The final set of fixtures of the UCL Round of 16 concludes this week. Eight teams would be going head to head against each other to claim the four remaining berths in the UCL Quarter Finals. Although all fixtures look quite close and interesting, one particular tie that stands out is between Real Madrid and Liverpool. The finalists of last season lock horns once again with Liverpool having a mountain to climb. Let’s assess whether Liverpool’s UCL hopes could be kept intact or not.
Liverpool’s UCL hopes – as things stand
Liverpool finds itself three goals behind on aggregate as they travel to the Bernabeu stadium. Real Madrid inflicted a crushing defeat on the Reds in the first leg of the tie at Anfield. Klopp’s men made an impressive start by going 2-0 up inside the 14 minutes. But their lead did not last long as Los Blancos leveled the scoring by the end of the first half.
Until the halftime interval, it was an evenly matched contest. But in the second half, Real Madrid really asserted the dominance of their rivals. Eder Militao put his side into the lead by scoring a thumping header off Modric’s free-kick in the 47th minute. Liverpool’s defending was in the spotlight once again as Benzema scored twice later in the half to give the visitors a three-goal lead.
Despite having the home advantage and more possession of the ball than their opponents, Liverpool failed to capitalize on the situation and Real Madrid broke all sorts of records at Anfield. As a consequence, Liverpool’s UCL hopes were left hanging by a thread.
Liverpool’s recent form
It has been a below-par season for Liverpool so far. The Reds have really struggled to put in a string of good results together and have been way off their usual standards. They have been knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup competitions and are at risk of missing out on next season’s UEFA Champions League. But their recent results would give their fans some hope as they take on Real Madrid. After their defeat against Real Madrid in the first leg, the Reds went on a three-match unbeaten run which included a thumping 7-0 win against their arch-rivals, Manchester United.
It was a morale-boosting win for Klopp’s men. But a slight dent was made to their team spirit the past weekend, as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against relegation-threatened AFC Bournemouth side. But Jurgen Klopp would be hoping that defeat would not hamper Liverpool’s UCL hopes and that his side can take some inspiration from their performance against Manchester United and put in a similar sort of display against their UCL opponents.
Real Madrid’s concerns
Since their victory against Liverpool in the first leg, things have not been as comforting as Carlo Ancelotti would have hoped for. After their game against the Reds, his side has only won once in four games. And that solitary win only came last weekend when they defeated bottom-half side, Espanyol, by three goals to one. During that period, they drew with Atletico Madrid and Real Betis in the league. And suffered a 1-0 defeat against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey.
Another area of concern for Los Blancos is that their star man Karim Benzema is facing a race against time to be fit for Wednesday’s game. He missed the weekend’s game against Real Betis along with David Alaba and Ferland Mendy who are also sidelined due to injuries. Jurgen Klopp would be hoping to capitalize on this opportunity and keep Liverpool’s UCL hopes alive by putting in a strong display against their opponents.
Been there, done that
This is not the first time that Liverpool finds itself in such a scenario. Back in 2005, the Reds turned around a three-goal deficit against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League final. Despite finding themselves three goals down at halftime, the Reds managed to level the scoring, at 3-3, by the hour mark. Eventually, they went on to lift the title by winning the match on penalties.
Most recently, they scored four goals against Barcelona in the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League semi-final. The Reds faced an uphill task as they were lagging behind by three goals to nil in the first leg of the fixture. But Klopp’s men showed great resilience and character as they staged an improbable comeback against the Spanish side.
Liverpool’s UCL hopes are hanging by a thread, so their players need to bring their A-game if they want to salvage something from their miserable season. But it will not be easy to make a comeback against the defending champions, Real Madrid, that too in their own backyard. But Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have certainly got the pedigree and experience to overcome Real Madrid’s challenge.