Liverpool must engineer their own enthusiasm at Anfield on Wednesday if they’re to overcome Real Madrid and move past the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the third time in four years. Los Blancos are featuring in the last eight for the first time since winning three consecutive European crowns between 2016 and 2018. Real coped better without key absentees to race 3-1 ahead at the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, where Vinicius Junior contributed two for the first-leg hosts:
The Madrid giants have now won their last four straight meetings against Liverpool, the first of which was a 3-0 thrashing of the Merseysiders on their own soil back in October 2014. Jurgen Klopp called on the Reds to “create our own atmosphere” as they look to win three straight home games for the first time since December.
Sergio Ramos was already due to miss the second leg due to a knee injury, but he’s since joined center-back partner Raphael Varane in contracting COVID-19 as well. First-choice right-backs Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez are also ruled out through injury, while former Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard hasn’t made the trip to England as his injury woes endure in Madrid:
Eder Militao and Nacho will continue in central defence for Real as Zidane seeks a seventh straight win, having recorded a 13th game unbeaten after beating Barcelona 2-1 in El Clasico on Saturday.
Liverpool’s top three center-back options each remain out of commission for the home leg. With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip still on the treatment table, the pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips will likely continue despite looking out of its depth in Madrid. Marco Asensio capitalized on Liverpool’s oversight at the back to score in the first leg, but Klopp was in no doubt regarding Vinicius’ impact following his brace:
The Merseysiders managed one modern miracle during the semi-finals of the 2018-19 Champions league semi-final, where they reversed a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Barcelona to win 4-3 on aggregate. That experience will give the squad confidence of pulling off similar heroics against Spain’s other superpower, but mimicking the feat without the Kop’s cooperation complicates the task even more.