Two of European football’s biggest heavyweights collide in the last 16 of the Champions League, with the Reds looking to overturn a three-goal deficit.
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
Champions League Last 16 Second Leg | Santiago Bernabeu
March 15, 2023 | 8pm (GMT)
Liverpool are searching for a miracle ahead of a trip to the Spanish capital, following a devastating comeback which saw the 14-time champions carry a 5-2 lead into the second leg of this last 16 clash.
Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah fired Liverpool into an early lead during the first leg at Anfield, but an inspired and ruthless Madrid side put daylight between the two teams and left the Reds with it all to do in Spain.
Here is all you need to know ahead of the big one.
1. “I think the tie is over”
For a man who often speaks with such a defiant tone, it was somewhat surprising to hear the manager seemingly write off Liverpool’s chances of a second-leg comeback against the hosts.
Speaking in his post-Madrid press conference at Anfield, Klopp admitted that there was a long way back for the Reds after a self-destructive second-half display.
“I think Carlo thinks the tie is over, and I think it as well in moment…,” said Klopp.
“Tonight, with the five goals, you see how good they are at counter-attacking. We have to score three goals there, take some risks, that could be a bit tricky.”
2. Familiar faces
It is a fixture that we have come to know all too well in recent years, meeting in 2018, 2021, 2022, and 2023.
It is also fair to say that we owe them one. Madrid have come away with the spoils on each of those occasions, as well as completing a group stage double over the Reds in the previous meetings in 2014.
You would have to go all the way back to 2009 to find Liverpool’s last triumph over Europe’s most decorated side, a 5-0 aggregate win in the last 16 tie under Rafa Benitez.
3. ANOTHER record for Mo?
Mohamed Salah could become the highest-scoring African player in Champions League history with a goal at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.
He is currently tied with Didier Drogba on 44, and could further cement his place in the competition’s history by getting his name on the scoresheet against Real Madrid.
The Egyptian has made a habit of rewriting the record books in recent weeks, overtaking Robbie Fowler as the club’s highest Premier League scorer with a brace against Man United.
4. Gomez back after injury, Henderson out
It was a welcome sight to see Luis Diaz spotted as the players prepared for a trip to Spain, but the Columbian will not feature in the squad as he continues to edge towards a full recovery from a knee injury which has kept him out of the side since October.
Thiago will also be out of action until after the extended 17-day break which follows this game, but Joe Gomez is back in contention after a four-game absence.
Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, has been ruled out entirely having not made the plane while Stefan Bajcetic was not spotted in training on the eve of the clash but travelled with the team.
Predicted Reds XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Bajcetic; Salah, Nunez, Gakpo; Jota
5. Vinicius Jr in devastating form
The man who broke Liverpool hearts in Paris last May has been on fire for Los Blancos this season.
The Brazilian has netted 19 times in all competitions, including six in the Champions League alone, and is the club’s leading goalscorer so far in 2022/23.
The 22-year-old began Madrid’s fight back at Anfield last month with two goals before the interval, making it three in his last two starts against the Reds.
He is certainly a force to be reckoned with at the moment, especially in tandem with Karim Benzema who has been passed fit for the clash, of course!
Predicted Real XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho; Modric, Tchouameni, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
6. Militao wary of Liverpool threat
Real Madrid are by no means overlooking this one despite the three-goal they will be taking into the second leg.
Brazilian defender Eder Militao has said in the build up that the tie is far from over and that his teammates will need to produce a professional display in order to progress to the quarter-finals.
Militao said: “Some people believe this tie is already finished but I am expecting a big night between two of the clubs with the biggest histories in world football.
“It’s certain that Real Madrid have a very big advantage but still, we must wait another 90 minutes and the round is not closed.”
7. First trip to the Bernabeu since 2014
It may come as a surprise to hear that the Reds haven’t faced Real Madrid at their home ground in nine years, particularly given the number of times the sides have met over the last few campaigns.
The last outing ended in a 1-0 defeat for a much-changed Liverpool side, as Brendan Rodgers opted instead to focus his efforts on an upcoming league meeting with Chelsea.
Since then, the sides have faced each other at Anfield, three neutral venues for Champions League finals and even Real Madrid’s training ground during building work on the Bernabeu in 2020/21.
8. Can it be done?
Liverpool will need a victory by four or more goals in order to see themselves into the next round of the Champions League.
A three-goal win would take the game into extra time and potentially penalties beyond that, meaning that any slim chance of progression may require a late-night finish.
Against European royalty such as Madrid, it certainly feels as though the task may be just about beyond them on this occasion, however, the Reds have got a history of such scorelines against Spanish giants.
Liverpool famously overturned a 3-0 deficit by beating Barcelona 4-0 in the 2019 semi-final, and back in 2009 demolished Madrid by the same scoreline in the last 16 of the competition.
Of course, the job becomes a lot more difficult by virtue of being away from Anfield, but there is at least some history on Liverpool’s side to cling to.
9. Referee watch
The man in the middle will be Felix Zwayer.
The German has already officiated three games in the Champions League this season and has taken charge of the Reds on two occasions, both of which coming in games at home to Porto.
Zwayer features most prominently in the Bundesliga, but he also has 25 Champions League appearances to his name with his first coming in Chelsea‘s 4-0 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2015.
10. Follow all the action with us
The game will be shown live on BT Sport 1, with coverage starting from 7pm (GMT) ahead of kickoff at 8pm.
You can also keep on top of everything that is happening with us!
Our live blog will be available from 7.15pm, we will keep you right up to date on everything that is happening on the pitch in what will hopefully be a historic night for the Reds!
It’s not over until it’s over.