Andy Brassell on the Champions League: Liverpool face titanic task against Madrid

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid
Karim Benzema made a big contribution again for Real Madrid in El Clásico

Real Madrid know how to grind out wins and should be backed at Anfield says Andy Brassell as he looks ahead to this week's Champions League quarter-final second legs...

"In two Liga matches with Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, two Champions League ties with runaway Serie A leaders Inter and now the first leg with Liverpool, Real Madrid have registered six wins, a draw and no defeats."

A lot can change over eight days in football and a lot will have to change from Liverpool's perspective for their second leg against a Real Madrid side who a significant swell of public opinion in England thought would be a straightforward assignment for the Reds. The lack of dazzle about Zinedine Zidane's team (which was also largely the case during his first spell in charge, by the way) should never have been misinterpreted for weakness.

This version of Real Madrid grind out results and Zidane is a canny tactician which, due to his lack of interest in shouting his footballing philosophies from the rooftops, he rarely gets the credit for. Saturday's El Clásico win was a case in point, built on less possession but targeted attacks at their opponents' weak points - in this instance the defensive difficulties of Jordi Alba, from whose side Karim Benzema's opener was created.

Let's look at El Real's biggest matches this season. In two Liga matches with Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, two Champions League ties with runaway Serie A leaders Inter and now the first leg with Liverpool, they have registered six wins, a draw and no defeats.

Want to add in the two knockout games with a potentially dangerous Atalanta - and their range of forward options - in the last round? Two games, two wins, taken by an aggregate of 4-1 and accomplished with little fuss. Jürgen Klopp's men have their work cut out with Los Merengues not just in their best form of the season right now, but as a side that is almost always ready for the big occasion.

Back Real Madrid to beat Liverpool at 3.814/5

City's late winner underlines Dortmund fragility

Many people were also surprised by Borussia Dortmund's excellent first leg display in north-west England but in this case, that included the audience back home in Germany rather than only Premier League fans who see Manchester City's imperious displays most weeks. Those who have regularly watched Dortmund perform in a haphazard way throughout this deflating Bundesliga campaign were confounded by their grit and poise in Manchester.


It could be argued that even Phil Foden's late winner in the first leg need not be decisive in favour of Pep Guardiola's side. Unfortunately for those of a BVB persuasion, it did highlight one of the German giants' biggest issues. Edin Terzić has a talented side but their infuriating habit of switching off defensively, as they did for that late City winner, can easily undo good work.

Dortmund were at it again at the weekend, overcoming a first-half deficit to lead at Stuttgart then nearly giving it away by conceding a risible equaliser to Daniel Didavi. Fortunately for them the teenager Ansgar Knauff, who played well in the first leg, struck a late winner to capture the points but their shortcomings often leave them in need of snookers. If City can show just a bit more composure than in the first leg, they can make the second a formality, particularly with Terzić's team needing to chase the game at some point.

Back both teams not to score at 2.486/4

Bayern restlessness offers Paris an opportunity

Last week's trip to Munich couldn't have gone much better for Paris Saint-Germain. A good start - via Kylian Mbappé's opener - is one thing but once the inevitable Bayern onslaught began, Mauricio Pochettino's team held firm with help from the outstanding Keylor Navas, frustrating their hosts in a way that so few ever manage to do.


Bayern have a lot on their plate for Tuesday's return in the French capital. Not only do they have a stack of injuries and illnesses to contend with, depriving them of Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry to mention just two, they are trying to dampen renewed gossip about the state of the relationship between coach Hansi Flick and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzić after the former's press conference complaints about squad construction. The timing could have been better.

Yet Bayern remain Bayern, and PSG will be acutely aware of that. The key for the reigning champions is the return of the influential Leon Goretzka from a thigh problem, with he and Joshua Kimmich powering this team. It is unusual to feel that a team who conceded three away goals in a first leg loss still has a decent chance of going through, but Bayern's front-foot mentality means they go to Paris believing they can make it happen.

Back Bayern Munich to qualify at 3.3512/5

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