Bale may be out but Ronaldo is still here.
Tonight’s huge game between Liverpool and Real Madrid has been somewhat marred by the absence of Welshman Gareth Bale. As much as we are all disappointed that we won’t get the chance to see the Premier League’s prodigal son return to the English shores, we are seemingly discounting a much more serious and pertinent threat to Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League group qualification, that threat is arguably the best player in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo currently has 69 Champions League goals, only two goals shy of Raul’s record in the illustrious European competition. Tonight’s fixture will throw up the opportunity for the Portuguese Ballon D’or winner to remind the Premier League, as if it needed reminding, just what it’s missing. With 19 goals domestically and two goals already in the Champions League, Ronaldo is in fierce form and will provide Liverpool with their biggest defensive test of the season. Chances are that Ronaldo will be the difference tonight and will soon make us forget that the Welshman Gareth Bale isn’t participating.
Arsenal will need to go for the throat
With one win and one loss already in their group, Arsenal will look at tonight’s trip to Belgium as the ideal opportunity to help cement their place in the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League. With Anderlecht as the Gunners’ opponents in both of their next two qualifying games, Arsene’s men have the chance to put the sword to the weakest side in their group before their difficult game against Borussia Dortmund. If Arsenal can earn themselves six points from their next two fixtures against the Belgian side, they will more than likely qualify before their fixture against the Bundesliga side gains any real importance. Arsenal have been stuttering of late and have failed to turn draws into wins. Tonight’s Anderlecht side boasts a poor defensive record however as well as a blunt attack, this should allow the Gunners to not only help their cause for qualification but also to help them find their shooting boots and winning form, two things crucial to their domestic ambitions. The chances are that Arsene will be celebrating a happy 65th birthday tonight with three vital points.
Dortmund will forget their domestic woes
Top of their group with two wins in two games, Borussia Dortmund are in fine form when it comes to Europe, a stark contrast from their domestic campaign. With three straight losses in the Bundesliga and currently residing in 14th position, 13 points behind leaders Bayern Munich, Dortmund will want to use tonight as a distraction from their poor start to the season and hope it can act as a springboard to a more consistent and successful winter period. Tonight’s opponents for Klopp’s side are Turkish outfit Galatasaray, who sit bottom of group D. Galatasaray’s form in Europe has been poor to say the least. A convincing defeat at the hands of Arsenal the last time they stepped out in European competition threw a spotlight over Galatasaray’s weak defence and disjointed midfield and Klopp and his Dortmund stars will feel that they can exploit the weaknesses of Prandelli’s side when they visit the Türk Telekom Arena tonight. If Dortmund can secure victory tonight they will essentially guarantee themselves a place in the knock-out stages of the competition barring a catastrophic collapse.
Balotelli can still win over Liverpool hearts
Since joining Liverpool in the summer Mario Balotelli has been put under the same media scrutiny that seems to come as standard for the eccentric Italian. This time around however, Mario has not managed to silence critics with on-pitch performances. There was a lot of expectation heaped on the shoulders of the ex-A.C Milan and Manchester City man when he joined Brendan Rodgers and co in the summer, as he was seen some what as a replacement for the controversial but incredibly consistent Luis Suarez. With only one goal so far for his new Merseyside club coming against Champions League minnow side Ludogorets, the Kop will hope that tonight’s huge fixture against Champions League holders Real Madrid will provide the ideal stage for the enigmatic but undoubtedly talented forward to finally put in a performance worthy of hi reputation. Sharing the stage with stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Isco will hopefully light the fire in Mario that has seemingly been extinguished since his move from Milan to Liverpool. If he can do so, he has the opportunity to endear himself to the incredibly passionate Kop in a way that can make him a real fan favourite.
Monaco will add to Benfica’s torrid campaign
Portuguese side Benfica have had a woeful start to their Champions League campaign with two losses coming at the hands of Russian’s Zenit St Petersburg and German’s Bayern Leverkusen. Having scored only once and conceded five time over those two games, Benfica are one of the worst performing teams in the competition so far. Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco however are second in their group with one victory and one draw and will know that a win tonight will put them in a very strong position for qualification to the knock-out rounds as Bayern Leverkusen and Zenit meet up in a very tense encounter that can potentially hand either sides chances of qualification a huge blow. Benfica’s domestic form is a direct contrast to their European and The Eagles will hope that their poor start to the elite competition was purely a blip and that they can pick up from their recent 4-0 demolition of Portuguese Liga side Arouca and start their campaign tonight. The chances of this are slim as Benfica’s form away in Europe isn’t great and they face a very stern test when they visit the Stade Louis II tonight. Monaco will be looking for a convincing win tonight so they can re-focus on their stuttering domestic form.