Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa knows all about Anfield’s capacity to intimidate on European nights and revealed that even Cristiano Ronaldo has warned his team-mates to expect something unique this evening.
Arbeloa, who was part of the Liverpool team which humbled Real Madrid 4-0 in the last 16 of the Champions League in March 2009, returns to face his former club acutely aware of the old ground’s ability to overawe players.
It is one seemingly shared by Portugal forward Ronaldo, who despite his formidable goalscoring exploits for Manchester United never shone when he played against Liverpool, and more particularly at Anfield.
“Even Cristiano has mentioned this is the most difficult away ground from his time in the Premier League,” Arbeloa said.
“It is tough to explain what it is like here. You have to experience it yourself. These big nights in the Champions League are a special occasion.
“I have told my team-mates of the tremendous atmosphere. The fans here will drive them forward. It is a special game for Liverpool.
“For me personally it is a special day, for me to be back in Liverpool. I think many things have changed since last time when Real played here.
“We are a new team and so are Liverpool. Only three players are left from when I was here. ”
With Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge ruled out until next month with a calf injury Brendan Rodgers will once again start with Mario Balotelli in attack.
The Italy striker, 24, has endured a difficult start to his career with the Reds.
However, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Balotelli will reward the faith and investment that Rodgers and Liverpool have made in him.
Ancelotti said: “Mario’s young, he has got desire and is very skilful. He has had problems in the past but that is all behind him.
“When you arrive at a new club and you have to settle in with new players, a new culture, tactics, you have to show patience with these players.
“Of course I know Mario very well and I know what a quality player he is. I know we have to be careful and watch him at all times.
“But I am concerned about the whole team of Liverpool. I know they are dangerous and dynamic team in the transitions from defence to attack.
“It is the group we have to be concerned with, not just individuals.”
Liverpool have only met Real Madrid three times in the Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup, and have been victorious in the trio of encounters including the final in 1981 in Paris.
Ancelotti expects this instalment will be an occasion to savour.
He said: “Given the size of the two clubs, it is strange that they have not played more often.
“But I think you will see everything that is good about football.
“I think you will see a spectacular encounter and a game full of excellent football between two great sides. I think it’s going to be high tempo, dynamic and we’ll try our best to get a result.”
Real, the holders, are set to be without Gareth Bale for the clash at Anfield and Ancelotti confirmed that he will also miss ‘El Clasico’ against Barcelona at the weekend.
“All I can tell you at this stage is that we are working had to get Gareth fit,” added the former Chelsea boss.
“He obviously won’t be available to play against Liverpool and will not be available for Saturday’s game.
“Initially we didn’t think it is was anything too much to worry about, and his injury was just a slight strain because of overuse of a particular muscle.
“It was only after a scan we realised the situation with him.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved