Klopp: ‘A one per cent chance at Bernabeu? We give it a try’

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says his side have nothing to lose against Real Madrid, rating his side’s chances of overturning a three-goal deficit in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at one per cent.

The Reds arrived in the Spanish capital trailing 5-2 from the first leg and while Klopp has upgraded his assessment from three weeks ago, when he said Madrid were already through, the odds have not swung much in their favour.

Liverpool players appear dejected during the Champions League round of 16 match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Tuesday February 21, 2023.
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Liverpool players appear dejected after their 5-2 home defeat to Real Madrid

Liverpool do not have history on their side either as only once have they overhauled a three-goal first-leg European deficit – the famous 4-0 Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona in 2019.

No team in the competition’s history has ever lost the home leg of a knock-out tie by three goals and recovered, while only four have ever overturned a three-goal first-leg deficit.

“What I said after the game on the night was Madrid, with the result, they are through to the next round,” said Klopp. “But now we are three weeks later and we know there is a game to play. If there is only one per cent chance I would like to give it a try.

“As difficult as it is, that is probably possible. Not likely but possible and for that we are here and then we will see where it will lead us to.

“We respect the competition and the opponent too much to not be looking forward to this game tomorrow. It is a tough task, as we are not in a great situation.

“If I was on that side of the table these are the questions I’d be asking and I would say the same thing: ‘No chance for Liverpool’. So that means we are alone.”

Virgil van Dijk was part of the Liverpool defence exposed by Real Madrid
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Virgil van Dijk was part of the Liverpool defence exposed by Real Madrid

Asked whether this was the toughest match he had prepared for Klopp added: “Most difficult? I don’t know, it is difficult because we will probably not go through to the next leg.

“But in this room I think 100 per cent of the people think we have no chance and if I am the only one who thinks we have a little chance I am fine.

“We are the complete outsiders tomorrow, 100 per cent. Real Madrid are 3-0 up and that is not what you want for Christmas but it’s football and we will try to give it a go.”

Bajcetic facing spell on sidelines | Henderson hasn’t travelled to face Real

Liverpool’s chances have not been helped by a shortage in midfield, with 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic facing a lengthy spell out due to a thigh injury and captain Jordan Henderson left at home due to illness.

“A stress response in his adductor, which is absolutely bad,” said Klopp on
Bajcetic.

“He doesn’t feel a lot but he is now out for I don’t know exactly how long. We
have to let it settle and we will see when he can come back.”

Liverpool also do not head into the game with confidence after a morale-sapping defeat at Bournemouth a week after thrashing Manchester United 7-0.

Cody Gakpo salutes the fans at Anfield after scoring Liverpool's third goal against Manchester United
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Cody Gakpo salutes the fans at Anfield after scoring Liverpool’s third goal against Manchester United

But Klopp said if their roller-coaster season continued in the same pattern they were due another positive moment.

“I’m not sure this is the season where we have a better chance but if we can surprise ourselves in a negative way we should be able to surprise ourselves in a positive away as well,” he said.

“If it is going to be up and down then tomorrow should be up again.

“We are not here warning Madrid ‘Be careful, we are coming’. But we are here to try to win the game and to win it we have to play extremely good.

“An OK game or a good game will not be enough. We will have to be on top of our game and that is what we will try.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Bournemouth’s win against Liverpool in the Premier League.

Ancelotti’s message to his players: ‘Don’t assume anything’

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Real Madrid take a three-goal lead into the game against Liverpool

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is making no assumptions about what lies ahead against Liverpool

The LaLiga side are sitting comfortably after their impressive first leg and coupled with the fact they have only once
failed to score in their last 66 European home matches, they have put themselves on the verge of a spot in the quarter-finals.

However, Ancelotti, who as AC Milan manager famously suffered a remarkable 45-minute comeback by Liverpool that saw them win the 2005 final, is taking nothing for granted and can also point to last season’s quarter-final second leg at home to Chelsea – which they lost 3-2 after being 3-0 down with 10 minutes remaining to progress by virtue of their 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

If anything, Ancelotti wants his side to go on the attack.

“The message is quite simple: not to assume,” said the Italian. “The players understand that I think it will be an open match as Liverpool come here trying to change the dynamic.

“We have to do both things, attacking and defending, properly. We will not just defend, we are thinking about the attack.”

‘It’s a difficult balancing act’

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after making it 2-1
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Vinicius Junior celebrates after making it 2-1 at Anfield

No team in Champions League history has ever lost the home leg of a knock-out tie by three goals and recovered.

Nevertheless, Ancelotti insists his side have the more difficult balancing act.

“From a psychological level, the match is more complex for us than Liverpool,” he added.

“Liverpool come here to give it their all and do their best from minute one, whatever happens. We saw that from the first leg.

“We will try to do all we can from the beginning but we have more questions than the opponent.”

Rudiger: Liverpool rise to the big ocassions

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Defender Antonio Rudiger was part of that Chelsea team which almost pulled off a shock last year but now he is looking at things from the other side of the fence.

“They (Liverpool) have a good attacking team. They played against a big rival and scored seven so that tells me they rise up to big occasion and we need to be aware of that,” said the centre-back.

“But like my former coach (Thomas Tuchel) said when we played against Real Madrid, everyone knows Real Madrid are a very good counter-attacking team with Benzema and Vinicius and their abilities.

“My coach said you play against Real Madrid, you play against the badge and they always prove people right, that this badge is something bigger.”

All you need to know about Friday’s CL quarter-final and semi-final draws

With Chelsea guaranteed a Champions League quarter-final spot, and with Manchester City and Liverpool still battling to make it through, find out when the draw for the last eight and the semi-finals will take place, and who will be involved.

Chelsea are the only English side through to the quarter-finals so far after overcoming Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on aggregate in the last 16.

Manchester City and Liverpool are the other Premier League teams who can still reach the quarters, with both teams playing their second legs this week.

Chelsea's Raheem Sterling, left, shoots to score his sides first goal during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund at Stamford Bridge, London, Tuesday March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Chelsea defeated Borussia Dortmund in the last 16

City face RB Leipzig on Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium after Pep Guardiola’s side were held to a 1-1 draw in Germany in the first leg.

Liverpool, meanwhile, face a Herculean task in their bid to overturn a 5-2 first-leg deficit against defending champions Real Madrid, with the second leg taking place on Wednesday at the Bernabeu.

But Tottenham will not be involved in the draw after limping out to AC Milan 1-0 on aggregate.

Brahim Diaz of AC Milan celebrates with team-mate Theo Hernandez (R) after scoring vs Spurs
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AC Milan knocked out Tottenham to reach the quarter-finals

Bayern Munich and Benfica are also through, with Inter Milan or Porto and Eintracht Frankfurt or Napoli hoping to join them in the last eight.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the quarter-final and semi-final draws…

When are the quarter-final and semi-final draws?

The draws take place at 11am UK time on Friday, March 17 in Nyon, Switzerland at UEFA’s headquarters.

You can follow the draw with Sky Sports’ live blog, so you can keep across everything right here.

How do the draws work?

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The Champions League quarter-final and semi-final draws take place on Friday at 11am

The eight last-16 winners are involved in an open quarter-final and semi-final draw.

There are no seedings and no country protection, so clubs can face opposition from the same country. They can also draw teams they previously played in the group stage.

A final draw will also take place to determine the ‘home’ side for administrative reasons for the showpiece event in Istanbul, Turkey on June 10.

Who will be in the quarter-final and semi-final draws?

  • AC Milan
  • Bayern Munich
  • Benfica
  • Chelsea
  • Manchester City or RB Leipzig (1-1 after first leg)
  • Napoli or Eintracht Frankfurt (2-0 after first leg)
  • Porto or Inter Milan (0-1 after first leg)
  • Real Madrid or Liverpool (5-2 after first leg)

When are the quarter-finals?

The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played Tuesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 12.

The second legs will be played Tuesday, April 18 and Wednesday, April 19.

When are the semi-finals?

The first legs of the semi-finals will be held on May 9 and 10, and the second legs on May 16 and 17.

When is the final?

The final takes place on June 10 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

Barca edge Real Madrid in ill-tempered Copa semi-final first leg

A tenacious Barcelona frustrated Real Madrid to secure a 1-0 win over their bitter rivals in an ill-tempered Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu on Thursday.

The visitors defended superbly after Madrid centre-back Eder Militao scored an own goal in the first half, managing to overcome the loss of key players Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele, who all missed the game due to injuries.

It was a much-needed win for Barca after arriving in the Spanish capital under pressure, having been knocked out of the Europa League by Manchester United and then losing at lowly Almeria to halt a seven-game winning streak in LaLiga.

“We would have liked to have the ball more, to control de game a little more but we fought hard and competed in a high level. They had the ball but didnt create many chances. We got the advantage for the second leg and that’s really important,” Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets told TVE.

Real Madrid started better and dominated the first 15 minutes, but Barcelona started to turn things around as they took control of the midfield and their defensive game plan worked brilliantly.

Barca centre back Ronald Araujo did a great job at right-back to neutralise the threat of the dangerous Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema was left alone up front.

Real Madrid's Eder Militao puts the ball into his own net during the Bernabeu meeting
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Real Madrid’s Eder Militao puts the ball into his own net during the Bernabeu meeting

Madrid became frustrated and tempers flared before the hosts made the crucial mistake which gave Barca what turned out to be the winner.

Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga gifted a back pass to Ferran Torres, who reacted quickly to slide the ball to Franck Kessie.

His point-blank strike was saved by Thibault Courtois, but the rebound bounced off Militao and into the net.

The assistant referee signalled offside but the VAR replay showed Kessie was fractionally onside and the goal stood.

Barcelona players celebrate after going ahead
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Barcelona players celebrate after going ahead

Barcelona locked Real Madrid into an even tighter situation during the second half and although the hosts dominated possession, they rarely threatened to equalise.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side did not record a single shot on target despite having almost 70 per cent of possession in the second half and Barca should have extended their lead in the 71st minute when a Kessie shot that beat Courtois was blocked by team-mate Ansu Fati.

Substitute Rodrygo had Madrid’s best chance with a late long-range strike that flew narrowly wide of the post.

The teams meet again in Barcelona on April 5 with the winners to face Athletic Bilbao or Osasuna in the final.

How Spanish football is failing elite talent Vinicius Jr

On Monday, at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, Lionel Messi was crowned once again The Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2022. On the right bank of the River Seine, and in the oldest part of this enchanting city, there was no disputing the Argentine’s position at the pinnacle of the sport.

At this star-studded event often belittled for its predictable voting pattern, World Cup winner Messi unsurprisingly cantered to the top gong, seeing off Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe to equal the two awards of Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski since its inception in 2016.

The fall-out to Messi’s latest victory, as always, revealed more interestingly who voted for who, with focus immediately placed on David Alaba’s decision not to back his own team-mate Benzema for the top prize.

But it was the number of votes fellow team-mate Vinicius Jr pulled in which perhaps drew the greatest surprise.

A breakdown of the votes for FIFA Men's Best Player 2022
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A breakdown of the votes for FIFA Men’s Best Player 2022

Seven kilometres further north of where the gala took place, nine months ago at the Stade de France, the Brazilian was winning a Champions League for Real Madrid, scoring the only goal as Liverpool’s hopes of a seventh European title were dashed.

For only the second time in 64 years, Real were crowned Spanish and European champions in the same season. It was a year in which Vinicius would form one of the most devastating partnerships in world football, totalling 100 goals and assists in tandem with Benzema.

He was key in helping Real win the La Liga-Champions League double and will be expected to lead his side to a morale-boosting win over arch-rivals Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Thursday.

Atletico Madrid fans vent their anger in the derby
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Atletico Madrid fans vent their anger in the derby

But having earned himself a place among the list of 14 nominees for the prestigious individual prize won by Messi, Vinicius would receive just three votes in first place.

A Cameroonian media member, Emmanuel Gustave Samnick, journalist Crofton Utukana from the Solomon Islands and Egypt captain Mohamed Salah were alone in viewing him as the world’s best.

The likelihood is that 12 months from now, the outcome could be very different, but despite his tender age, Vinicius already knows all about the fight for recognition.

FIFA FIFPRO Men's World XI
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Vinicius missed out on being named in the World XI

At 22 years and 224 days old, Vinicius became the youngest visiting player to score twice against Liverpool at Anfield in a major European competition since Johan Cruyff in December 1966 for Ajax in the European Cup. That alone demonstrates the calibre of player the Real Madrid star has become.

The scourge of Liverpool once more, Vinicius continues to underline his undisputed brilliance and growing influence on the global stage, but it is hard to escape the context in which his stellar performances are taking place, in stark contrast to the stance being taken in his homeland.

The Brazil Football Federation (CBF) says it will become the first to punish incidents of racism and racist abuse with points deductions. The CBF has confirmed a change to its regulations that has taken effect in the ongoing Copa do Brasil.

Vinicius Jr is wanting to be heard by the authorities
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Vinicius Jr is wanting to be heard by the authorities

Combatting racism is a priority for CBF president Ednaldo Rodrigues, who became the first Black person to lead the organisation in over 100 years of its history when elected to the permanent role in March 2022.

Last month the country’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also announced an increase in penalties for racism and other crimes committed at sporting events in Brazil.

Rodrigues has spoken out against the treatment of Vinicius Jr and other athletes, saying racism now “goes beyond an attack on dignity and already threatens the physical safety of the victims”.

“The fight against racism is urgent,” Rodrigues said after the CBF proposal was unveiled. “Measures have been discussed for centuries and never put into practice. CBF is doing its part.”

Vinicius has been the subject of racist abuse in Spain
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Vinicius has been the subject of racist abuse in Spain

The hope is that in time the Spanish Football Federation would look to introduce something similar to the CBF’s new regulations. But, judging by how the system has continually failed in recent times, you wouldn’t expect radical changes any time soon.

Vinicius has been at the centre of a racism scandal in Spain over the past 12 months, racially abused on numerous occasions, most recently by fans of Real Mallorca in early February.

Supporters could be heard making racist chants in a video published by the streaming company DAZN on social media.

In a radio interview, Mallorca manager Javier Aguirre denied his players had targeted Vinicius in the ill-tempered match, in which the Brazilian suffered 10 fouls, the most by any player in La Liga this season. A foul every nine minutes.

Spanish football are failing Vinicius
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Spanish football are publicly failing Vinicius

“Today the referee ignored the repeated fouls,” said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti after the Mallorca defeat. “It’s supposed to mean a booking if fouls are over and over and over again.

“Everything that’s going on is not Vinicius’ fault. He only wants to play football, but there’s a provocative atmosphere caused by opponents who get stuck into him and foul him. The external focus, in this case, has to switch. It’s time to study what happened to Vinicius today.”

There have been other appalling episodes – at the Camp Nou against Barcelona in November 2021 and at Atletico Madrid in September 2022.

Spanish police are also investigating a possible hate crime against him after a mannequin wearing his No 20 shirt was hung from a bridge in front of the club’s training centre before the Madrid derby in January.

Vinicius Junior earned 18 votes at FIFA Best awards
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Vinicius Junior earned 18 votes at FIFA Best awards

Prosecutors in Madrid decided not to press charges over racist chanting aimed at Vinicius in September after finding it had “lasted a few seconds” and had not constituted a crime.

In December, Vinicius accused LaLiga of continuing to do nothing about racist fans at matches, after videos on social media showed some shouting abuse and throwing objects at him the previous day at Valladolid.

LaLiga condemned all forms of hate speech and said it was following up on instances of racism at the match. Its president, Javier Tebas, said Vinicius’ accusations were “unfair and untrue”.

LaLiga says it is powerless to enforce sporting sanctions and instead refers all cases to the justice system.

Vinicius is the player with most goal attempts (28) and shots on target (15) in the Champions League this season. After scoring 22 goals with 20 assists last term, he has already scored 18 in all competitions this campaign and was named player of the tournament at the Club World Cup in January, helping Real to secure a record-extending fifth title.

Vinicius Jr has let his feet do the talking
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Vinicius Jr has let his feet do the talking

If one of the world’s best players can’t be protected, what chance does anyone else have in football?

For how much longer can this shocking and blatant turning a blind eye to racism go on? Points deductions, stadium bans and hefty fines appear further away than ever.

Writing for ESPN, Spanish football expert Graham Hunter said: “Vinicius is a young, talented, exciting, successful, Black Brazilian player who, inarguably in my view, is being treated atrociously by Spanish football and by some sections of the country.

“Partly because of the colour of his skin. What’s happening is an outright disgrace, something that fair, decent, honest people should be repulsed by and catalysed into protesting about.

“Everything being equal, this young man who’s blessed with what Ancelotti calls a prodigious, elite athleticism and robustness would be used in every one of the Italian manager’s starting XIs – potentially a 64-match season.

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Former Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez warned Liverpool about Vinicius Jr’s qualities

“But if those who are bullying, provoking, abusing and attacking him here in Spain have their way, this emerging legend – eighth in last season’s Ballon d’Or voting – will be injured or suspended for most of them. That’s the level of maliciousness being deployed against Vinicius.”

Would the same treatment be dished out were he a young, white Spaniard? I have very strong doubts. In fact, I am sure it would be very different.

The Brazilian is the most-fouled player in Europe’s top five leagues by a big margin. He has been fouled 84 times, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar joint-second on 65.

The way he has been viewed in Spain, it is as though he is the problem. That his showboating is a justifiable cause for irritation. Football is about tribalism – and creating hostility to gain an advantage over superior opposition should be expected. But it should never overstep the mark.

GRAPHIC

It remains a societal problem, not just in Spain it ought to be said, but it is a country where shifting the mindset away from racial chanting being a form of acceptable baiting has hardly moved on from the late 90s, when Roberto Carlos received such treatment playing in his first Clasico.

Hunter ends: “Spanish football has a big, ugly and growing problem with how Vinicius is being treated. It’s time for every single person who sees things as they really are to speak out, repeatedly, until this scintillating talent can go about his work without being persecuted for who he is or the colour of his skin.”

For now, this rising star of the game must continue to brilliantly block out the provocation; to focus on the wins, and not the battles he can only lose. He is among those fighting to become the heir to Messi’s throne.

“Right now, in my opinion, he is the most decisive player in world football,” said Ancelotti after that 5-2 win at Anfield.

Real have it all to play for, still fighting on three fronts this season. At the start of this new month and ahead of the first in a Barcelona trilogy, Vinicius has the world at his feet and everything to gain.

Gaslighting this elite talent, it is time Spanish football realised all it stands to lose.