Preview: Liverpool far from home and hosed

A crunch week for Liverpool starts with the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid at Anfield on Tuesday.

The match is the first of a double-header that can make or break Liverpool's season - and possibly go some way towards deciding whether manager Rafa Benitez remains at the club.

After playing Real, Liverpool make the short trip to Old Trafford on Saturday where anything other than a victory over leaders Manchester United will effectively end their already faint hopes of winning the Premier League.

"It is very important to approach this (Real) game thinking we have to win it and not think about any other result," said Benitez, whose side hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Madrid.

"What you must not do is think we are already there and it will be easy," the Spaniard told reporters.

"Clearly, Real Madrid are a very good team. They are doing well in the Spanish league. We won in the Bernabeu, which was very pleasing, but it's important we finish the job at Anfield."

Liverpool's inconsistency and poor home form has been their downfall since Christmas when they led the Premier League and seemed to be on course for their first championship since 1990.

While a draw against Real would be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals, Benitez also knows that Real are unlikely to be as sluggish as they were in Madrid.

With Steven Gerrard not yet back to his best after injury, and Fernando Torres also struggling for full fitness, Benitez will be relying on Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, the scorer in Madrid, and Dirk Kuyt for some impressive performances.


Real must put the disappointment behind them of having their 10-match Primera Liga winning streak ended in a 1-1 draw at home against city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

"The match against Liverpool will be like a final," coach Juande Ramos said after Saturday's clash at the Bernabeu.

"It's going to be a difficult and passionate encounter and the players are massively fired up so they can give the fans something to cheer about."

Real were missing suspended central defender Pepe against Atletico and the champions looked shaky at the back without him as the visitors created a host of chances.

The Portuguese international's defensive partner, Fabio Cannavaro, said Real were lucky to come away with a point and called for immediate improvement.

"We have to get our shape back and quickly as we cannot fail against Liverpool," the Italian World Cup-winning captain told reporters. "We have to play as a team and quickly forget the Atletico match."

Probable teams:

Liverpool: 25-Pepe Reina; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 23-Jamie Carragher, 37-Martin Skrtel, 12-Fabio Aurelio; 14-Xabi Alonso, 20-Javier Mascherano, 8-Steven Gerrard; 15-Yossi Benayoun, 18-Dirk Kuyt, 9-Fernando Torres

Real: 1-Iker Casillas; 4-Sergio Ramos, 3-Pepe, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 16-Gabriel Heinze; 11-Arjen Robben, 8-Fernando Gago, 39-Lassana Diarra, 12-Marcelo; 7-Raul, 20-Gonzalo Higuain Referee: Franck De Bleeckere (Belgium)