Champions League (14-15th March): Liverpool hoping to salvage pride vs Real Madrid

The Champions League last-16 concludes this week, with Liverpool heading to the Spanish capital three goals behind to the reigning champions Real Madrid after their 5-2 defeat three weeks ago.

Elsewhere, Manchester City will be confident of dispatching RB Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium after drawing 1-1 in Germany, with Italian sides Napoli and Inter Milan hoping to hold onto leads against Eintracht Frankfurt and Porto respectively.

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Real Madrid v Liverpool (Wednesday 20:00 GMT)

Despite enduring a difficult domestic campaign, Liverpool looked set to continue their proud history in European football when racing into a 2-0 lead inside 14 minutes against Real Madrid at Anfield, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side showed their mental and technical qualities to leave Merseyside with a commanding 5-2 lead in the tie.

The star of the first leg was undoubtedly Vinicius Junior, who we correctly tipped as an anytime goalscorer. The Brazilian forward’s pace and dribbling ability makes him a nightmare opponent for the Reds’ high defensive line, and at odds of 3.00, the 22-year-old is a fantastic price to get on the scoresheet once again.

Real Madrid v Liverpool

(Champions League)

Of course, the Reds have history of coming from three goals behind against an Ancelotti team, having pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the sport when trailing AC Milan 3-0 at half-time in the 2005 final to famously prevail on penalties in Istanbul.

But losing the first leg at home is undoubtedly an ominous scenario in knockout ties. In the history of the European Cup and Champions League, only eight teams have progressed in this manner, and none of those were trailing by three goals.

Most recently, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur progressed beyond Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax respectively in the 2018-19 season – when Liverpool lifted their sixth European Cup – but perhaps a better blueprint for the Reds to follow is Chelsea’s quarter-final tie against Real last season.

The Blues lost 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, but Thomas Tuchel’s side were miraculously on the verge of reaching the last four when Timo Werner’s 75th-minute strike put them 4-3 up on aggregate at Santiago Bernabeu. However, Rodrygo’s volley took the game into extra-time, before Karim Benzema worked his magic.

Klopp’s side are no stranger to comebacks themselves, of course, with their sensational 4-0 win against Barcelona in the 2019 semi-final coming after losing 3-0 at Nou Camp. But that second leg was at Anfield, and frankly Liverpool were a much better team four years ago, too.

Ultimately, regardless of how Wednesday’s tie plays out, it’s unthinkable to envisage a world where Real will not be included in Friday’s quarter-final draw, ready to defend their title as they aim to win the European Cup for the 15th time in the club’s history. They can be backed at 2.29 to win Wednesday’s match.