The Reuters global sports blog
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
Back in December, when the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League was made, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling pretty pleased with the prospect of renewing their acquaintance with Real Madrid. How different things look now.
Back then, Liverpool were top of the Premier League, six points ahead of a Manchester United side facing a fixture pile-up and struggling for form. Real Madrid, in apparent disarray after sacking coach Bernd Schuster, were 12 points behind Barcelona, having just lost 2-0 to their arch-rivals.
Now, Liverpool have all but conceded the title to United, while Real Madrid, inspired by Juande Ramos, have won nine league games in a row to give Barcelona plenty to think about. True, Real remain seven points behind Barca, exactly the same margin by which Liverpool trail United, but Ramos's side will go into the tie bristling with confidence, while their opponents fight just to keep their season alive.
There are at least a couple of other uncomfortable facts for Liverpool to consider as they prepare for a first European Cup meeting with Real since the final in Paris in 1981.