Liverpool given hope of avoiding Man City reality but will be wary of Champions League repeat
While Liverpool have been focused on the threat of Man City, a Galáctico problem has emerged, as Real Madrid have awoken on Jürgen Klopp’s Champions League path.
A sleeping giant has awoken. Having missed out on the La Liga title to Atlético Madrid last season in a campaign that saw them crash out of the Champions League at the hands of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, a 3-1 win that set up the perfect revenge at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night has shown that Liverpool have another team to worry about in their quadruple quest.
Karim Benzema secured yet another hat-trick after his heroics saw Real Madrid complete an emphatic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round, with the France international seemingly peaking at just the right time of the season.
And in a campaign where Jürgen Klopp’s side have been focused on stopping the Manchester City express in the race for a position on the Premier League summit, a Galáctico problem is emerging.
It was Real Madrid who ended Liverpool’s Champions League journey last season. The Reds’ display at Anfield left them to rue missed chances, and unable to claw back the deficit accumulated in Spain. The same side inflicted heartbreak in the 2018 final.
While form this campaign has seen Liverpool back to their best — and without a defensive crisis that almost saw Merseyside without Champions League nights at all — a quest for revenge now looks to be more difficult. The sleeping giant of Real Madrid now appears hungry to re-establish dominance on the European stage.
Talks of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé heading to the Santiago Bernabéu in the summer have done little to distract France international Benzema from enjoying his best form this season. The 34-year-old is on course for a Ballon d’Or, with numbers beyond imagination. For club and country, he has contributed to a staggering 57 goals this season. He has scored 44 of those, with 37 coming while wearing the crown crest of Real Madrid.
That leaves a difficult dilemma for Liverpool as potential semi-final ties are considered. The Reds are arguably more comfortable at coming up against Europe’s best, though the form of Carlo Ancelotti’s side this season provides a different task to the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich that Liverpool have edged past in previous years.
On the other hand, another clash against Manchester City appears exhausting. Klopp is already trying to deal with a sky blue problem on domestic grounds, with Pep Guardiola an obstacle in both Liverpool’s Premier League and FA Cup quest. That sets up four games against one of the best sides of the 21st century in a short space of time — all significant stepping stones on the route to more silverware.
But with the return of crowds, and Liverpool now able to rely on the magic of Anfield in Europe, taking on Real Madrid despite their form this season could be a better fit than a series against the Premier League champions. Four matches against Manchester City will only see the edge decrease as the two sides adapt to each other — each extra 90 minutes furthering the element of luck required to win.
And after Barcelona showed the blueprint for defeating Real Madrid in their recent 4-0 El Clásico win, the Reds can be assured that Los Blancos can be defeated amid their re-emergence on the Champions League stage. Liverpool will be wary of history repeating itself, but a chance at revenge is ultimately preferable to a fifth and final meeting with Man City.