Tag Archives: Mohammed Salah

Real Madrid vs Liverpool – Champions League quarter-final predictions

The UEFA Champions League is back with some absolutely mouth watering ties as we enter the quarter-final stage of the competition.

Two of the most successful sides in European history will collide as Real Madrid take on Liverpool in the last eight, with both sides thankfully able to play their home leg in their respective home cities after COVID-19 restrictions had threatened that neutral venues could be needed.

Zinedine Zidane’s side got through to this stage with a convincing win over Atalanta in the last round, winning both home and away despite injury problems for a 4-1 aggregate win. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds on the other hand were able to stifle an exciting RB Leipzig team in the last 16 to earn 2-0 wins both home and away for comfortable progression.

This game is a very interesting tie on paper and one that neutrals will be very keen to watch.

Both teams have got exceptionally strong squads but have had incredibly inconsistent seasons and have been riddled by injuries throughout the campaign. Liverpool currently sit in sixth place in the Premier League table and this past weekend officially saw their title defence come to an end, despite a convincing 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Real Madrid are still very much in their title race, with a 2-0 win at the weekend over Eibar sitting them just three points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid with nine games remaining.

Zidane’s side have shown a capability of being tactically flexible throughout the season, playing several formations, but their starting lineup tends to pick itself when players are available. They will however be without captain and talisman Sergio Ramos who picked up a knee injury while on international duty and has been ruled out for a month.

Eden Hazard is back in training but will miss the first leg, although Federico Valverde is back in the squad for the first game after missing a period of time through injury. The burden will once more fall upon French striker Karim Benzema, who leads the way for goals under Zidane since the boss returned for a second spell in charge of the club.

Liverpool on the other hand have seen their injury problems ease in recent weeks with Diogo Jota, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino all fit again, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane have found form once again.

Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all still out injured at centre-back while captain Jordan Henderson is still missing with fitness problems that could see him miss the rest of the season too, but Fabinho’s return to defensive midfield has been an excellent boost to the team.

Casemiro has been able to keep Fabinho out of the Brazilian national team but they are both quite comfortably the best in the world in their position, while Thiago is able to compete on a technical level with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric from deep positions.

Liverpool have previously used their full-backs with great effect to overload teams in the middle, but this season their approach has had to be altered which was resulted in less assists. Diogo Jota’s form on either side of his injury will be seen as a huge boost and could force Madrid to adapt their way of defending, especially without Ramos in the side.

With that said though, the inexperience in defence with a likely pairing of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak against Benzema is something they will surely look to expose. Vinicius Jr is always capable of causing problems although inconsistency is a huge issue, while Marco Asensio has begun looking like the player he was prior to his knee injury.

It will be a tightly contested game without doubt, with both teams fancying their chances against the inconsistent form of their opposition.

Overall, the pace of the current Premier League champions should prove too much to handle for a Ramos-less Real Madrid defence.

We’ve seen in the past how much they struggle without their leader at the back and Liverpool’s attack is still one of the best around, even with recent form causing them to struggle in front of goal. The move back to midfield for Fabinho has boosted them tremendously and while I think it’s unlikely that either team keeps a clean sheet, Liverpool are less reliant on a single goalscoring threat and should therefore be able to progress in an entertaining tie.


PREDICTIONS

Real Madrid 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-1 Real Madrid
(Liverpool to progress 3-2 on aggregate)

Champions League Group Stage Predictions – Liverpool

After reaching back-to-back Champions League finals, winning it in 2019, the six time European champions return to the premier club competition in football.

Liverpool come into this campaign following a record-breaking Premier League season which saw them lift the league title for the first time since 1990, but they suffered a disappointing European outing last year as they crashed out in the Round of 16 to Atletico Madrid, losing both home and away legs.

They’ve started the Premier League campaign in interesting fashion too, winning their first 3 games before being thumped 7-2 by Aston Villa and then drawing the Merseyside derby with Everton 2-2 this past weekend. They now turn their attentions to Europe, where they have a group with two dark horses that on their day can cause any team on the continent trouble.

My Best XI*: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane (*not including Van Dijk)

Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland make up a considerable amount of threat for Liverpool to contend with and they will need to be near their best to contend with the obstacles that will be put in front of them during this tournament.

With news that Virgil Van Dijk will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured cruciate knee ligament injury, Liverpool must navigate a very attack minded group without their talisman and best defender. This could see them revert to their previous style under Klopp, in which they simply aimed to outgun their opponents in every game.

The addition of Thiago and Diogo Jota in the summer has strengthened them and added considerable depth and quality to their side and ultimately they should still have more than enough about them to progress from the group as group winners.

I spoke with Liverpool fan Fahi, from renowned Liverpool podcast Kop End Fracas from the Touchline Fracas group, about his thoughts on the group and his predictions on how Liverpool would fare this season.

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I think the group itself isn’t as easy as everyone has been making out, especially in the current circumstances. A lack of atmosphere and injuries to key players equals potential banana skins. The games come thick and fast, so don’t expect the typical Liverpool performances in Europe. We should have enough to get through the group, just expect a lot of goals conceded… especially against Atalanta!

Prediction: 12 points in total – 6 from Midtjylland, 3 from Atalanta and 3 from Ajax.

I have to agree largely with Fahi on this one. There are plenty of potential banana skins in this group, especially with Van Dijk unavailable. Ajax and Atalanta both playing attacking football and have the ability to score plenty of goals but they also leave themselves susceptible to counter attacks which is something the Liverpool attack will thrive on.

They start the campaign with a trip to Amsterdam and I think they should be able to get at least a draw there, while I think they will win all their games at Anfield. The away trip to Atalanta is their toughest fixture in the group in my opinion and they could suffer a defeat in that one, but I’d expect them to win every other game during the campaign to eventually sail through into the next round as group winners.


Fahi is a regular cast member of popular football podcast group Touchline Fracas and appears on the Liverpool podcast ‘Kop End Fracas’ every Wednesday night.

You can follow Touchline Fracas on Twitter:
@TouchlineFracas
You can follow ‘Kop End Fracas’ on Twitter:
@KopEndFracas
You can follow Fahi on Twitter:
@FeeFahiFoFum

Premier League Team of the Season

As the craziest Premier League season of all-time ends, all eyes go immediately towards the new season. People begin to talk about new transfers, new clubs, new managers and predictions for the new campaign.

Before I start doing that though, I want to give my thoughts on the best XI in the Premier League last season.

GOALKEEPER
Dean Henderson

A phenomenal debut season in the league has seen the Manchester United loanee break into the England squad and now be spoken about as a potential starter at Old Trafford next season ahead of David De Gea. With 13 clean sheets in 36 games, Henderson helped push Sheffield United towards a European place and although they missed out in the end it was Henderson’s performances that stood out more than others.

Honourable mentions: Allison Becker, Nick Pope, Ederson.

RIGHT BACK
Trent Alexander-Arnold

Self explanatory pick this one to be honest. Trent has continued to excel as the best right-back in the league and is now among the best in the world. While he still learning and improving in a defensive aspect, going forward he is one of the best there is and that helped propel Liverpool to a record breaking run that saw them lift their first Premier League title. With 13 assists in the league, he broke his own record for assists by a defender and had more than anyone else bar Kevin De Bruyne. A truly remarkable season by a truly remarkable player, he’s my pick for young player of the season.

Honourable mentions: Ricardo Pereira, Matt Doherty, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

CENTRE BACKS
Virgil Van Dijk & Joe Gomez

A pairing in real life and a pairing in my team of the year, Liverpool dominate the defensive side of this team. Van Dijk has continued to show the world that he is the best in the world in his position right now, while Gomez has shown why Jurgen Klopp has so much faith in him. Gomez is undoubtedly better when he has Van Dijk alongside him but on his own, he has shown good reading of the game and positioning while also becoming more vocal as the season progressed. Together they have the perfect blend of strength, speed, aerial dominance and ability on the ball to keep any attack quiet and they are a huge reason as to why Liverpool had the best defensive record in the league this season.

Honourable mentions: Caglar Soyunçu, Willy Boly, Aymeric Laporte

LEFT BACK
Andrew Robertson

It’s a full house for the Liverpool back-four as Robertson completes the defence. The Scotland captain is often outshone by teammate Alexander-Arnold as a creative full-back, but he himself managed to get 12 assists this season. His surging runs on the overlap are a big reason why Sadio Mane is so successful at cutting inside in this team and while his form certainly dropped off post-lockdown, the position Liverpool were in was clearly a big reason as to why so I won’t hold it against him. He’s among the best full-backs in the world currently and will continue to perform at a high level under Klopp’s rock ‘n’ roll football style.

Honourable mentions: Enda Stevens, Jonny

Liverpool players Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino ...

CENTRE MIDFIELD
Kevin De Bruyne & Mateo Kovacic

I want to have some form of balance to this side and this is the best performing duo that gives me that. Mateo Kovacic was arguably Chelsea’s best player this season, really coming into his own as a lynchpin in Frank Lampard’s midfield. His fantastic dribbling and passing means he can break lines in multiple ways but he was also excellent defensively. Kevin De Bruyne’s inclusion is self-explanatory. 13 goals and 20 assists from central midfield is a stunning return and he has cemented himself as the best player in the league for me. His creativity, pace, power and ball striking is at a world class level and he would be an asset to any team in world football. He’s impossible to leave out and in his current form Man City will be looking to him to lead their charge to potentially lift the UEFA Champions League.

Honourable mentions: Joao Moutinho, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice

RIGHT WING
Mohammed Salah

Another stellar season in which Mo Salah dominated attacking charts and records for Liverpool. Just one goal away from a third consecutive 20+ goal season and he also hit double figures for assists this season. His electric pace, superb movement from the wing and ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal despite his smaller frame are all at a world class level. Regardless of aesthetics, Salah is among the best players in the world and without him Liverpool’s attack would drop a level.

Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez, Adama Traore

LEFT WING
Sadio Mane

Much like Salah, Mane is continuing to perform at a world class level in the Premier League. Another season where the Senegal international has notched double figures in goals and was also instrumental in creating. Mane’s goals won more points in this season’s Premier League than anyone else (21). His movement, touch and ability to beat a player one on one is among the greats in the game today and you’ll be hard fought to find a better left-winger for Klopp’s system. His willingness to defend too is a credit to his professionalism and makes him impossible to leave out. He was my contender for Player of the Year along with Kevin De Bruyne, although KDB pipped him towards the end in my opinion.

Honourable mentions: Marcus Rashford, Christian Pulisic

NUMBER 10
Raheem Sterling

Now Sterling’s inclusion will be controversial because he doesn’t play as a No.10 but there was no way I could leave him out. 20 goals in the league with no penalties is a personal best for the England man and his performances are a key reason as to why Man City fans didn’t panic when Sergio Aguero got injured and ruled out for the remainder of the Premier League season. He has mastered the run from outside to in for a back post tap-in but also has the ability to beat players one-on-one, play intricate passes between the lines and link-up with teammates in tight spaces. A truly top class player, Raheem Sterling was a player I simply couldn’t leave out of the side despite the qualities of rivals for this position.

Honourable mentions: Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes

STRIKER
Danny Ings

Another slightly controversial pick but Ings deserves recognition in my opinion. While Vardy won the golden boot, he went on a big barren run without a goal and it was ultimately his run of scoring in 9 games in a row earlier in the campaign that got him there. Ings was a consistent goal threat for Southampton this season, has stayed fit and is the reason they were able to turn their season around and end up finishing comfortably in mid-table. 22 league goals in a side that doesn’t create a lot of chances and were fighting for their lives is a mightily impressive return following his injury problems in recent years. His movement, link-up play and finishing with both feet was evident for all to see all season long and he deserves a place in the team of the season mainly due to his, lack of, supporting cast in comparison to his rivals.

Honourable mentions: Jamie Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Anthony Martial

Do you agree with my team of the year? What would you change? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter at @TapInsTapOuts.

Liverpool vs Chelsea – Match Preview

As Liverpool prepare to lift the Premier League title for the first time, many will be forgiven for forgetting they have a big game at Anfield first.

They will welcome Chelsea to their home, where the Blues need three points to secure Champions League football for next season. Fresh off a big win at Wembley against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals, Lampard will be looking to carry that momentum through the final two games of the league campaign whilst Jurgen Klopp will be looking to start the party with a victory on the night.

Liverpool have won just two of their last five games in the Premier League, winning only three in total since the restart. Chelsea’s form has been very up-and-down, with three wins in their last five Premier League games.

Captain Jordan Henderson is ruled out for the remainder of the season with a thigh injury picked up against Brighton while Chelsea will be hoping to welcome Christian Pulisic back into the side after he missed the weekend win over Manchester United with a slight knock.

Predicted XI’s

Liverpool: Allison; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Chelsea: Kepa; James, Zouma, Rudiger, Azpilicueta; Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic.

Lampard went with a 3-4-3 formation at Wembley but will likely look to match Liverpool’s 4-3-3 in this game. In their previous three meetings this season, Chelsea have played well but the cutting edge up front was missing. In the FA Cup though they managed to fix that and come away with a win before lockdown. He will be looking for a performance that matches that energy this week so that they can wrap up Champions League football before the final day.

Klopp has said he won’t accept less than 100% from his side but since winning the title, they have won just twice and seen their perfect run at Anfield come to an end thanks to Burnley. He will be expecting his Reds team to press high with energy and get a goal or two in the first half and quickly so that they can continue their party after the game when they lift the trophy.

Overall though, the momentum is with Chelsea. They need the result and while Liverpool never want to lose, especially at Anfield, it does nothing for them other than slightly dampen the mood pre-party time. They have already missed out on the points record and the title is theirs so getting them motivated at the moment is a task in itself.

While I don’t think Chelsea are quite strong enough to beat Liverpool at Anfield just now, they will be more than good enough to take points off the champions and move that bit closer to securing Top 4 on the final day.

PREDICTION:
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

PICKS:
Both Teams to Score – 4/7
Mo Salah to score anytime – 6/5