Yossi Benayoun’s late goal in the Bernabéu. Steven Gerrard’s breath-taking performance in the following round. That other night in Madrid where the Reds’ legendary captain was bizarrely dropped. That fateful night in Kyiv.
Quite simply, Liverpool could not have ended up on a more nostalgic side of the draw in this season’s Champions League campaign – and I haven’t even mentioned the ghost goal, Daniel Agger’s strike at Anfield in 2007 or John Arne Riise’s ultimately costly own goal at Anfield in 2008.
It remains to be seen whether us fans will experience those feelings of elation created by the former or whether we will once again have to endure the pain of the latter. For anyone who has somehow missed it, Klopp’s men will face Real Madrid in this season’s quarter-final. Should they proceed, they will then face one of Porto or Chelsea. There’s no competition quite like the Champions League is there?
Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool’s Premier League triumph was the crowning glory of Jürgen Klopp’s illustrious time on Merseyside. My fondest memories during the German’s tenure are of some of the sensational European nights along the way.
The Premier League, particularly after 30 years, was such a build-up which was only exacerbated by Covid-19. The fact Champions League nights are few and far between makes them all the more special when it results in a famous win, and of course all the more hurtful after a crushing defeat.
We should not yet write off Porto’s chances either, though, or assume that Liverpool will progress past Real Madrid. In a perfect world, Virgil van Dijk would have remained fit and Liverpool’s path to the final would be, by comparison to the other half of the draw, not simple but certainly easier.
Liverpool’s rivalry with Real Madrid stretches way back to 1981 when Bob Paisley led the Reds to European Cup number three. Their recent record, on the face of things, leaves a lot to be desired. Brendan Rodgers lost both his group games, 3-0 at home and then 1-0 away which is remembered more for his incredible decision to leave Steven Gerrard, in his final season at the club, on the bench.
The two sides’ most recent meeting is not one which will bring back very fond memories. The 3-1 defeat in Kyiv, courtesy of two Loris Karius errors and a wonder-goal marked a devastating end to a run in which Klopp’s heavy-metal football was still in full swing in comparison to the more mature approach fans have become accustomed to now.
Many may disagree but, for this writer at least, Liverpool actually performed better that night than they did in the Wanda Metropolitano the following year. They dominated the opening 30 minutes before Salah’s unfortunate injury, and Sadio Mané was unlucky not to grab his second goal later in the match after striking the post.Embed from Getty Images
It will of course be pushed by the media and commentators to an annoying point, but a score to settle does make things that bit more interesting. After their serial winning streak, the Spanish side suffered consecutive Last 16 exits at the hands of Ajax and Manchester City. At the time of writing, they sit third in La Liga and have exited the Copa Del Rey, meaning the Champions League is their only real chance of silverware.
It sadly won’t be the colossal tie it could have been given the injuries, not just to Liverpool, but to Madrid as well. The Reds should be able to field their strongest outfit, though, with the obvious exception of the two centre-backs. Eden Hazard, who has struggled for game-time to say the least in Spain, is also out.
It’s unlikely the away tie will be played at the Bernabéu which is going under reconstruction and will probably take place at the Alfredo Di Stéfano stadium at the club’s training facility.
Madrid have an ageing squad and were not overly impressive against Atalanta, but their ability to simply win in any way shape or form, although obvious, is a highly desirable quality. Liverpool’s high line is also likely to be challenged by the pace of Vinícius Júnior whilst Karim Benzema has become the side’s star player after netting his 70th Champions League goal against the Italians.
Nonetheless, the competition is each side’s only chance at silverware this season. History is on Liverpool’s side and, should they produce a performance like they did against Leipzig, there is no doubt they can see off a difficult side.
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