Liverpool to win the battle... but not the war
The quarter final stage of this season's UEFA Champions League draws to a close on Wednesday night, with the possibility at the time of writing of three English sides being in the semis. Liverpool have the most work to do though, having been beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the first leg in Spain. The away goal could prove vital as the Reds need to score at least twice to have any chance of progressing. The visitors' defence is not at their strongest, but this has yet to affect their form, going 13 games unbeaten in all competitions. Read our preview here:
Jota this down
There are no major new injury worries for the hosts to concern themselves with, though Curtis Jones is a doubt. In the midfield trio, Thiago should come in for Naby Keita in the right half-space; the Spanish playmaker has plenty of previous experience against their opponents in both the colours of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and would represent a change of emphasis. Elsewhere, the main forwards will all start, with some of them receiving a little bit of badly needed respite in the injury-time comeback victory over Aston Villa. Diogo Jota will be the nominal central striker, and despite an interrupted season, has hit 12 goals in 24 club appearances for an impressive one in two ratio. The movement and positional play of the front three will be extremely fluid, and will seek to prey on any perceived or real chinks in the Real backline. With the likelihood of having more of the ball in the return leg, they will look to pin the full-backs as close to their own byline as possible.
As ever, El Clásico was a fiery affair which ended without the full complement of 22 players. Anchor man Casemiro received two yellows in quick succession in their hard-fought 2-1 win over Barcelona, and unlike the Merseyside outfit, Zinedine Zidane didn't have the luxury of rotation in their pursuit of city rivals Atlético at the summit of La Liga. Los Blancos will continue to be without the first choice centre back partnership of Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane. Additionally, rusty right-back Álvaro Odriozola will have the unenviable task of tracking borh Sadio Mané and the forays forward in support by Andrew Robertson. If he can keep his passing lanes open, the strategy will be to beat the counterpress by quickly working the ball up towards the spearhead of the lineup. Marco Asensio and Vinícius Júnior will seek to get in behind with the space Karim Benzema makes, so it could keep Liverpool's full-backs in check.
The Real deal
Another stirring, classic clash between the two most successful European sides in the elite competition is sure to unfold. Both sides always put the onus on attack, and neither have the personnel in their back four to operate any other way, shorn as they are of their strongest individuals in the heart. Even with the two-goal advantage, Zidane's charges are not going to sit back and invite pressure onto themselves, and should ruthlessly pursue scoring twice to put the tie almost beyond doubt. There's certainly a case to be made for Liverpool winning on the night, but bowing out gracefully overall. 888sport have odds of 2.00 for a home win.