Klopp ready to take on 'the best around' after landing Real Madrid in Champions League

By Sports Desk November 07, 2022

Jurgen Klopp remains optimistic heading into the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite Liverpool being drawn against Real Madrid in a repeat of last season's final.

Liverpool finished as runners-up to Napoli in their European group, allowing them to be paired with holders Madrid in the competition's last-16 draw on Monday.

Klopp's side have lost two Champions League finals to Madrid in the past five seasons, but the German is looking forward to two "special" meetings with Carlo Ancelotti's men. 

"I know we have played Real Madrid in a couple of recent finals, but it is not so often that our two clubs have met in a two-legged tie, so now we can look forward to this happening," Klopp told Liverpool's website.

"Real's European record is the best around. We know this. But we also know that ours is not too bad. On top of this, we know that we have Anfield and everyone knows what this means.

"It is a really good draw, a really exciting draw. The games themselves are still a few months away, but it does not take a great deal of imagination to think what the atmosphere will be like at both games.

"There is a lot of football to be played before this, of course, so we will focus on each game as it comes. But yes, this draw has given us something special to look forward to."

Madrid have won all three of their Champions League meetings with Liverpool when facing them as European champions, and their former striker Emilio Butragueno believes Ancelotti's side will handle the pressure of being considered favourites.

"I think that for the world of football, it will be an exciting tie because of the history of the two clubs," Butragueno said after the draw.

"They are a very strong rival, who have had a lot of stability in recent years with the same coach and with the same group of players, and that makes it very dangerous.

"At the same time, we are the champions, and we will naturally do everything possible to qualify and return to the draw for the quarter-finals.

"We fully trust our players, they have shown us what they are capable of in moments of maximum pressure."

Related items

  • Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker? Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker?

    Cristiano Ronaldo has scored many famous goals.

    Undoubtedly, though, one of his most celebrated strikes came 15 years ago, on January 30, 2008.

    On a winter evening at Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth rocked up in fine form on the road, having won seven of their 12 away games in the Premier League.

    Yet Ronaldo, in the midst of a 31-goal season in the top tier, was the difference. 

    Having put Manchester United ahead in the 10th minute, Ronaldo stepped up, just under 30 yards out from goal, three minutes later.

    His free-kick, taken in what would become his trademark style, went up, over the wall and swerved remarkably into the right-hand corner. David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper, had no chance.

    That goal is often thought of as the typical Ronaldo free-kick. Power, panache and pinpoint accuracy.

    But is Ronaldo actually as good as a free-kick taker as that goal might suggest? Using Opta data, Stats Perform has taken a look.

    Quantity, not quality?

    Since that goal against Portsmouth up until the day his second spell at United ended (November 23, 2022), Ronaldo had more shots from direct free-kicks than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

    Of the 645 shots Ronaldo had, 41 resulted in a goal. That is from 700 club games, across stints at United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

    On the face of it, that goal tally does not stand out as particularly impressive, at least given the fact that Ronaldo netted 619 times in total.

    Yet he is behind only Lionel Messi (who else?) when it comes to goals from direct free-kicks, with the Barcelona great scoring on 51 occasions from such situations.

    That gives Messi an 8.1 per cent conversion rate from free-kicks in that timeframe, in contrast to Ronaldo's 6.3 per cent.

     

    Naturally, given their status in the game, Ronaldo and Messi will almost always pull rank when it comes to set-pieces, especially at a free-kick in a dangerous position.

    Miralem Pjanic, who ranks third for direct free-kick goals and was a club-mate of both players at Barca and Juve respectively, boasts better conversion rate than either (nine per cent).

    Neymar's 13 goals from 147 attempts gives him an 8.8 per cent success rate, while James Ward-Prowse's 12 per cent (15 from 125, though this figure of course does not account for his strike against Everton earlier in January) is close to double what Ronaldo managed.

    Indeed, when ranked against players from Europe's big five leagues that scored 10 or more direct free-kicks between January 31, 2008 and November 23, 2022, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dani Parejo had lower conversion rates than Ronaldo.

    Club by club

    So, having established that Ronaldo's free-kick finishing was somewhat erratic following that stunner against Portsmouth, let's check on how he stacked up at each club.

    Across his career in Europe's top five leagues, Ronaldo netted 48 free-kicks in all competitions, from 782 shots (6.1 per cent).

     

    Thirteen of those goals came at United, with five each in his final two seasons of his first spell at the club.

    Indeed, Ronaldo's peak when it came to free-kicks was definitely between the 2007-08 season and the 2013-14 campaign, when he scored 35 times from that type of dead-ball situation.

    His best single season tally was six, in the 2009-10 season – his first at Madrid.

    From 2014-15 onwards he did not manage more than three free-kick goals during a season, while he scored only twice from 86 such attempts while at Juve, and managed no goals from four free-kicks in his second stint at United.

    One of the greats?

    As well as his effort against Portsmouth, Ronaldo has many other memorable free-kicks in the bank.

    His stunning, 40-yard strike against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League semi-final; a mesmerising hit from even further out in a Madrid derby in 2012; and who can forget that spellbinding, hat-trick sealing effort that secured a last-gasp draw for Portugal against Spain in a 3-3 thriller at the 2018 World Cup.

    Ronaldo might have gone off the boil from dead balls since the halcyon days either side of his move from Manchester to Madrid, yet there's no doubting that when he hits them true, there's not much any goalkeeper can do.

    While he may not go down as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history statistically, he has definitely been a scorer of some great free-kicks down the years.

    And who knows, maybe there'll be more to come in Saudi Arabia.

  • Roma working on solution to Zaniolo saga after apparent Bournemouth snub Roma working on solution to Zaniolo saga after apparent Bournemouth snub

    Roma are targeting a solution to their Nicolo Zaniolo crisis before Tuesday's transfer deadline after the winger was "not very happy" about the prospect of joining Bournemouth.

    The Italy international was strongly linked with Tottenham earlier this month; however, Antonio Conte subsequently signed Arnaut Danjuma on loan from Villarreal as a solution to his wide attacking midfield needs.

    Bournemouth subsequently emerged as frontrunners, with the team third from bottom of the Premier League seeing Zaniolo as a player who could help them to safety in their first campaign back in the top flight.

    Reports suggested Roma and Bournemouth had reached an agreement on a deal worth an initial £26.3million (€30m), but it appears Zaniolo is not sold on the idea of joining the English south-coast club.

    Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has expressed major frustration over Zaniolo asking to leave and then stalling when the opportunity arose, saying it "unfortunately" seemed the 23-year-old would end up staying with the Giallorossi.

    When asked about firm opportunities to sell Zaniolo, Roma general manager Tiago Pinto said on Sunday: "I have no problem answering this question, everyone understood what happened.

    "Zaniolo asked to be sold, and together with the agent we found a solution. We succeeded, but now Nicolo is not very happy with the solution that has arrived, and obviously we are all in a bit of difficulty."

    Last season saw Zaniolo score the only goal of the inaugural Europa Conference League final, as Roma beat Feyenoord, yet his time at the Stadio Olimpico may be up.

    Speaking to DAZN, Pinto said Roma would not be able to buy a player to take Zaniolo's place before sealing the sale of the former Inter youth-team player.

    He, too, is frustrated by Zaniolo's stalling on a transfer, with time at a premium.

    "We found this solution following a request from the player and, as you know, with all the limits that we have with financial fair play we are not exactly a company that can yield to Zaniolo's no and take on other players," Pinto said.

    "We are always bound by those limits. Now we have another 48 hours, let's see what happens. I don't want to dwell on this issue, it is really a difficult situation for us."

  • Liverpool 'nowhere near good enough this season', says Robertson after FA Cup exit Liverpool 'nowhere near good enough this season', says Robertson after FA Cup exit

    Liverpool wanted a fresh start in 2023 but Andrew Robertson says the Reds have been "nowhere near good enough" this season and played "worse" since the World Cup.

    The Scotland international captained Jurgen Klopp's side at Brighton and Hove Albion as Kauro Mitoma's last-minute strike dumped the FA Cup holders out in the fourth round.

    Liverpool had taken the lead through Harvey Elliot before Lewis Dunk's fortuitous first-half equaliser paved the way for Mitoma's deserved late winner in Sunday's 2-1 triumph.

    Klopp's men are out of both domestic cups and sit only ninth in the Premier League, having won just eight of their opening 19 top-flight games.

    Having lost nine times already in 31 outings across all competitions this campaign, Robertson bemoaned Liverpool's abject performances that have continued after the World Cup break.

    "This season has been nowhere near good enough," Robertson told ITV Sport.

    "At the start of the year, we wanted a fresh start, but that hasn't happened – we've been worse. In the league, we haven't been good enough and now we're out of both cups."

    The Reds' downfall may have appeared somewhat of a surprise after falling narrowly short of an unprecedented quadruple last term.

    Liverpool missed out in the Champions League final to Real Madrid and saw Manchester City secure the Premier League title on the last day of the season, though they lifted the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

    Sadio Mane's sale to Bayern Munich and Roberto Firmino's diminishing role should be factored in, while Mohamed Salah has failed to hit his usual lofty heights after scoring just nine goals in 19 league games.

    Luis Diaz has been out injured after a promising first campaign at Anfield and signings Darwin Nunez and Cody Gapko are still settling in, yet Robertson struggled to explain why Liverpool continue to falter.

    The left-back added: "It's really disappointing. You can't put your finger on one thing that's gone wrong. It's more than that. It's about trying to put a performance together where all these things click and that's proving difficult right now.

    "You can tell we're not as confident in front of goal, and defensively we're still a wee bit open in certain areas.

    "We were on the back of two clean sheets, which was positive, but today, two disappointing goals and they had a couple of big chances as well.

    "We need to try and get the confidence back. It's easier said than done but that's the only way we can pick up results. You have to be able to score goals and you have to be able to keep clean sheets.

    "We're not managing that just now and we need to do it. We keep saying that and it doesn't help the fans. I feel sorry for them, the way we're putting on a show for them just now.

    "We let them down again and we're obviously disappointed to be falling out of the cup."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.