wide winner of the 8th first leg, Real must hold its lead against Liverpool
The roles are reversed: Real Madrid, king of the comebacks during the last Champions League campaign, receive Liverpool on Wednesday in the round of 16 second leg with the need to manage their three-goal lead gleaned in their 5-2 victory at the ‘go. At 2-0 for Liverpool after a quarter of an hour of play, on February 21, many thought they were witnessing the tipping point: the decadence of Real Madrid on the continental level.
But they still believed in it. Result: the Merengues offered a new example of their inexhaustible force of resilience, and reversed the game to approach the second leg with a comfortable mattress. “We must not make calculations: we will try to win the match”, however swept away Carlo Ancelotti on Tuesday.
“Play our football”
“We are not going to take our advantage into account. We are going to play our football, attacking football, and Liverpool will do everything to change the dynamic. It will be a fairly open match,” the Italian technician predicted at a press conference on Tuesday. pre-game. But before this reissue of last year’s final (won 1-0 by Real at the Stade de France), observers remain cautious. “Remember Chelsea last year,” warn supporters. “Madrid have been warned,” headlined Marca on Tuesday in an article recalling last year’s scenario against the Blues.
Winners 3-1 in the first leg thanks in particular to a hat-trick from Karim Benzema, the “Merengues” were scared on the return. Three goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rüdiger and Timo Werner had restored the advantage to the English, but Rodrygo had pushed the game into extra time with a goal in the 80th. And Benzema, of course, had hoisted his team in the semi-finals thanks to a but in extra time (96th). “This memory, which is still vivid, will help us prepare for tomorrow’s match (Wednesday) differently,” assured Ancelotti, who learned the lesson.
On Wednesday, Real’s tricolor striker will still be present… but in what state? The French center-forward, hit in an ankle last week and preserved during the victory of the “White House” on Saturday against Espanyol, “will be 100%”, according to “Carletto”. “He returned to collective training on Sunday, and he had done good work sessions before. He is thoroughly, over-motivated. For Karim, for the club, it is a very important competition”, assured Ancelotti on Tuesday.
The 2022 Ballon d’Or, who picked up the crowning glory at the end of a fabulous 2021-2022 European campaign, tackled his favorite phase of the season: last season, he scored ten goals in the double knockout ties of the Champions League. This season, there are already two.
And intends to inflate this figure on Wednesday. Held back by repeated physical glitches which have caused him to miss thirteen matches since the start of the season, the “Nueve” is no longer at the top of his game like last year… but is waiting for the right moment to get out of son silence. Because Benzema went almost a month without scoring: his last dates back to February 21… at Anfield, during the first leg.
Liverpool on AC
Liverpool, for their part, are on alternating current: the Reds reached great heights when they overcame Manchester United 7-0 on March 5, then hit rock bottom when they lost 1-0 on Saturday at Bournemouth, at the ground of the penultimate in the championship, with the first penalty missed by Mohamed Salah in the Premier League. Seeing the Champions League quarters, “it’s possible”, argued Jurgen Klopp at a press conference on Tuesday evening. “Not probable, but possible. And even if there is only one percent probability, I want us to try,” said the Reds technician.
For Real, qualification for the quarter-finals of the Champions League is essential, before tackling the clasico return to La Liga at Camp Nou on Sunday (9:00 p.m.) against FC Barcelona, who moved them nine points away at the top of the championship. For Liverpool, it seems inaccessible… But at the Bernabéu, the scene of the “Champions of Miracles” last season, the impossible does not exist.