As the aftermath of Hurricane Gonzalo whistled around Anfield, Brendan Rodgers was asked if Liverpool might soon be facing the full force of Hurricane Cristiano.
The Liverpool manager’s reply, laced with a smile, was that one way or another, Anfield would see a hurricane come kick-off. “When he was at Manchester United, Ronaldo was a great soloist who scored great individual goals. Now he is a great goalscorer.” He requires two more to equal Raul’s record of 71 Champions League goals, which is remarkable on two counts. Ronaldo, especially at United, was seldom employed as an out-and-out striker and, while it took Raul 17 years to rack up his tally, Ronaldo made his Old Trafford debut in 2003.
“I can only use superlatives, his form has been incredible,” said the Real Madrid right-back, Alvaro Arbeloa. “Even two years ago, I would not have believed what he has achieved now.
“It is not very often Cristiano does not deliver. Confidence-wise, he is probably at the peak of his powers but whether he is in the best moment of his career is something for you journalists to decide.”
Video: Liverpool vs Real Madrid match preview
Arbeloa, who was part of the Liverpool side that destroyed Madrid in 2009, did add that Ronaldo thought Anfield the most difficult away ground he had experienced during his time at Manchester United and warned the European champions they should not underestimate their task tonight.
That might be a possibility. Madrid, frankly, could afford to lose this evening, while Liverpool, after a fortunate win against Ludogorets Razgrad and a defeat to Basel, have to get something, either on Merseyside or in the Bernabeu. And if the questions aimed at Carlo Ancelotti are any guide, Madrid might not be entirely focused.
As he prepared to face a club that has won the European Cup five times, the Real Madrid coach was increasingly angry about being continually asked about the looming encounter with Barcelona. Gareth Bale, who misses tonight’s game with a buttock musle injury, will also be sidelined at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
“I find it incredible that we are sitting here at Anfield and I am being asked questions about Saturday’s game,” he said. “The game against Liverpool will feature everything that is good about football, a spectacular game between two very good sides and a fabulous occasion.”
It is an atmosphere his right-back knows intimately. “Ronaldo always said it was his most difficult away ground,” said Arbeloa. “It will be a very special game for Liverpool, not just because they have been five years out of the Champions League but because, given the state of the group, they have to win. They will put pressure on us from the start.
“I have told the rest of the Madrid players about Anfield, that you cannot put the experience into words, you have to experience it. I know Liverpool did not play well at Queen’s Park Rangers but, even if they had lost 10-0, I would still be worried about what awaits us. I know what Liverpool are capable of on a European night.”
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