The Liverpool faithful will be praying that lightning strikes twice against Spanish opposition at Anfield this week when Real Madrid pay a visit for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash on Wednesday.
Los Blancos travel to Merseyside boasting a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid, where Vinicius Junior bagged a brace and Marco Asensio capitalised on a defensive error to put the visitors firmly in control.
Both sides also claimed vital league wins by the slenderest of margins at the weekend, as Liverpool ended their wretched home run with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa while Real Madrid came out on top in El Clasico by the same scoreline.
As the two European heavyweights seek to march to what would be the 20th European crown between them, a 20-year-old by the name of Vinicius Junior came up with the goods in the first leg, as the youngster’s well-taken brace propelled Real Madrid to a deserved 3-1 triumph on April 6.
Vinicius broke the deadlock on the 27th minute after a mesmerising pass from Toni Kroos, and Marco Asensio proceeded to double Los Blancos’ lead nine minutes later after an error from the much-maligned Trent Alexander-Arnold before Mohamed Salah pulled one back in the 51st minute.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s men were once again indebted to their Brazilian starlet as Vinicius found the bottom corner in the 65th minute to secure a first-leg triumph for Real Madrid, whose performance deserved an 80,000-strong Bernabeu crowd rather than an empty Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Then again, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are a team who know a thing or two about historic Anfield fightbacks against the giants of the Spanish game – it is impossible for one to forget their storming comeback against Barcelona after a 3-0 first-leg defeat – but Los Blancos will surely do their homework on quick corner routines and cult hero Divock Origi is expected to miss out through injury.
The Liverpool manager has been quick to bemoan the absence of supporters for his side’s turmoil on home soil, and the Premier League champions would ideally hope to be welcoming the La Liga champions to a full and raucous Anfield crowd, but having fans enter through the turnstiles remains a pipe dream for most clubs across Europe.
Nevertheless, Liverpool finally managed to end their six-game losing run at home in the top flight with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the weekend, as Alexander-Arnold silenced his critics – in particular Gary Neville – with a sublime winner in added time, although the Reds were far from convincing once again.
While Klopp’s side have seen their Anfield walls crumble in the Premier League, they have secured three victories from four home matches in this season’s Champions League – keeping clean sheets in all three of those triumphs – and they have lost just two of their last 21 European fixtures on Merseyside.
Back-to-back Premier League titles are now out of the question, but Klopp’s side at least head into the second leg having won four of their last five matches across all competitions, and a certain Mohamed Salah will be particularly keen to impress as speculation over a move to the Spanish capital intensifies.
Liverpool have only ever lost 11 home matches in the Champions League, but five of those have come against Spanish opposition, and they have only progressed twice in 13 attempts after losing the first leg by two goals, so the odds are not exactly in Klopp’s favour as he attempts to formulate another spectacular Anfield comeback.
Just four days after assuming control of the quarter-final, Real Madrid prepared for another clash of gargantuan proportions against old foes Barcelona, with both sides eyeing the prize in La Liga and hopeful of usurping Atletico Madrid at the top of the standings.
Zidane’s men managed to do exactly that with a 2-1 triumph in Saturday’s Clasico, during which Karim Benzema took just 13 minutes to draw first blood with a cheeky backheel before the effervescent Kroos witnessed his free kick take a deflection on its way into the net past a hapless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
As the conditions worsened in the Spanish capital, Oscar Mingueza managed to pull one back for Barcelona, but by that point it was too little too late for La Blaugrana as Real Madrid held on for a priceless three points, despite Casemiro’s late red card.
Zidane’s side claimed their rightful spot at the top of the table with that Clasico triumph, but they have since been knocked off their perch by Atletico – who could only muster a point from their battle with Real Betis – so the prospect of a domestic and European double is very much alive for Los Blancos amid their remarkable spate of successes.
Zidane’s future in the Bernabeu hotseat continues to be a major talking point, but the former Galactico has now overseen six consecutive victories across all competitions, and Real Madrid have also managed to string together a 13-game unbeaten run since their shock defeat to Levante on January 30.
However, Los Blancos have only managed to keep a clean sheet in one of their last eight matches across all competitions – a worrying statistic as they prepare to make do without inspirational centre-back pairing Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane once more – but they have not conceded more than one goal in any game during their unbeaten run.
Furthermore, Los Blancos travel to Merseyside having taken the spoils from five of their last six away matches in all tournaments, although an underwhelming group stage in the Champions League saw them win just one of their three games on the road before they scraped past Atalanta 1-0 at the Gewiss Stadium.
History certainly favours the visitors, though, as they have come up trumps in 15 of their last 16 second-leg ties when winning the first leg by a margin of two goals or more – the outlier being their 2003-04 exit to losing finalists Monaco – and Zidane’s side have found the back of the net 23 times in a row in the Champions League knockout stages.
Los Blancos will be fully aware of what can happen to Spanish sides who fail to turn up at Anfield – albeit an empty one – but without their impassioned supporters roaring them on and no Origi ready to catch Real Madrid napping, Klopp’s dream of more European success with Liverpool may remain a fantasy for the time being.