Why Toni Kroos will boss Liverpool again in the second leg

Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid had no trouble defeating Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Although the Reds pulled one back, courtesy of Mohamed Salah, that was really the lone blemish from Los Blancos defensively. Otherwise, they shut Liverpool down despite not having Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, and Sergio Ramos available. And offensively, they were firing on all cylinders, courtesy of Vinicius Junior being at the double in the game of his life.

While Vinicius deservingly grabbed the headlines and was the Champions League’s official Player of the Week, fans around the world were also dazzled by a certain Real Madrid midfielder who had Liverpool on strings throughout the night.

Toni Kroos created both of Real’s first two goals. The first was a directed assist to Vinicius. Kroos, as he usually does, sent in a picture-perfect lobbed through ball over the top of Liverpool’s defense, with Vini controlling off his shoulder beautifully and then finishing with aplomb. The second goal was another Kroos pass which Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to deal with, essentially assisting Marco Asensio’s fourth goal in four matches.

Aside from the goals he created, Kroos was cool and in command on the ball. Liverpool could try to press him, but it was no use. He would simply turn away, switch the ball to Lucas Vazquez (the man Liverpool left open when pressing by design) perfectly, or pick out a pass that led to another threatening Real Madrid attack.

Toni Kroos had four key passes for Real Madrid vs. Liverpool in the first leg

Per WhoScored.com, Kroos completed over 90 percent of his 75 attempts, including four key passes. He attempted nine long balls in total. He also chipped in defensively with one tackle and two interceptions.

It was a vintage performance from Kroos, who was head and shoulders above the Liverpool midfield, which was completely overmatched. Jurgen Klopp’s decision to bench Thiago proved disastrous, as he actually had to bring the former Bayern man into the game in the first half for Naby Keita. The change helped, but moreso for mitigation purposes rather than actually stopping Kroos or obtaining a meaningful advantage on Los Blancos.

We can fully expect to see more of the same from Kroos. It’s not that Liverpool are a bad team, and it’s not that I don’t trust Klopp to find a better gameplan. I believe the opposite. The Reds are a good team that will fight for their lives in the second leg at Anfield, knowing full well the Champions League is their best hope in what has been a shockingly disappointing season for the dominant 2019-2020 Premier League champions.

But when it comes to Kroos, the reality is that nobody has stopped him. Inter Milan, Barcelona this weekend…great teams that are actually in the title race in their respective leagues had no chance against Kroos. His calm demeanor on the ball, accuracy with his passing at any distance, ability to pick apart teams tactically, and eye for the key pass all make him arguably the best midfielder in the world today.

Kroos is a dangerous man. Nobody can cope with him, and I’m sure opposing fanbases are starting to recognize what he is doing. They might even be jealous of Kroos’ gifts. It seems unfair the way he makes the game look easy.

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Liverpool will be better in the second leg, but they won’t be good enough to get a handle on Kroos. And another masterclass from Kroos – in a game in which all Real Madrid need to do is protect – could seal Real’s place in the semifinals starting on April 27.