Liverpool have a mountain to climb in their bid to turn around a 3-1 deficit against Real Madrid, and will need to look within as another European night plays out without fans.
It’s been done before, Liverpool’s power to claw their way back and spring a famous comeback is no longer a surprise but it still certainly stuns players and fans alike.
Fortress Anfield has had a lot to say about that and one need not look far for a prime example, but this time Jurgen Klopp‘s men will not be able to directly call upon the Reds faithful.
But the job remains the same, a 2-0 win will suffice and it is a scoreline Liverpool have managed five times this season in addition to seven games that ended in a three-goal buffer.
There will be plenty to consider for Klopp and Co. on Wednesday night and here are three key questions ahead of the do-or-die fixture.
Will Reds have learned their lesson?
The first leg was far from pretty for Liverpool, with their lack of pressure, especially high up the pitch, playing into Real Madrid’s hands and coming as a self-inflicted wound.
Zidane’s men were able to dictate a lot of the play, popping the ball over the top of Liverpool’s high defensive line that was exposed with the front six not applying pressure on the ball carrier.
See Toni Kroos’ direct long ball assist for Vinicius Jr’s opener in the Spanish capital, giving the German that amount of time and space is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
Liverpool were culpable of slow movement on and off the ball, were wasteful when they did have it and were void of ideas – it improved in the second half, largely thanks to Thiago‘s presence, but it was a clear lesson in ruthlessness and concentration.
There are no excuses not to have learned from the experience and while mistakes are part of the game, and simply being human, they need to be at their best across all facets if they are to overcome the two-goal deficit.
“Our identity is intensity” – now it’s time to live those words.
Can Real Madrid be shut out?
Keeping a clean sheet will be instrumental in the mountain Liverpool are to climb, with adding an increased number of goals to the required list not fitting in line with current form.
If Real score just one, Klopp’s men then need to find four to win. They have done that just six times in their 44 games this season, the last being the 4-1 FA Cup victory over Aston Villa‘s youth team in January.
Therefore, it goes without saying that defensive solidity is key. In the last 10 games, five clean sheets have been recorded – none of which were at Anfield.
Nevertheless, there are recent experiences to draw upon and it’s a task all too familiar on the European stage, just ask Barcelona (who definitely thought they were scoring “at least” one).
Different team, different season, but the same job. Not an easy one as aforementioned and when you consider Real Madrid have not been shut out for 17 consecutive games and for only a tour of four times this season.
Scoring boots will be a must, with chances finished with a ruthlessness not always seen in this campaign, and a collective effort to pressure, harass and force Real out of their comfort zone.
And will an empty Anfield still prove decisive?
All of that would be made easier with a feral and raucous Anfield crowd, one which is part of the fabric of the club under the lights on a European night.
Klopp conceded the magic that was the Barcelona victory was “80 percent…the atmosphere in the stadium,” but it is Liverpool’s job to make it “a really tricky task for Real Madrid at Anfield with or without supporters.”
Having the monkey off their back with their win over Aston Villa ending a run of eight games without victory on home soil should prove to be somewhat liberating after the fortress was torn down.
But in the end, there’s no getting away from the absent Anfield atmosphere as a talking point, but it is now on Liverpool to create their own, harnessing intrinsic motivation and ensuring Real Madrid are not given a second to breathe.
We are at the business end of the season and a place in the semi-final rests of Liverpool getting the required result and they should not be leaving anything to chance to do so.
Fans may not be in the stands, but they will be tuned in around the world and we wouldn’t mind if Klopp’s chargers put on a show.