Champions League bold prediction: Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. runs riot against Liverpool; Man City simplify

Week two of the Champions League knockout rounds brings with it a rerun of last season’s final, a matchup between Italy’s runaway leaders and the Europa League holders as well as one of the tournament favorites returning to action (Catch all the action on Paramount+). Here is what to keep an eye out for.

Real Madrid vs. Liverpool: Vinicius Jr. rinses Alexander-Arnold

Ok, so some of these predictions are not always that bold. Real Madrid and Liverpool are familiar foes and so far their meetings in the Champions League have been decided in a familiar fashion. Jurgen Klopp’s side have performed as well, if not better, than their opponents, made one big error at the back and been punished to the maximum. None have been more cruelly exposed than Trent Alexander-Arnold. Every defensive error he makes is mitigated and then some by his contributions in attack; few if any other right backs can find space and play the kind of pass that Liverpool’s did to assist Darwin Nunez in Saturday’s win over Newcastle.

Alexander-Arnold’s defending has not stood out for the wrong reasons quite as frequently this season but that is perhaps because everyone else around him was making simple errrors and showing a total lack of intensity before back-to-back wins last week started to ease some of the pressure. It is fair to also note that the 24-year-old is winning a higher proportion of his tackles than last season, indeed his 57.1 percent is not all that much lower than a player like Fulham’s ball-winning machine Joao Palhinha.

What does not seem to have been convincingly changed is his habit of switching off to so much danger behind him at the back post, something that was most cruelly exposed by Vinicius Junior at the Stade de Francein last year’s final. Even neutrals in Paris could not help but feel like they had found themselves in an old-school horror movie an hour in, screaming “HE’S BEHIND YOU” to no avail. Not once did Alexander-Arnold look over his shoulder as Federico Valverde charged down the right wing. When the cross flew in, the Liverpool right back seemed content to let it roll across him. Vinicius pounced.

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