The Reds are having a forgettable domestic season, but a run to the Champions League final now seems to be a distinct possibility.
Liverpool and Real Madrid clash in the Champions League for the second time, about three years after they met in the final in Kiev. It’s shaping up to be a real treat.
Both teams would certainly fancy their chances of making the semi-finals, where they will meet either Porto or Chelsea in a match that promises to be winnable. On paper, it seems to be the more advantageous half of the draw.
It’s an opportunity for Liverpool to slay a real European giant as well as a few demons. Nine players from the 2018 final are also at Anfield, as is the boss who was devastated by the Reds’ 3-1 loss.
Mohamed Salah, in particular, must have been pleased with the result on Friday. The Egyptian has painful memories of his time in Kiev, where he only lasted 31 minutes before succumbing to Sergio Ramos’ roughhousing.
Salah vs. Ramos is likely to be the most interesting subplot in an already intriguing tie.
In the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp has faced Real Madrid more than any other player. He’ll be facing the Spanish giants for the eighth time.
Three of them he has won, including an unforgettable semi-final victory with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, when Robert Lewandowski made his mark on the world stage with a four-goal masterclass against Jose Mourinho’s side.
In the last 16, Liverpool sailed past RB Leipzig, while Real Madrid cruised past Atalanta. Neither team has had an especially good domestic season – Liverpool is sixth in the Premier League, while Real is third in La Liga – but they all carry elite pedigree to the knockout stages.
They’ve won the title a total of 19 times and played in a total of 25 finals.
The Champions League is Klopp’s last true opportunity to redeem a season that had so much potential. The Reds’ Premier League title defence was disrupted in the autumn and terminated in the winter, but spring brings revived expectation and excitement. The final in Istanbul in May looms big all of a sudden.
Aren’t we both acquainted with Liverpool and Istanbul?
Of course, there is still a long way to go, and Real are a formidable competitor, even though they are a long way from being the team that won the Champions League from 2013 to 2018.
While Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are no longer with the club, Ramos, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, and Karim Benzema remain. Benzema, who has 21 goals for Real in all competitions this season, has scored more Champions League goals against Liverpool than any other player.
Zinedine Zidane will look to a new generation to bring the 13-time champions ahead, in addition to the old guard, which includes Casemiro and Toni Kroos.
Real’s future is represented by players like Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, and the brilliant Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde, though Isco and Marco Asensio can never be overlooked.
Liverpool are hoping to have turned a corner after a disappointing January and February. The manner in which they beat Leipzig over two legs shows promise, and Monday night’s hard-fought victory at Wolves pointed at increased defensive toughness, which would be critical in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip.
Diogo Jota, who scored the game-winning goal at Molineux, has returned, and Fabinho’s presence in midfield has been felt in Klopp’s team.
The Brazilian had previously spent time on loan with Real Madrid from Rio Ave, and was signed by Liverpool shortly after the 2018 Champions League final loss to Los Blancos. He, more than anything else, is looking forward to this match.
Of course, the lack of fans to add noise and colour to what is already a mouthwatering fixture is a shame. The second leg will be kept at Anfield, but whether it is an advantage at this point is debatable. Mind that Klopp’s team has lost their last six home games.
Between now and the first leg, they only have one match, which is on April 4 at Arsenal. Klopp will be hoping that his foreign players return fit and well, despite the fact that the cancellation of the South American World Cup qualifiers, as well as the surprising absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold from the England squad, have bolstered his training figures at Kirkby.
Overall, it’s turning up to be a masterpiece. Two flawed players, to be sure, but without a doubt two European heavyweights.