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5 talking points ahead of Tuesday's Champions League action

Liverpool’s take on Real Madrid, Arsenal face Anderlecht and more big games.

Brendan Rodgers is under pressure following Liverpool's poor start to the season.
Brendan Rodgers is under pressure following Liverpool's poor start to the season.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. Can Liverpool’s defence defy recent bad form?

LIVERPOOL’S DEFENCE LAST season was widely blamed for costing the side the title, given that their attack was more or less flawless, just falling short of beating the Premier League all-time goalscoring record (three goals short to be precise).

Yet this year, despite making several new recruitments including the highly-rated Dejan Lovren from Southampton, their back four has hardly improved significantly since.

Against Real Madrid however, their backline can ill-afford to make the same mistakes that has characterised their below-par start to the season.

The Reds must defend from the front, which could mean sacrificing Mario Balotelli for a more energetic presence up front, such as Rickie Lambert.

Either way, it’s bound to be a backs-to-the-wall performance against a side that have won 10 consecutive games, hence even a point for Brendan Rodgers’ team in Bernabéu would be a considerable achievement.

2. Can Anderlecht’s Youri Tielemans do damage to Arsenal?

Anderlecht star Youri Tielemans is one of the hottest properties in Europe.

The 17-year-old has been linked with Liverpool among others, and is expected to line out against the Gunners today, having already made 38 appearances for the Belgian club, including his Champions League debut at just 16.

Yet even with a young star as bright as Tielemans, the Belgians will likely struggle against an Arsenal side who beat them in the reverse fixture last month.

The Gunners could even seal their place in the next round should they defeat the Belgians in conjunction with Dortmund overcoming Galatasaray.

3. Will Ronaldo secure Champions League goalscoring record?

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Liverpool v Real Madrid - Anfield Source: EMPICS Sport

Cristiano Ronaldo is just one Champions League goal away from equaling the record of Spanish legend Raul, and few would bet against him achieving this goal against a vulnerable-looking Liverpool defence.

Ronaldo has scored 70 goals in total, including 55 goals in 54 appearances for Real.

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi — who has 69 in total — will also fancy his chances of eclipsing Raul, as his Barcelona side travel to face Ajax tomorrow night.

Therefore, these ostensibly imminent achievements are a further tribute to two players who are rightly regarded as the best two footballers in the world.

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Indeed at times, it seems as if they are competing against each other more than anything else, as ex-Real and Barca star Michael Laudrup suggested recently in an interview with EFE.

“I think they need each other,” he said. “If one scores a hat-trick, the other tries to beat that.”

4. Can Dortmund secure a much-needed boost?

Less than two years on from reaching the Champions League final, Dortmund appear to be in serious difficulty.

Despite a notable defeat over Arsenal in this year’s Champions League, domestically Jurgen Klopp’s side have been poor.

Last Saturday’s defeat to Bayern completed a miserable few weeks for the German team, who are now 16th in the Bundesliga.

In contrast with their league form however, their performances in Europe this year have been virtually flawless. They boast a 100% record with nine scored and none conceded, and they can secure qualification this evening should they defeat Galatasaray, who by contrast have just one point from their three matches so far.

5. Will Olympiakos continue to exceed expectations?

When the Champions League draw for the group stages was made, the vast majority of critics would have tipped Atletico Madrid — last year’s finalists — and Juventus to progress from Group A.

However, at the halfway point, it is surprisingly Olympiakos, the team that also came agonisingly close to upsetting Manchester United last year, who sit in first place.

In addition, the Greek side appear a team to be reckoned with at home in particular, having already beaten both Juve and Atletico there this year.

Conversely, on their travels, they lost 2-0 to Malmo in their other game, and will be hoping to avoid the same fate away to Juventus tonight.

While three points is a big ask for Míchel’s side, it is hardly beyond them, especially given how unpredictable the group has been thus far.

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Paul Fennessy

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