Liverpool need Madrid miracle as free-scoring Napoli eye quarter-final first – Champions League in O
The Champions League knockout stages are renowned for delivering high drama, and that will be required if Liverpool and Eintracht Frankfurt are to progress to the last eight.
Both Liverpool and Eintracht face uphill battles to reach the quarter-finals having been comfortably beaten at home in the first legs of their respective last-16 ties.
Eintracht lost 2-0 to Napoli, while Liverpool have the task of overturning a 5-2 first-leg deficit against Real Madrid, the team who beat them in last year’s final.
Although you can never count Liverpool out of any tie, the omens are squarely against either trailing side completing a comeback on Wednesday.
Here, Stats Perform previews the final two matches of the last 16 with the help of Opta numbers.
Napoli v Eintracht Frankfurt
Dominant in Serie A, Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli already appear destined to claim their first Scudetto since 1990.
Should they finish the job at home in the second leg after victory in Frankfurt, they will make another piece of history.
Indeed, if they do progress, Napoli will reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time.
Hope for Eintracht comes from the 2011-12 season, the last time Napoli won a Champions League knockout match (3-1 v Chelsea). That was followed by a 4-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge and elimination from the competition.
But Napoli are unbeaten in their last 11 Champions League home games (W8 D3), and the odds of Eintracht stopping the hosts scoring appear slim.
Napoli have scored 22 goals in the Champions League this season – the last time an Italian side netted more in a single campaign (excluding goals in awarded victories, such as Milan in 2004-05) was in 2002-03, with Juventus scoring 30 and Inter netting 26. The form book favours Napoli turning Eintracht’s already tough task into an impossible one.
Real Madrid v Liverpool
This will be Madrid’s 300th match in the Champions League, at least 20 more than any other side since the 1992 rebrand, and Liverpool have a mountain to climb if they are to ruin the occasion.
Liverpool, of course, do have history of remarkable turnarounds in this competition. The Reds are one of just four sides to have progressed from a Champions League tie having lost the first leg by three or more goals, doing so against Barcelona in the 2018-19 semi-final (0-3 away, 4-0 home).
Up next: #RMALIV #UCL pic.twitter.com/dWB5nWf7AK
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 12, 2023
But Madrid are used to getting the job done at the Santiago Bernabeu. They have progressed from 26 of their previous 27 European Cup or Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg away from home, with the exception being defeat to Ajax at this stage in 2018-19 (2-1 away, 1-4 at home).
If Liverpool are to deliver another second-leg performance for the ages, they will likely need to slow Vinicius Junior.
Vinicius has scored Champions League braces for Real Madrid against Liverpool at both Anfield and the Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid’s home while the Bernabeu was being renovated.
With this game taking place at the Bernabeu, he could become just the second player to score two or more goals against the same opponents in Champions League games at three different venues – after Cristiano Ronaldo against Juventus (Allianz Stadium, Bernabeu and Principality Stadium).
Having lost six of their last seven Champions League games against Madrid, Liverpool also have the issue of stopping Karim Benzema, who has scored 19 goals in his last 19 appearances in the knockout stages, while he is also the top scorer against Liverpool in European Cup and Champions League history (six).
Leave a Reply