Two of the most successful teams in the history of the European Cup will lock horns in the Spanish capital on Tuesday night as Real Madrid welcome Liverpool for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Madrid, who are 13-time winners of the competition, will be looking to secure an advantage at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium ahead of the reverse fixture at Anfield on April 14.
Madrid are comfortably the most successful team in the history of the European Cup, winning the competition on 13 occasions, including four times in the last seven years, but they have been knocked out in the round of 16 in each of the last two years, losing to Ajax and Manchester City respectively.
Zinedine Zidane’s side were not regarded as one of the favourites for this competition at the start of the season, but it is difficult to discount them considering their experience of winning at this level of football.
Los Blancos were not at their best in the group stages of this season’s competition, winning just three of their six Group B fixtures, but they managed to claim 10 points to finish at the top of the section.
Talented Italian outfit Atalanta BC were their opponents in the round of 16, but it proved to be a relatively routine tie for Zidane’s team, who recorded a 1-0 victory away from home in the first leg before winning 3-1 in the Spanish capital to progress to the final eight of the competition courtesy of a 4-1 aggregate scoreline.
Madrid have had their problems this season, but they have won nine of their last 11 matches in all competitions, including a 2-0 success over Eibar on Saturday afternoon, which moved them to within three points of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, who are in action against Sevilla on Sunday night.
It is a huge period of the season for Zidane’s side considering that they will welcome Barcelona in the league next weekend before travelling to Anfield for the second leg of their European Cup quarter-final on April 14.
Los Blancos beat Liverpool 3-1 in the final of the 2017-18 competition, while they also overcame the English giants home and away in the group stages of the 2014-15 tournament; the Reds did win in Madrid back in 2009, though, with Yossi Benayoun scoring to hand the visitors a 1-0 success in the round of 16.
Madrid have won eight and lost five of their previous 13 two-legged knockout ties with English clubs and had been victorious in three in a row before the loss to Man City last season; the Spanish giants will be full of confidence entering Tuesday’s clash, but there is no question that they will be wary of a Liverpool team seemingly revitalised after a difficult period in the early stages of the year.
Liverpool put in one of their finest performances of the season away to Arsenal on Saturday evening, with Diogo Jota scoring twice in a 3-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium. The result moved the Reds into fifth position, just two points off the top four, and they appear to be back on track, posting three straight wins in all competitions.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lost at home to Atalanta in the group stages of this season’s Champions League but still managed to top the section, picking up 13 points from their six matches against Atalanta, Ajax and FC Midtjylland.
Like Madrid, the English giants were drawn against dangerous opposition in the round of 16, but it was a similar story to Zidane’s side, with the Reds beating RB Leipzig 2-0 home and away to comfortably progress to the final eight of Europe’s leading competition.
There is no question that it has been a disappointing season for the Merseyside outfit, having been unable to launch a defence of their Premier League title, but claiming a top-four spot and winning the Champions League would certainly go down as a successful campaign.
Liverpool have actually won 15 of their last 23 European fixtures but have only been victorious in two of their last 12 matches against Spanish opposition, suffering eight defeats in the process.
Only Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (seven) have won more European Cups than the Reds, who are level with Bayern Munich on six, just above Barcelona, who have lifted the trophy on five occasions.
Klopp’s side met Atletico Madrid in the last-16 stage of the 2019-20 Champions League and suffered a 4-2 aggregate defeat, losing 1-0 in Madrid before going down 3-2 at Anfield in the second leg one month later.
The visitors were short of confidence when they lost 1-0 at home to Fulham on March 7, but they have been in impressive form either side of the international break, and the performance at Arsenal on Saturday was the perfect preparation for a trip to the Spanish capital.