team in the final of last year’s Champions League edition.

With this in mind, Klopp must unleash veteran stalwart James Milner against the La Liga giants; while not first choice, his leadership and experience could pay dividends in asserting authority in enemy territory.

Will Milner play against Real Madrid?

Since signing for Liverpool on a free transfer from divisional rivals Manchester City in 2015, Milner has been a superlative commander in Klopp’s squad, forging 320 appearances across all competitions and clinching 26 goals and 46 assists.

The 61-cap former England international has been instrumental in cultivating a winning mentality and providing unwavering devotion to his game, consequently winning a plethora of major honours that notably include the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

In the reverse fixture, the £60k-per-week ace actually played well after coming off the bench to stop the torrent of Madrid waves, recording a match rating of 7.0, as per Sofascore.

His match rating was bettered only by Salah in the Liverpool squad, with the 37-year-old completing 75% of his passes, completing his only dribble and winning all three of his duels.

It is this level of robustness that will be paramount against the imperious Real central engine, with WhoScored recording the “unbelievable” – as Milner was once dubbed by Klopp – star’s career average tackles at 1.6 per match and his average pass success rate at 81.8%.

The 18-year-old Bajcetic, nearly two decades younger than Milner, has been praised for his vigorous and energetic approach to his play this term, shining among his beleaguered peers in a manner which belies his youth and inexperience, and while Klopp will rue his unavailability, Milner can replicate the fierceness and attempt to harness his years of playing to strike a brilliant upset into the heart of the Bernabeu.

Liverpool’s chances of success against their prestigious opposition are certainly slim, but evidence from the monumental victory against Barcelona in 2018/19, winning 4-0 at Anfield after falling to a 3-0 defeat in Spain before winning the competition in the final phase, suggests that his crop of players can fiercely fight for a sliver of hope once again.

And while the loss of both Henderson and Bajcetic is a big loss, Milner is a tailor-made replacement to ensure the Reds throw every ounce of their mettle at rewriting the narrative and adding yet another chapter to Liverpool’s illustrious history.


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