Reds seek Madrid miracle and pressure on City – Champions League talking points

Liverpool will need to overturn a 5-2 deficit against holders Real Madrid at the Bernabeu
Reds seek Madrid miracle and pressure on City – Champions League talking points

By Mark Walker, PA

Manchester City and Liverpool are back in Champions League action this week for the second legs of their round-of-16 ties.

City take on Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium and Liverpool travel to Real Madrid. Porto v AC Milan and Napoli v Eintracht Frankfurt complete this week’s fixtures.

Here, the PA news agency looks 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 Jurgen Klopp’s side could turn their last-16 tie around at the Bernabeu, it would arguably top the lot.

Will Real hoodoo be broken?

Liverpool lost out to Real Madrid in last season's Champions League final
Liverpool lost out to Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League final. Photo: Adam Drury/PA.

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

Manchester 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 City 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.

A night made for Haaland?

Crystal Palace v Manchester City – Premier League – Selhurst Park
Erling Haaland has had a prolific first season at Manchester City. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA.

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

Luciano Spalletti's Napoli are 18 points clear at the top of Serie A
Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli are 18 points clear at the top of Serie A. Photo: Nick Potts/PA. 

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 AC Milan at Estadio do Dragao in this week’s other last-16 tie.

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