Liverpool must stem Real surge

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits, after their fortunate 3-2 victory at QPR on Sunday, that they must play considerably better to have a realistic chance of winning the Premier League and going into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was brutally honest too and announced that “everything needs improving.”

The Reds need to dramatically raise their game against reigning Champions League kings Real Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday.

Mario Balotelli’s open goal miss against Rangers was one of the most inept attempts to score by any Premiership player this season.

His confidence is rock bottom and Rodgers has not helped lift his spirits by implying the Italian’s poor form is a major contribution to Liverpool’s unsteady start.

This is the biggest match of the night in the competition and, even though Real won’t have the injured Gareth Bale, there is the ominous presence of Cristiano Ronaldo to contend with and he is in irresistible form.

Considering Liverpool have only kept one clean sheet so far this season, their leaky defense will have to shore up the holes; otherwise, Ronaldo will punish them severely.

Between him, Bale and James Rodriguez, plus the other Real aces, they have already amassed 40 goals in 13 matches so far and have won their last two matches 5-0.

Bale’s absence is only partial relief as Real also have Karim Benzema, Javier Hernandez, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric as attacking options and playing brilliantly.

Liverpool defenders Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel will strive to block all the traffic coming their way, particularly from Ronaldo, who has already scored 15 goals and, if he continues at this rate, will notch around 70 this season. No wonder he is officially the world’s best player.

Hernandez, on loan from Manchester United, is particularly anxious to have a good game against United’s arch-rivals.

Chicharito has scored three so far this season and the Mexican wants to impress one of the few teams he would be willing to join if discarded by United.

Kroos, who joined from Bayern Munich after the World Cup, has settled quickly in midfield and Rodriguez, another summer signing, has shown why he was top scorer with six strikes at the World Cup, with some impressive games at his new home.

Liverpool dazzled Real 4-0 on a glorious night at Anfield five years ago, but few will bet for a repeat this time.

Arsenal are the only other English team playing in the Champions League that night, traveling to Anderlecht. Recent form suggests that the Gunners will be grateful for a draw and ecstatic if they win.