Champions League: The past alerts Real Madrid against Liverpool | Sports

Carlo Ancelotti, in training this Tuesday in Valdebebas.
Carlo Ancelotti, in training this Tuesday in Valdebebas.JUAN MEDINA (REUTERS)

In the chaos that led Madrid to the fourteenth European Cup, there was no more harrowing night than the follow-up to their 3-1 win against Chelsea in the first leg of the quarter-final. A week later, with 15 minutes to go to finish the round at the Bernabéu, the English were already ahead (0-3), the VAR had disallowed a goal, and Courtois multiplied the loaves and fishes. Under that still fresh memory of absolute panic, the outcome of the round of 16 against Liverpool (21:00, Movistar Champions League) is presented. The same coach, the same stage and an almost identical squad face the management of another wide advantage, the 2-5 at Anfield.

That day against the Londoners, Carlo Ancelotti had no choice but to recruit Marcelo and Rodrygo with the tie lost. While they both waited their turn on the sidelines to jump onto the field, the veteran yelled desperately at the youngster: “You’re going to score.” It was minute 78 and the stadium had been trapped in a viscous and stupefied atmosphere. Only two later, the forward followed the advice that Modric had repeated to him during the week and attacked space to volley a genius with the Croatian’s outside and score “a crazy goal”, as the forward defined it. The start of the umpteenth escape maneuver for Madrid. Overcome the burden, Rodrygo approached Marcelo and reminded him of his fulfilled prediction. “Well, I told him that to help us… In my head I thought: ‘Let’s see what happens because this is very difficult,” confessed the former captain, admitting more need than conviction in those words, in the documentary that Apple TV released a week ago about the successful season of the whites with a title that explains itself that night and others: Until the end.

“On a psychological level, the game is more complicated for us. We will try not to make calculations”, affirms the Madrid coach

That meeting before the blues It was the most difficult to prepare for Carletto, as the Italian acknowledged shortly before traveling to Paris, and now against Liverpool in the Bernabéu locker room they are clear that the appointment, rather than tactical, is mental. “On a psychological level, the game is more complicated for us. Liverpool comes at the top to try to get the best from the first minute, no matter what. The result of the first leg puts us in doubt a bit. We will try not to make calculations, but it is inevitable to have more doubts than the rival, ”said the local coach hours before, who hopes that the burden against Chelsea will serve as a lesson. On the board he cannot count on the injured Alaba —with whom he was walking in the previous one in Valdebebas—, and this Tuesday he assured that he would like to repeat the open clash in England. “We can’t fall asleep in the first 15 minutes,” stressed Antonio Rüdiger, who a year ago was on the other side with Chelsea (he scored 0-2).

His coach was Thomas Tüchel, who then replicated the same shock therapy as Jürgen Klopp three weeks ago. “The tie is sentenced”, the two rushed to release as soon as they lost their respective games. “We played psyched that we had nothing to lose, and that helped us,” the German later acknowledged. Now your compatriot grid, always skillful in mastering the scene, chews with his family in the dressing room a long night. The recent norm that eliminates the extra value of goals in the opposite field expands, within the extreme difficulty, the options for an extension.

“If I don’t die today…”

The past puts Madrid and Ancelotti on alert, and not only because of that situation against Chelsea. In the last decade of triumphs, the whites walked twice more through the gorge in days that, like this one or that of Chelsea, were expected to be a transition. It happened against Juve in the quarterfinals of 2018, when the Italians equalized the 0-3 of the Spanish in Turin in one hour. A thriller which was resolved with a triple dose of suspense and controversy due to Benatia’s penalty on Lucas Vázquez in 1995.

Even more panic was brewing at the Bernabéu in 2015, when a night that was initially inconsequential against Schalke after the 0-2 loss in the first leg of the round of 16 led to an evening of authentic white terror: 3-4. That day Ancelotti was on the bench, carrying in his own file a special section of (or almost) unimaginable comebacks. In Chamartín he was saved against the Germans and Chelsea, but with Milan he took two slaps that nobody forgets. The most remembered, the 2005 final against Liverpool (0-3 at halftime and fell on penalties); and a season earlier, Deportivo lifted them 4-1 at the San Siro in the quarterfinals and still had a goal left over (4-0) against Cafú, Nesta, Maldini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Kaká and Schevchenko. Curiously, that black night for his interests occurred just one day after Madrid’s last great comeback in Europe: against Monaco, 3-1 after the 4-2 defeat at La Castellana.

“I’ve tried to forget it, but I can’t,” the man from Reggiolo admitted 13 years later about what happened in A Coruña. This Tuesday they mentioned that episode to him, but he did not want to know anything. A year ago, with a happy ending —this time— for him, he entered the booth somewhat disheveled and devastated by fear, took off his coat and, while he sat down and picked up his cell phone, he barely managed to say to the cameras: “If I don’t die today, I am immortal.” Now, Liverpool aspires to a similar torture. The comeback club says they feel more doubts with a 2-5 in favor than with a result against.

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