How Klopp’s Liverpool have fared in 6 knockouts against Spanish clubs
Liverpool are one tie away from their third Champions League final in five seasons but will face tough Spanish opposition in the semi-finals – Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
Victories over Internazionale and Benfica have seen Jurgen Klopp’s side move imperiously through the competition and they’ll be heavy favourites to make next month’s finale in Paris.
But Villarreal are no mugs. Emery is an expert in European competitions and the Spanish underdogs have eliminated Juventus and Bayern Munich from this season’s competition.
Six European crowns will never be enough for Liverpool and you can bet they will put everything into winning a seventh this time around. But, as things stand under Klopp, Liverpool are trailing 4-2 to Spanish clubs in knockout European football.
We take a look back at their previous European knockout clashes with Spanish sides under the guidance of Klopp…
Real Madrid (UCL QF, 2020-21)
The most recent and, arguably, the most forgettable encounter between Liverpool and Spanish opposition occurred a year ago in Madrid’s empty training ground.
Liverpool had undergone months of domestic woe and carried that form over to the Spanish capital. A sloppy error from Trent Alexander-Arnold and some sharp finishing from Vinicius Junior gave Madrid a 3-1 victory in the first leg.
Afterwards, Klopp said: “We just didn’t play good enough football to cause Real Madrid more problems. We made it too easy for them.
“The only good thing I can say, apart from [Mohamed Salah’s] goal, is it’s only the first half of the tie. We didn’t deserve a lot more but that one goal and the second half was OK. It gives us a lifeline.”
That lifeline was not seized as the return encounter ended goalless.
Atletico Madrid (UCL last-16, 2019-20)
A tie that has become infamous for all the wrong reasons, given its proximity to the pandemic.
Nevertheless, following Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 home win, the second leg of the tie was a typically dramatic Anfield night – but one that did not go the way of Liverpool.
Georginio Wijnaldum levelled the tie just before half-time before Roberto Firmino turned things around completely once the game had progressed to extra-time.
However, a Marcos Llorente strike made it 2-2 on aggregate. With Atletico now boasting a crucial away goal, and as Liverpool piled forward for a winner, Llorente was able to catch them out again.
Cue some classic Diego Simeone celebrations.
That one meant A LOT to Alvaro Morata 👀
Diego Simeone dishing out the hugs at Anfield! pic.twitter.com/FOiY2N7zXC
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 11, 2020
Barcelona (UCL semi-final, 2018-19)
A tie that culminated in one of the greatest nights in Anfield’s 137-year history.
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi put on a masterclass at the Camp Nou during the first leg, including an utterly outrageous free-kick from the latter. Liverpool have never really been daunted by trailing 3-0 in the Champions League though.
With Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both absent, a tough task looked even tougher. But when Divock Origi tapped home an opener after just seven minutes the crowd started to believe.
Andy Robertson’s first-half injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Two quickfire goals from his replacement, Wijnaldum, levelled the tie. The Anfield faithful truly could not believe what they were witnessing.
A moment of audacious genius from Trent Alexander-Arnold ultimately won the tie. His quick corner completely caught Barcelona unaware, and Origi was there to fire home. Was it ever in doubt?
Real Madrid (UCL final, 2017-18)
Going on to win the competition a year later was just the antidote, but the memory of the final in Kyiv will still sting for many a Liverpool fan.
Salah was in red-hot form heading into this clash and had one eye on the Ballon d’Or, having scored 44 goals that season. Enter Sergio Ramos.
The Spanish icon dragged Salah to the ground in the first half, forcing the Egyptian from the field with a shoulder injury, and ultimately put Zinedine Zidane’s side in control.
What followed was the end of Loris Karius’ Anfield career, a Sadio Mane goal, an outrageous moment of brilliance from Gareth Bale, and Madrid’s third successive title.
Gareth Bale's incredible bicycle kick against Liverpool has NOT been nominated for UEFA's 2017/18 Goal of the Season award… 😱 pic.twitter.com/epkaQ4ZkWp
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 15, 2018
Sevilla (EL final, 2015-16)
Klopp’s first full season culminated in a European final and what a fitting way it would have been to truly mark the start of the German’s rein?
Sadly, this one also ended in a 3-1 loss for the Reds.
Before the heartbreak came the brilliance. Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring in the first half with an exceptional left-footed strike with the outside of his boot. A fourth win in the tournament seemed like a serious possibility.
But this was a Sevilla side that loved the Europa League more than their own children. Emery led his side to the title in 2014 and 2015, so he was not about to relinquish it so quickly.
Kevin Gameiro dragged them back into it nine minutes into the second half before two goals from Coke turned things on their head completely, securing a third consecutive winners medal for Emery’s Sevilla.
Villarreal (EL semi-final, 2015-16)
There was some joy that year against Spanish opposition for the Reds at least.
A 92nd-minute goal from Adrian Lopez in the first-leg made it look like Liverpool may not even reach that final against Sevilla but back at Anfield, once again, they turned things around.
They were given a big helping hand from Villarreal when veteran captain Bruno Soriano could only turn the ball into his own net in the first half. Sturridge and Adam Lallana ensured that it would be Liverpool who went to the final instead.