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mission impossible 'I can't see Liverpool turning around Real Madrid tie without their X-Factor'

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah appears dejected after Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (not pictured) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, PA Photo.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah appears dejected after Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (not pictured) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, PA Photo.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah appears dejected after Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (not pictured) scores their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, PA Photo.

As I stood in the middle of the Kop on the night of Wednesday, March 16 1977, Anfield gave me my first glimpse of how special it could be.

Liverpool were trailing 1-0 from the first leg of the European Cup quarter-finals against Saint-Étienne and you could feel a buzz around the stadium that was different before a ball was even kicked.

The noise went through you and there were vibrations around the place that left you feeling like you were part of something incredible.

There had been great nights at Anfield prior to this, but it says a lot about how special this occasion was that 44 years later and despite everything the club has achieved since then, this night remains one of the greats.

David Fairclough’s late winner in that game is still remembered as a famous moment in Liverpool’s history, with the team’s success in being crowned as European champions for the first time in the club’s history a few weeks later ensuring that night was as special as it felt for those of us who were there.

The energy at Anfield for that game lives with me to this day, with the noise and excitement inspiring me to strive for my dream of playing for Liverpool and it set a tone for what was to come.

You look at the great comebacks we have seen at Anfield down the years and they all have hallmarks of that Saint-Étienne game.

We had Steven Gerrard’s magnificent winner against Olympiakos in 2004 that started the run towards an improbable Champions League triumph for Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool side, with the semi-final win against Chelsea that season another occasion when the fans played a part in the win.

In recent times, Jurgen Klopp’s side came from nowhere to beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2016 Europa League semi-finals and then there was the never to be forgotten night when Barcelona were beaten in the 2019 Champions League semi-finals.

I didn’t think Liverpool had any chance of overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Lionel Messi and his Barca side, but Anfield got to them and it also got to Klopp’s players.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted he is intimidated by Anfield when it is full and buzzing and the primary reason why I can’t see Liverpool turning around their Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid is that they have lost the ingredient that gives them their X-Factor.

Liverpool were well beaten in the first leg in Madrid last week, so to get out with a 3-1 defeat was not a bad result considering how badly Klopp’s team played, especially in the first half.

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If Liverpool could call on the fans to get the emotions stirring, to unsettle Real Madrid’s players and give their team a chance to produce another miracle, I’d be thinking this was on.

Instead, the game will be played in front of empty stands at Anfield, with the atmosphere that makes the stadium so special replaced by an eerie silence that means Real Madrid are big favourites to go through.

Everything has turned against Liverpool this season and this is the night when it might finally come crashing down around them, unless Klopp can inspire another comeback that would rank among the club’s all-time greats.

What needs to happen for Liverpool to produce another miraculous comeback tonight? Too much is probably the answer, unfortunately.

Goalkeeper Alisson and fullback Andy Robertson must get back to the form they showed a couple of years back and help in that defensive push.

Klopp will also be looking to Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips to step up to the plate and prove they are good enough to play at this level by keeping a clean sheet.

Then Trent Alexander-Arnold has to ensure he is not exposed as he was in the first leg, with Gini Wijnaldum having a role to play in that story by offering him some protection from his midfield role.

Liverpool need to stop Toni Kroos and Luka Modric doing what they do best in midfield by cutting down their space and halting the Real Madrid supply line.

Then the front three or four must deliver. At least four goals will be demanded because I don’t see Liverpool keeping a clean sheet.

It’s a long list of boxes that must to be ticked by Liverpool and they won’t have the assistance of home fans that have proved time and again they can unsettle the best of opponents when they are in full cry.

After so many average performances in recent months, Klopp has to hope everyone in his team can produce a nine out of ten display – and that is a big ask.

I just don’t see it happening for a team that has taken so many hits on the chin in recent weeks, although it should be remembered that a 2-0 win will get them into the semi-finals.

Score first tonight and Real Madrid will get edgy and even if Liverpool’s first goal does not come quickly, they will start to creak if the home side strike first.

Anything could happen if Liverpool lead 1-0 heading into the final 15 minutes, but I fear this might be one miracle too many for a club that has had its heart ripped away as its fans around the world are forced to cheer them on from afar.

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