Champions League talking points: Reds seek Madrid miracle
Manchester City and Liverpool are back in Champions League action this week for the second legs of their last-16 ties.
City take on RB Leipzig at the Etihad and Jurgen Klopp's Reds travel to Real Madrid. Porto's clash with Inter Milan and Eintracht Frankfurt's trip to Napoli complete this week’s fixtures.
Here, we take a look at five of the main talking points.
Reds must scale mountain
Liverpool face a Herculean task in their bid to overturn a 5-2 first-leg deficit after falling to their record European home defeat three weeks ago.
They have pulled off some stunning Champions League comebacks, hitting back from three-goal deficits in the 2005 final against AC Milan in Istanbul and in the 2019 semi-finals against Barcelona, but if Klopp’s side could turn their last-16 tie around at the Bernabeu, it would arguably top the lot.
Liverpool must end a 14-year hoodoo to reach the quarter-finals for a fifth time in six years.
It was 2009 when the Merseysiders last got the better of Madrid — winning 4-0 at Anfield at the same stage of the tournament.
The Spaniards have proved the dominant force in seven meetings since with six wins and one draw.
Two of those wins for Los Blancos came in Champions League finals, 2018 in Kyiv when Gareth Bale scored twice and last season in Paris.
Pressure all on City
City are big favourites to reach the quarter-finals for a seventh time in the last eight seasons after returning from Leipzig with a 1-1 draw.
A Champions League triumph with the Citizens remains Pep Guardiola’s driving force, but his side must stay focused on the here and now against dangerous opponents.
Leipzig beat City at home in the group stages last season and the pressure is all on the English champions to progress.
Help from Haaland
During Guardiola’s six seasons in charge, City have progressed beyond the Champions League quarter-finals twice, coming closest to glory when losing to Chelsea in the 2021 final before being knocked out by Real Madrid after extra-time in last season’s semi-finals.
But Erling Haaland could make the difference. The Norwegian goal machine — 34 in 35 appearances in all competitions this season — was signed with nights like this in mind.
Napoli juggernaut rumbles on
Napoli are expected to finish the job against Eintracht Frankfurt after a 2-0 win in the first leg in Germany and maintain their stunning season under Luciano Spalletti.
The runaway Serie A leaders — 18 points clear at the top — have won all bar six matches in all competitions this term and will take some stopping in the Champions League.
Porto will also fancy their chances of overhauling a 1-0 deficit against Inter at Estadio do Dragao in this week’s other last-16 tie.