Fallen giants seek revival as Real Madrid, Liverpool battle again

MADRID (AFP) – Liverpool’s last dance with Real Madrid ended in painful defeat, with Mohamed Salah’s shoulder dislocated by Sergio Ramos dragging him to the ground and goalkeeper Loris Karius left apologising to his fans.

Yet Karius’s two errors, which handed Madrid a 13th European triumph in the 2018 Champions League final, were also the start of a journey for Liverpool.

Karius was ruthlessly cast aside and Alisson Becker signed for a then world record fee for a goalkeeper.

A year later Liverpool were the ones hoisting the Champions League trophy after beating Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. Last season, an even heavier burden was lifted when they were crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.

But those highs have been followed by a fall from grace as Liverpool prepare to face Real again in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Madrid early tomorrow (3am Brunei time).

Fortress Anfield has turned into a visitors’ dream with fans absent because of the coronavirus pandemic.After nearly four years without a home league defeat, Liverpool have lost six in a row for the first time in the club’s history. Jurgen Klopp’s men are in a scrap just to make it into next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Injuries have taken their toll. Captain Jordan Henderson and centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip will all miss both legs of the Real tie and are unlikely to play again this season.

“We are alive in two competitions and we are going to be ready,” he said. “We know where we have come from this season, that we have suffered a lot to get here, but we haven’t achieved anything yet.”

But Liverpool are showing signs of a resurgence too, their victory over Arsenal their third in a row and most convincing performance this year. Crucially, both clubs will believe winning this quarter-final puts them in sight of another European success, that from there they could defy recent trajectories by beating even the loftiest opponents in the competition.

In 2018, Real Madrid and Liverpool knew victory would secure them the trophy. This time they will hope it sparks a resurgence.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) is pulled to the ground by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos leading to a dislocated shoulder during the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev. PHOTO: AFP