Last season’s Champions League finalists meet in the last-16 when Liverpool host Real Madrid in the first leg tie. This is a match which has huge history in the competition, with Madrid triumphing in last year’s final, and in the 2018 final when Gareth Bale inspired them to victory. Liverpool enjoyed a final victory over Madrid back in 1981, when the competition was simple called the European Cup.
Both sides have a massive European pedigree and always seem to find something extra in this competition. Madrid, of course, have lifted the famous trophy a record 14 times, while Liverpool’s six victories are the most of any British club.
Liverpool have struggled for consistency this season, however, Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the Merseyside derby victory over Everton will prove to be a turning point. The Reds followed that up with a win over Newcastle United and will be looking to continue this form and climb the table. The Champions League represents their only realistic chance of a trophy this season. Injuries have hampered Liverpool and are boosted by the return to fitness of Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino. Arthur is also close to a return.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid side are in second place in La Liga, eight points behind leaders Barcelona. This season has seen them win the UEFA Super Cup and the World Club Championship. The evergreen Luca Modric is still running the midfield for Los Blancos alongside Tony Kroos, and current Ballon d’Or holder, Karim Benzema remains a key man. Vinícius Júnior has arguably been Madrid’s most important player this season and Rodrygo is pushing for a starting place. Fede Valverde has started to add goals to his game, and will probably start upfront on the right, with the freedom to drop into midfield.
Leipzig host Manchester City in the first leg of their last-16 tie. Leipzig are currently 5th in the Bundesliga, having won seven out of 10 home matches, only losing once. They will be boosted by the return to fitness of Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman suffered a severe knee injury away on international duty as France prepared for the 2022 World Cup. Prior to that the 25-year-old forward was in stunning form and looked on course to match last season’s tally of 35 goals in all competitions. Despite his spell on the sidelines, only Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug has more than Nkunku’s 12 goals in the Bundesliga this season and he could well make a return to the first team against the Citizens, against whom he scored a hat-trick last season. Timo Werner is back in form after a disappointing spell at Chelsea and Josko Gvardiol, one of the best defenders in the 2022 World Cup is a key man at the back.
Pep Guardiola will be hoping that City are hitting form at the right time, after their crucial 3-1 win over title rivals Arsenal at the Emirates. However, City could only draw at Nottingham Forest at the weekend, allowing the Gunners to return to the top. They will, however, be hoping for a strong run in on all fronts. Erling Haaland has 32 goals in all competitions and Jack Grealish has started to contribute goals and assists. Guardiola twice won the Champions League when in charge of Barcelona. However, since then he has been unable to find a winning formula in the competition.
Liverpool host Madrid on Tuesday February 21, while Man City play Leipzig on Wednesday February 22.
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