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The Associated Press

Madrid tries to avoid Liverpool comeback in Champions League

By TALES AZZONI,

2023-03-14
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MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid got used to pulling off dramatic comebacks in the Champions League last season. Now it needs to avoid one to keep its title defense going.

It will be Liverpool needing to do something magical at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday to reverse a 5-2 loss from the first leg in the round of 16.

It definitely won’t be easy — no away team has ever erased a three-goal loss from the first leg in the Champions League. Only five times the team that lost at home rallied in the second leg, with Manchester United the only one to overcome a two-goal deficit in a round-of-16 matchup against Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.

“Even if there’s only a 1% chance, we have to give it a try,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Tuesday. “It’s clear we’re not here telling Madrid: ‘Be careful, we’re coming’. But we’re here to try to win the game.”

Liverpool did manage a huge comeback at home in the 2019 semifinals, rallying against another Spanish club, Barcelona. It had lost 3-0 at the Camp Nou before pulling off a 4-0 win in the second leg at home to keep alive a run that eventually ended with the team winning the trophy. Only three other teams overcame a deficit of three or more goals — Barcelona, Roma and Deportivo La Coruña.

“We have nothing to lose,” Liverpool midfielder Fabinho said. “Everyone expects Real Madrid to win and go through. We have a responsibility to wear the shirt. This squad of players have had nice experiences, like Barcelona in 2019, we changed that tie. We know it’s possible.”

Madrid, which beat Liverpool in last season’s final for a record-extending 14th European title, pulled off thrilling comebacks on its way to that final, rallying from behind against PSG in the round of 16, Chelsea in the quarterfinals and Manchester City in the semifinals.

Madrid also rallied against Liverpool in the first leg this season after going down 2-0 in the first half in England, eventually building its comfortable three-goal advantage with two goals each by Vinícius Júnior and Karim Benzema. Éder Militão also scored for Madrid at Anfield.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti expected an open second leg and said his team will not play too defensively.

“The message to the team is simple,” Ancelotti said. “We have to try to play as well as possible, just like in the first leg. We won’t try to speculate, we have to be in the game from the first minute. We have to go into the game with maximum intensity and enthusiasm and try to win it.”

The only time Madrid failed to advance in the Champions League after winning the first leg on the road was in 2019 when it was eliminated by Ajax in the round of 16.

Madrid has won six of its last seven matches against Liverpool in the Champions League, drawing the other one.

The team ended a three-match winless run with a 3-1 victory over Espanyol at the Bernabéu in the Spanish league on Saturday. The coach is expected to have Ferland Mendy and Benzema available after recovering from injuries.

Liverpool took another hit to its confidence with a 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Bournemouth over the weekend, hurting its chances of moving closer to the top four in the Premier League. Mohamed Salah missed a penalty in that game.

Klopp will have fewer midfield options for the game against Madrid. Jordan Henderson has an illness and didn’t make the trip, while Stefan Bajcetic was ruled out with an adductor injury.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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