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Real Madrid v Liverpool: Champions League quarter-final – live! 

Good evening. Real Madrid and Liverpool know all about the healing power of the European Cup. Between them they have been champions of Europe 19 times – yet in 14 of those seasons, they weren’t champions of their own country. On a few occasions, they finished as low as fifth in their domestic league, but nobody cared about nine months of domestic misery when they were lifting the big one.

I doubt we’ll forget Liverpool’s surreal 2020-21 title defence in a hurry, but we’ll see it through very different eyes if they end the season by lifting a seventh European Cup. Real could still win La Liga – they are third, three points off the leaders Atletico Madrid, but it’s unlikely, especially with Barcelona in such rampant form. Real could live with being third in Spain and first on the continent. They, more than any other club in Europe – arguably the world – are defined by European competition.

We all know what happened when these teams met in the 2018 final: Sergio Ramos nobbled Mo Salah, Loris Karius’s career fell apart in the cruellest circumstances and Gareth Bale scored an astonishing goal that wasn’t quite as good as we giddily thought at the time. Salah is the only one of that quartet who will play tonight and, though the core of each squad remains pretty similar, a number of those who started in 2018 will be missing through injury or illness: Ramos, Raphael Varane, who has tested positive for Covid-19, Dani Carvajal, Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson.

It’s hard to know what to expect, mainly because Liverpool have been so unpredictable this season. They were in the vicinity of their best in trouncing Arsenal at the weekend, but then we thought they’d turned a corner at Crystal Palace, Tottenham and West Ham earlier in the season. Real can’t reach the same heights as Liverpool, but nor do they fall to the same lows. They have gone under the radar for most of the season, an ageing, ersatz version of the team that won all those European Cups in the 2010s.

The Geriatricos are still a pretty good Galacticos tribute band, but Liverpool are slight favourites to go through and face Chelsea or Porto in the semi-finals. Still, all results are feasible tonight and at Anfield next week. So put the second screen down* and focus your attention on one of the great heavyweight contests of European football: Real Madrid versus Liverpool.

Kick off 8pm.

* Unless this is your second screen, in which case we need all the hits we can get, so good evening and well done you on being so tech-savvy, especially at your age.

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