Liverpool will have to come back from 3-1 down if they are to avoid being knocked out of the Champions League by a side from the Spanish capital for the second year in a row.
Last season, Atlético Madrid saw of Jürgen Klopp’s side over two legs, with the second of those played at Anfield just before coronavirus halted football for months.
This time they face Zinedine Zidane’s European heavyweights—the most successful side in European Cup/Champions League history—Real Madrid.
Liverpool’s previous comebacks under Klopp will be at the forefront of many minds ahead of this game, not least the unbelievable turnaround in a semi-final second-leg against Barcelona in 2019, when the Reds went into the game 3-0 down.
That night at Anfield is seen as one of the greatest moments in the club’s history in European competition, up there with the Miracle of Istanbul in 2005. They’ll need something similar against Real.
There is less of a deficit this time, and an away goal, but Liverpool’s task is made all the more difficult by the absence of players such as Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson, and also by the absence of fans at Anfield.
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“The situation is clear, that’s why this competition is so interesting,” says Klopp. “Because you have these rules like the away goals and all these kind of things. That makes it really exciting.
“We should not concede and if we can create more than we did in Madrid—and that should be possible because we didn’t create a lot—then we will see what we get in the end.
“We cannot just take comebacks for granted, especially not without a crowd in the stadium. We have to create our own atmosphere again for this game, and we will.”
Domestically, Liverpool are in a fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League. They currently sit sixth in the Premier League, three points off the top four. The Champions League trophy is the only silverware they are still in with a chance of winning, and it’s now a slim chance.
Scottish left-back Andy Robertson echoed Klopp’s comments on the team needing to create an atmosphere among themselves in the absence of supporters.
“Of course, our fans are watching it at home and they will be kicking every ball with us, but we need to try to create that atmosphere in the changing room before we go out onto the pitch,” said Robertson.
“We need to be better at everything we do, compared to what we did last week.
“We’ve got to have no regrets, and at least if we can walk off that pitch having given our absolute all and we know we have left nothing on there, that’s the key.”
Real Madrid come into the game off the back of success in El Clásico where they defeated Barcelona 2-1.
It’s been a good few months for Zidane and his side. They have won their last six and are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions, but they will also be wary of Liverpool’s ability to overturn such scorelines.
Klopp is not overconfident, though, and realises that a comeback is far from guaranteed, especially in current circumstances.
“You don’t get a comeback because you had a comeback in the past,” he added. “You only have a chance if you play really good football in the present, and that’s what we have to do.
“The first leg result is a problem, the quality of the opponent is a problem and then, obviously, the stadium being empty is a problem.”
Liverpool remain without their first-choice centre-backs Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip, so loanee Ozan Kabak and reserve Nat Phillips are likely to retain their places in the heart of defence.
Klopp has options in midfield where he could go with any number of combinations in a midifled three, or switch to a two in order to get both Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota in the lineup in a 4-2-3-1. Fabinho is the one guaranteed starter in this area.
4-2-3-1 would be the most attacking option so could be likely given Liverpool need goals. Naby Keita was substituted before half time in the first leg, so it would be a surprise to see him start.
Real Madrid have plenty of absentees of their own including Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, and now Lucas Vazquez.
Like Liverpool, they have problems in defence but a wealth of talent in midfield and attack, though Eden Hazard remains sidelined.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane; Jota.
Courtois; Odriozola, Nacho, Militão, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.