Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is making no assumptions about what lies ahead against Liverpool despite Jurgen Klopp’s side facing a seemingly-impossible task in the Bernabeu.
The Champions League holders bounced back from two early goals at Anfield to win 5-2 and that three-goal cushion – coupled with the fact they have only once failed to score in their last 66 European home matches – appears to have put them on the verge of the quarter-finals.
However, Ancelotti, who as AC Milan manager famously suffered a remarkable 45-minute comeback by Liverpool that saw them win the 2005 final, is taking nothing for granted and can also point to last season’s quarter-final second leg at home to Chelsea – which they lost 3-2 after being 3-0 down with 10 minutes remaining to progress by virtue of their 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
If anything, Ancelotti wants his side to go on the attack.
“The message is quite simple: not to assume,” said the Italian.
“The players understand that I think it will be an open match as Liverpool come here trying to change the dynamic.
“We have to do both things, attacking and defending, properly. We will not just defend, we are thinking about the attack.”
No team in Champions League history has ever lost the home leg of a knock-out tie by three goals and recovered.
Nevertheless, Ancelotti insists his side have the more difficult balancing act.
“From a psychological level, the match is more complex for us than Liverpool,” he added.
“Liverpool come here to give it their all and do their best from minute one, whatever happens. We saw that from the first leg.
“We will try to do all we can from the beginning but we have more questions than the opponent.”
Striker Karim Benzema is fit after missing the weekend win over Espanyol but it is winger Vinicius Jr – who scored the two goals to level things up before half-time at Anfield – who is likely to be the major threat in the hosts’ primarily counter-attacking plan.
The Brazil international will be up against right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who will almost certainly be encouraged to push forward at every opportunity as his side chase goals.
“Vinicius, I believe, is on a good track to write Real Madrid’s history in the next few years. It has been written by (Toni) Kroos, (Luka) Modric, Karim, Casemiro – that group was amazing,” said Ancelotti.
Defender Antonio Rudiger was part of that Chelsea team which almost pulled off a shock last year but now he is looking at things from the other side of the fence.
“They (Liverpool) have a good attacking team. They played against a big rival and scored seven so that tells me they rise up to big occasion and we need to be aware of that,” said the centre-back.
“But like my former coach (Thomas Tuchel) said when we played against Real Madrid, everyone knows Real Madrid are a very good counter-attacking team with Benzema and Vinicius and their abilities.
“My coach said you play against Real Madrid, you play against the badge and they always prove people right, that this badge is something bigger.”