MADRID, SPAIN - Wednesday, March 15, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg game between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Madrid defeat Liverpool’s 3rd-worst attacking performance in the Champions League

It was a night to forget at the Santiago Bernabeu for Liverpool, who put together one of their worst attacking displays in recent history in a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid.

The Reds were left with a mountain to climb following a 5-2 defeat at Anfield in last month’s first leg, but despite requiring a minimum of three goals they failed to land any significant blows on the 14-time European champions.

Statistically, it was the third-worst away attacking performance (xGF) in the side’s recent history, only topped by a visit to Napoli in 2018/19 and the club’s previous trip to the Bernabeu in 2024/15.

It is clear that Liverpool struggle to break down Real Madrid and Napoli in particular, with both clubs featuring on the graphic on more than one occasion.

Liverpool’s starting line up suggested that the plan was to take the game to Real Madrid, with four forwards named in what appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 formation.

James Milner and Fabinho were tasked with sitting in midfield, while Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez attempted to cause Madrid’s back line some problems and get the Reds back into the tie.

It certainly didn’t pan out that way. Both Nunez and Jota were withdrawn from the action before the hour mark with Liverpool only registering a couple of half chances to show for their efforts.

The substitution of Nunez raised eyebrows among Liverpool supporters, but Jota’s departure was indicative of the struggles he was having in troubling Madrid.

Jota will no doubt hope to make more of an impact as he continues to fully recover from the calf injury which kept him out for four months. The next Liverpool game will be in April, a year since Jota’s last goal for the club.

Jota and Nunez weren’t the only ones who struggled. According to stats guys at WhoScored, it was the first time since October 2020 in which Mohamed Salah failed to register a shot in a match for Liverpool.

The Reds now have 17 days in which to try and put the performance behind them ahead of a busy April period which will include Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal over the course of nine days.

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged the scale of the task in his post-match press conference, but conceded that Real Madrid were the far superior side over the two legs and deserved to progress.

“You need a special performance and we didn’t show a special performance tonight,” said the boss.

“If you want to go through you need to be outstanding; if you want to win the game, you need to be really good. In the end, Madrid were the better team and that’s why the right team went through to the next round.”

It’s going to need an outstanding final 12 league games to salvage something from this nightmare season.