MADRID: Liverpool have been awaiting tonight’s visit to Real Madrid in the Champions League for almost three years with bitter memories lingering of their defeat in the final in Kiev when Mo Salah was injured in a first-half tangle with Sergio Ramos and goalkeeper Loris Karius had a nightmare.
Liverpool’s presence so far down the Champions League road is something of a surprise given the injury crisis and erratic results which saw them, despite a 3-0 defeat of Arsenal, say a definitive goodbye to their Premier League crown.
At least they have been lifted down the European trail by Salah’s consistent goal-scoring form. He has tallied five goals in Europe this season and 25 in all competitions.
Along the way Salah had overtaken Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s record goalscorer in the Champions League – though it remains 30-25 in the former captain’s favour if qualifiers are included. Salah has also surpassed his all-competitions tally of 23.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has rejected speculation that Salah may want to move on in the summer. Klopp said: “We do not have a situation where any player in the squad says: ‘We are not in the Champions League so I have to leave.’” That will not happen. I know them well enough to know that. I know we have loyalty from the players.”
Liverpool have been encouraged by the improvement in results and performance now that with Fabinho has returned to central midfield and Diogo Jota has picked up his goal-scoring form as an extra weapon in attack. He scored twice in the weekend win over Arsenal.
Victory saw Liverpool maintain a late surge to regain a place in the top four – in the Premier League as well as in the Champions League
Apart from the long-term casualties – Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – Liverpool have one finess doubt over Divock Origi.