Liverpool's hopes of producing another famous European comeback at Anfield will be reduced due to the lack of fans, manager Jurgen Klopp has conceded.

The Reds lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie in the Spanish capital, leaving them with an arduous task to reach the last four.

Liverpool have only progressed twice in the previous 13 European knockout ties in which they lost the first leg by at least two goals, the most recent example coming two years ago when they stunned Barcelona with a 4-0 win at Anfield after losing the first game 3-0.

Anfield has become much less of a fortress this season while games have been played behind closed doors, with last weekend's 2-1 win over Aston Villa ending a six-game losing streak at home in the Premier League for the English champions.

Klopp accepts it is a blow to play without the backing of the crowd but he hopes his players still believe in their chances.

"When you're 3-1 down, it looks like you're already out," he said on Tuesday. "That means you have not a lot to lose, so we will give it a try. It's exactly how we'll go for it.

"It's a result of the performances of the night: they were better than us and we were not as good as we could have been, or should have been. But it's the first leg.

"It's just one extra problem: no supporters in the stadium. The result is a problem, the quality of the opponent is a problem, and obviously that the stadium is empty is a problem as well.

"It's always about winning football games and that is the target. If that will end up in a comeback, I have no idea.

"We have to be in a mood to start believing again and, if that happens and we can see that it's possible, then we have a chance, but it's still incredibly difficult."

Real Madrid have scored in each of their previous 23 Champions League knockout matches and an away goal would put them in a commanding position to progress.

While Klopp would love to keep a clean sheet, he is not certain any side can keep Madrid at bay if they are at their best.

"The clean sheet is very important but that's not too different to other games – you never want to concede goals," he said.

"I have no idea [if there is] anyone in the world who can deny Real Madrid having any chances.

"They beat us and then they beat Barcelona in a very important game so they are obviously in a good moment. We have to be 100 per cent on our top level if we want to make it.

"With the quality that Real Madrid has you have to defend on your absolutely highest level and that is what we didn't do in the first leg."

Vinicius Junior produced arguably his best performance for Madrid in the first leg, scoring either side of Marco Asensio's goal to give Zinedine Zidane's side men the advantage.

Klopp, who was not surprised by the Brazilian's display, wants his team to control the passing threat of Toni Kroos better in order to prevent a repeat.

"He is an outstanding talent, everybody knew it before Real Madrid signed him [from Flamengo in 2018]," he said.

"The one goal we could have defended but the other was just a great long ball and then a great first touch and finish.

"We have to try to avoid the passes in his direction, which is a big task. [I was] impressed yes, surprised no."

Eden Hazard will not be risked by Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool.

Hazard has been restricted to only 14 appearances in a frustrating injury-hit campaign for the LaLiga champions.

The Belgium international recovered from a hip injury to make a substitute appearance in a 2-1 win over Elche last month but sustained another setback.

Hazard is back in training but was not included in Los Blancos' 21-man squad for the clash at Anfield on Wednesday, which Zinedine Zidane's side will start with a 3-1 lead.

Lucas Vazquez will also be absent after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2-1 Clasico victory over Barcelona on Saturday.

There were concerns over Toni Kroos' fitness for the trip to Merseyside after the Germany midfielder came off in the win over Barca, but he was named in the squad, along with Federico Valverde, who was also a doubt.

In-form Madrid will also be without injured defenders Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane once again.

Where will Kylian Mbappe be playing next season is a question being asked across Europe.

The Paris Saint-Germain star has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

Should Mbappe depart Paris, PSG are reportedly drawing up a list of replacements.

 

TOP STORY – KANE AND SALAH WANTED IN PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain have set their sights on Tottenham forward Harry Kane and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah as possible replacements for Kylian Mbappe, according to Telefoot.

Mbappe has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though PSG remain in negotiations over a contract extension.

While PSG are still hopeful, the Ligue 1 holders are eyeing the Premier League should Mbappe leave the French capital.

Kane is reportedly wanted by Manchester United and Manchester City, while Salah has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid are chasing Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella. The Sun adds Chelsea are also interested in the Italy star.

Juventus and PSG could exchange Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala in a swap deal, says Corriere dello Sport. Icardi's future is up in the air, despite only joining PSG permanently from Inter last year, while countryman Dybala is reportedly nearing an exit.

- AS Diario claims United are keeping tabs on Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, who has also been linked with neighbours City. United have also been credited with interest in Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, RB Leipzig's Liverpool target Ibrahima Konate as well as Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane.

- Eintracht Frankfurt boss Adi Hutter is set to replace outgoing boss Marco Rose at Borussia Monchengladbach, reports Kicker. Rose is poised to take charge of Borussia Dortmund.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, while Ronaldo's future at Juventus is far from certain.

A possible switch to the Spanish capital could reportedly impact Ronaldo.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could join Paris Saint-Germain if Kylian Mbappe leaves for Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid, who have been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

If Mbappe makes the move to the Santiago Bernabeu, it could send Ronald to Paris as Juve look to reduce their wage bill in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic reports Harry Kane will ask to leave Tottenham if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League. The Spurs star has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Madrid.

Barcelona are eyeing Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, claims Mundo Deportivo. The LaLiga giants are not rumoured to be interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who is set to depart Bavaria at season's end.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are interested in signing Barca star Pedri, who reportedly has a release clause around £70million (€81m).

United have been warned West Ham will not accept an offer to include Jesse Lingard as part of a deal to prise Declan Rice to Old Trafford, claims The Sun. United are also keen to bring back Sam Johnstone from West Brom if David de Gea or Dean Henderson leave.

- Bild says Liverpool are entering the final stages of a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Premier League rivals United have also been linked.

Jurgen Klopp does not want to continue the debate surrounding Trent Alexander-Arnold's England hopes after the right-back again wrote himself into the headlines, this time in front of Gareth Southgate.

Alexander-Arnold was controversially left out of the latest Three Lions squad by Southgate last month, the team's final gathering before a group for Euro 2020 is named.

Liverpool manager Klopp defended his player and said Alexander-Arnold's form - widely questioned this season - "cannot be the reason" for his omission.

The 22-year-old has since turned in an influential display at Arsenal, assisting the first goal in a 3-0 win, before his error let Marco Asensio in for one of three Real Madrid goals in the Champions League in midweek.

Back in Premier League action on Saturday, Alexander-Arnold was a talking point again for the right reasons.

His superb 91st-minute strike clinched a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, Liverpool's first Anfield success of 2021.

The academy graduate wrote on Twitter: "Are you not entertained!?"

Alexander-Arnold had a game-high 102 touches and no Reds player created more chances than his three. Crucially, he also made a joint-high three tackles.

A balance between attack and defence has been identified as key, and this was the first time all season Alexander-Arnold had three key passes and three tackles in the same league match.

Klopp was again asked about his star performer post-match but hopes the topic of conversation can finally now change.

"He wants to be in the [England] squad - that is clear - so we don't have to talk too much about it," Klopp said. "He is a wonderful player.

"I think Gareth agrees that he is a really wonderful player, then there is a manager who has to make a decision.

"I respect that, I really respect that. Trent respects that, I respect that.

"To be in the England squad, you have to play outstanding football. Trent did this very, very often at a very young age. So there's nothing to talk about.

"There will be tough decisions, not only at that position, too, for Gareth. I have to make tough decisions every day – that's normal in the job.

"But we don't have to talk about it; just leave the boy playing football, which he's pretty good at, and don't talk any more about it."

Although Alexander-Arnold lost possession 35 times and was dribbled past twice, there were no errors leading to shots to add to the two against Madrid - one of which Asensio punished.

Prior to the trip to Spain, Alexander-Arnold had only made one such error all season across all competitions.

"Life is like this, football is like this," Klopp said, hailing the defender's character.

"He played an exceptional game against Arsenal, a top game today, and in Real Madrid, we don't have to hide that, he was involved in the second goal they scored. That's how it is.

"I don't think Trent is in a situation where he has to prove himself constantly at this level; he has to play good football.

"As a young player, you have to develop, and you only do that if you challenge yourself in specific moments.

"If he's not playing well, it's not that he's not bothered or doesn't care, it's the opposite."

Jurgen Klopp feared Liverpool were living the "same old story" against Aston Villa, but hopes his side's response to falling behind can help them against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Reds finally recorded a first home win in the Premier League in 2021, though the champions had to rally from a goal down at half-time following Ollie Watkins' opener at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah drew Liverpool level before Trent Alexander-Arnold struck a superb stoppage-time winner, the full-back's goal coming with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on inside the stadium.

Klopp was particularly pleased with the spirit shown by his players, with Liverpool ending a six-game losing streak at Anfield in the league. The 2-1 triumph aids their hopes of a top-four finish this season, while it also offers a timely boost ahead of hosting Madrid in midweek.

"Obviously, the other game [against Arsenal] was really, really good, but today seemed to be the same old story, if you like," the Liverpool boss said.

"We played well but we made one mistake – which is not the biggest mistake in the world – to give them the opportunity to score, and they do. We score an equaliser, which was a great goal – a great pass, great link-up play, all these kinds of things – and then you get the information it is offside.

"We go in at half-time and it's a little bit like the same story again. But it was decided long ago and we have accepted that it’s going to be a bumpy season for us, we have to strike back again, and again, and again.

"The boys did. It took a while until we scored, but we scored a really nice goal. Then, in our situation, we had to increase a little bit the risk, took off a centre-back [Ozan Kabak] for [Xherdan] Shaqiri.

"Then we scored this wonderful goal for 2-1. It was the best goal for ages, emotionally. I'm really happy for the three points."

Liverpool ended an eight-match winless run in the Premier League at their own ground. In doing so, they scored as many goals against Villa as they did across that shocking streak.

Klopp said in his media conference: "It's no secret that it's quite a bumpy season for us. We have to fight through and if, in the end, we finish in a Champions League spot, then great.

"But it's tricky. I'm not surprised any more when things like the first half happen, I'm interested in the reaction. I liked the reaction. If we didn't turn the situation around previously, that's why we lost six games in a row at home, which should not happen - but it happened."

Next up is the return fixture in the quarter-final tie with Madrid, who triumphed 3-1 in the opening leg on Spanish soil.

While making clear his players will give it their all in attempting to turn the situation around, Klopp appreciates they face a tall order against opponents who were so clinical in the first meeting.

"We need a perfect performance on Wednesday if we want to have a chance – just a chance," Klopp said.

"I really think that with the way we played – and the way Real Madrid played there – it doesn't look very promising, but the good thing is we can play better.

"Real Madrid doesn't come here and think they are already through. It's going to be a tough one, but we will give it a try, I can promise.

"This helps, of course. When you are in the moment and win everything, you don't feel the intensity, you just want to play the next game – you would play the next day if you could. 

"Obviously, for us in the moment, it's not that easy. We have to work really hard. We have to create five chances to score a goal, or 10 to score. You have go through that, you cannot change it just because you want to. You have to work for it. We did that against a strong opponent, a very important three points.

"Whatever it gives us for Wednesday, we will use."

Liverpool left it late to secure a first Premier League win at home in 2021, with Trent Alexander-Arnold's superb stoppage-time strike downing Aston Villa 2-1 at Anfield.

The Reds rallied from a goal down to secure three crucial points in terms of the top-four battle, while the result is also a timely boost with a Champions League second leg against Real Madrid coming up in midweek.

Ollie Watkins – who scored a hat-trick in a stunning 7-2 win for his side when Liverpool visited Villa Park early in the season - gave the visitors a half-time advantage on Merseyside, his left-footed shot squeezing underneath Alisson.

Roberto Firmino had a potential equaliser ruled out by the video assistant referee before the interval, but Mohamed Salah scored the Reds' first home goal from open play in the league in 765 minutes to level early in the second half.

Liverpool had a let-off when Trezeguet hit the post but, with England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and curled in a late winner.

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish proclaimed "maybe romance isn't dead" and is dreaming of a famous Reds comeback against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Los Blancos were a class above Jurgen Klopp's men in Tuesday's first leg in the Spanish capital, Madrid running out 3-1 winners with Vinicius Jr scoring twice and Marco Asensio also on target.

Europe's premier competition is Liverpool's last remaining hope of silverware this term after a faltering defence of their Premier League title.

The odds may be against Liverpool ahead of the second leg at Anfield but with the final being played at the Ataturk Stadium – the venue of their famous comeback from 3-0 at half-time against Milan in the 2005 showpiece – Dalglish believes all is not lost.

"We're 3-1 down in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, playing again on Wednesday against Real Madrid, the final is being played at the Ataturk Stadium which is the stadium where we beat AC Milan on penalties," Dalglish said in quotes published by several British newspapers. 

"So maybe romance is not yet dead and the bad season is going to have a happy ending."

Liverpool are no strangers to memorable European comebacks and overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals en route to winning the trophy in 2019.

But Dalglish thinks the circumstances are different against Zinedine Zidane's side.

"I think what will make it harder [than the Barcelona game] is that Real are a better team than Barcelona were," he added. 

"Barcelona won 3-0 at the Nou Camp and they missed a sitter late on with the last kick of the game.

"You thought at the time, 'that's given us a chance now'. Real Madrid have got a better team defensively even though they had to make changes [in the first leg] – [Sergio] Ramos never played and they had to bring a couple of guys in. They're better than Barcelona were."

Last term, Liverpool romped to a first top-flight title since 1990, a team that was managed by Dalglish.

This season, the Reds are in seventh with only eight games to play, some 25 points back of runaway leaders Manchester City and three adrift of West Ham in fourth.

Dalglish feels Liverpool's extensive injuries have played a contributing factor.

"There are no excuses, but there are some reasons. For me, one of the biggest contributory factors was losing four players in the same position, because then that was the back four out of commission or certainly weaker than they were," he added.

"When you look at Van Dijk, you're looking at a colossus and you're thinking, 'how do I get past him?'

"It's the same with [Joel] Matip beside him, Joe Gomez... they had to put the two stalwarts from midfield, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, back into the back four, so they are now 20 yards deeper than they would normally play.

"You couldn't replace those two in the middle of the pitch. I think it was just unfortunate that that happened. Virgil has been a huge miss, but when you're not winning games, anyone not playing is a huge miss.

"I think the players are as hungry as they were last year, they are trying to replicate what they did. They lost six in a row at Anfield which is unheard of. 

"People might attribute it to no fans being in, and it is detrimental to Liverpool that they have not had the fan support because they have always been a huge part of the success at the football club."

Manchester United's goalkeeper situation remains unclear beyond this season.

David de Gea has been linked with the Old Trafford exit door while Dean Henderson is yet to fully convince some observers he is a worthy number one.

Thus speculation is mounting about a Red Devils move for a new shot-stopper.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED CIRCLE FOR OBLAK

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is reportedly wanted by Manchester United who are said to have a long-standing interest in the Slovenian.

Oblak has spent almost seven years in the Spanish capital but is ready to move to England, according to 90min.

The report claims United have doubts about Henderson as number one and subsequently are exploring their options with 28-year-old Oblak.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus and Paulo Dybala will enter negotiations on a new deal in May, reports Tuttosport.

- 90min reports that Liverpool want to utilise their option to sign Ozan Kabak permanently, having acquired the defender on loan from Schalke in February.

- Calciomercato claims that Barcelona are plotting a move for Juventus defender Cristian Romero who is currently on loan at Atalanta.

- Galatasaray have offered Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt a three-year deal, according to Sky Sports.

- Tottenham are top in the race to sign West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims ESPN.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has suggested players should cut out social media use to minimise the impact of would-be online abusers.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were all sent racist comments after Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

The club condemned the abuse as "abhorrent" and "utterly unacceptable" and called on platforms to introduce "the strongest possible preventative measures".

Rangers, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, joined Swansea City and Birmingham City this week in boycotting social media as part of a challenge to companies to do more to prevent abuse.

Klopp is not active on social media but believes the best way to deprive abusers of the "forum" they crave is to "cut them off".

He told reporters: "With social media in general, we obviously have the problem that people can hide behind whatever account and say what they want to say. That's a problem that really has to get sorted on this planet as quick as possible.

"I got criticised quite a lot in my life, and not only recently. And the advice I would give is that people you don't know, people who are not really interested in you, people who don't want to help you with criticism, don't listen [to them]. Don't listen. 

"They need a forum. They need people to read it and take these kinds of things seriously. That's how bullying works, that's how blaming works, that's how shouting works, how harsh criticism works. If you cut that side off, then it's already helped a lot and it cannot harm you.

"That's my advice to the players. The rest, I don't really understand enough the need for social media. I know there are some good things for sure, but a lot of things are just not important, and for you, as a person, if you can cut them off then it's already a step in the right direction."

Liverpool face Aston Villa on Saturday looking to avenge their remarkable 7-2 defeat last October while also putting pressure on the teams in the Premier League top four.

Klopp sees the Villa clash and the second leg against Madrid as a chance to show they deserve to be in the Champions League, both this season and next.

"There is no opportunity without pressure," he said. "We are at the highest level of professional football, we want to fight for the Champions League, both qualifying for next year and being a part of it still for this year.

"A week ago we, spoke about a wonderful game we played against Arsenal, a great game of football. A few days later we played pretty much the opposite of a great game against Real Madrid, but this game shouldn't have any influence on the Aston Villa game."

Klopp admitted it was difficult to move on from their thrashing by Villa in the previous meeting, in which the champions conceded seven goals for the first time since April 1963.

"You cannot put a game like this one aside immediately," he said. "We had to work with it. A lot of problems showed up in that game. Some of the problems we had before, some we never had before.

"You work with results. The higher or more strange a result is, it doesn't mean it gets more necessary to work with it, but for sure we spoke about it quite frequently. 

"It differs, how long it takes me to get over a game. Usually, especially after a win, my mind is immediately at the next game, but we still have to reflect on the last game. I watch these games, and then I know better what happened in the game. I just try to understand why things happen."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not alone in facing a conundrum as he decides on who will play in goal for Manchester United against Tottenham.

Fantasy football players across the globe may also be wondering who to back between the sticks this weekend. Well, we might just be able to settle the debate.

As the Premier League season enters its decisive final weeks, we've got a handful of suggestions to give you the edge when it comes to your fantasy leagues, and one or two may just surprise you.

Without further ado, here are our picks for matchday 31, based on Opta data.

 

DEAN HENDERSON

Since taking over the number one spot with United while David de Gea was on parenting duties, Henderson has given little reason to suggest he should be dropped.

The England man might only have made four appearances in the top flight in 2021 but, of the 11 shots he has faced, he has saved all but one of them. That gives him a save percentage of 91, the best in the competition among keepers to play at least twice.

He could well be entrusted to keep Harry Kane and company at bay when United face Tottenham.

ANDY ROBERTSON

Even during a much more difficult season at Liverpool, Robertson continues to offer value as a defender given his undiminished attacking proclivities.

Only Aaron Cresswell (seven) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals among defenders this season than Robertson (six).

The Scotland left-back has had 80 touches in the opposition box, by far the most for a defender this term. He's an attacking threat to rely on.

 

JOHN STONES

Not only has Stones won back his place in Pep Guardiola's first-choice defence, he's even started proving a menace in the opposition box this year.

The centre-back has scored four goals in 2021, the most of any Premier League defender, having only managed one in his first 170 games in the top flight.

Given he already has eight clean sheets this year, behind only Cesar Azpilicueta (nine) among defenders, he should practically walk into fantasy teams at present.

JESSE LINGARD

He's been talked about pretty much every week since joining West Ham on loan – and for good reason.

Since his league debut for the Hammers in February, Lingard has been directly involved in nine goals (six scored, three assisted), matching Kane (seven scored, two assisted) for the most involvements of any player in the competition in that time.

West Ham face a tough test against Leicester City on Sunday, but Lingard has good recent memories of facing the Foxes: he scored the second goal when Manchester United won 2-0 at the King Power Stadium on the final day of last season.

 

RAPHINHA

Patrick Bamford has enjoyed a strong first Premier League season for Leeds United, but few would deny that Raphinha has been their standout attacking performer.

No Leeds player has created more chances (55) or provided more assists (six) than the Brazilian, who has also scored six goals of his own in 2020-21, most recently in the 2-1 win at Fulham on March 19.

If anyone can cause problems for Manchester City on Saturday, it's him.

DANNY WELBECK

Welbeck is enjoying a decent run of form for Brighton and Hove Albion, with goals in his previous two games against Newcastle United and boyhood club Manchester United.

The 30-year-old hasn't managed to score in three in a row in the Premier League since January 2014, but Everton might just be the ideal opposition for him to do just that.

Welbeck has more direct goal involvements (eight – four scored, four assisted) against the Toffees than he does against any other top-flight team. His goals have come for three different teams, too: United, Arsenal and Sunderland.

 

AYOZE PEREZ

Perez is another man with fond memories of his coming opponents.

The forward has managed three goals and three assists in his previous seven league games against West Ham, making them his most profitable opponents after Southampton.

Kelechi Iheanacho is the man in form at Leicester City, but Perez could well be a safe bet to make a decisive impact against the Hammers.

What does the future hold for Lorenzo Insigne?

The Napoli captain is no certainty to remain at his boyhood club as his contract runs down.

A switch to Milan could be on the cards…

 

TOP STORY – MILAN TARGETING INSIGNE

Milan met with Lorenzo Insigne's agent as they eye a move for the Napoli captain, according to Gianluigi Di Marzio.

Insigne – previously linked with Liverpool – has one year remaining on his current contract and the Italy international is yet to re-sign with his boyhood club.

Serie A rivals Milan are monitoring the situation and ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- A move for Insigne depends on the future of Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. The 27-year-old is set to become a free agent and Arsenal and Chelsea are eyeing the Turkey international, reports Sky Italy. Manchester United have also been linked.

- The front page of Thursday's Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter and neighbours Milan are going head-to-head to sign Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic. The Serbia international is also reportedly wanted by United, Juventus and Tottenham.

Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City are vying to sign Inter star Romelu Lukaku this off-season, claims Calciomercato. Lukaku has emerged as a target for all three clubs, who are also eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling HaalandReal Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, United and Liverpool have also been linked with Haaland.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Roma and Milan both want to sign Torino captain Andrea Belotti. With Torino struggling, the Italy forward could be ready to jump at the chance for European football.

Tottenham are stepping up their pursuit of Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard, says the Express. Spurs have long been linked with Inter star Milan Skriniar, but Vestergaard appears to be an easier option.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said "Juventus are still important to me" amid links with the under-fire Serie A champions.

First-year Juve coach Andrea Pirlo is under mounting pressure in Turin, where the Italian giants are fourth in Serie A and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for next season.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Juve were stunned by Portuguese side Porto in the Champions League last 16 this term.

Former boss Massimiliano Allegri – who left in 2019 – has been linked with a return after meeting president Andrea Agnelli.

Zidane spent five years at Juventus, winning two Serie A titles among other honours before joining Madrid in 2001, and the Frenchman did not rule out a possible Bianconeri reunion.

"Both, Italy is in my heart, I spent five years in Turin and Juventus are still important to me," Zidane told Sky Italia.

"Future at Juve? For now I'm here, we'll see," 

Zidane was speaking after Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the opening leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday.

Vinicius Junior scored twice for hosts Madrid in the Spanish capital, where Marco Asensio was also on target against the Premier League holders in the absence of centre-back duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

Toni Kroos teed up Vinicius for the opening goal with an exceptional pass in the 27th minute before Trent Alexander-Arnold's error gifted Asensio a goal of his own nine minutes later.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah reduced the deficit six minutes into the second half, but Vinicius restored Madrid's two-goal advantage within 14 minutes.

Aged 20 years and 268 days, Vinicius became the second youngest goalscorer for LaLiga holders Madrid in a Champions League knockout match after 18-year-old Raul netted against Juventus in March 1996.

"I'm happy for him because he needed to score, like Marco [Asensio] or Karim [Benzema] do," said Zidane, who took charge of his 50th Champions League fixture with his 31st victory – only Jupp Heynckes (32) won more of his first 50 managerial games in the competition than the Frenchman.

"He's playing well, he's helping the team and he gets a boost by scoring a goal.

"Vini was lacking goals and he's going to gain a lot of confidence from today. He deserves it.

"I don't know if it was his best game [at Real Madrid], but two goals in a quarter final is something very important."

Madrid have progressed from 15 of their last 16 Champions League knockout matches after winning the opening leg, only failing to do so against Ajax in the 2018-19 round of 16.

In all European competition, no side has beaten Liverpool more often than Real Madrid (four, level with Benfica), with the Reds suffering defeat in each of the last four encounters with Los Blancos.

"We studied Liverpool pretty well before the game and prevented them from playing their way," Zidane said ahead of Saturday's Clasico showdown with LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

"We weren't going to play with three at the back with Varane, 4-3-3 was the preferred choice from the start."

"3-1 is a deserved victory, I'm proud of my team, we're in good form but the players are very tired now. I hope we recover well for the Clasico."

Zidane added: "We haven't won anything. We're happy with what we're doing. What the players are doing is tremendous considering the difficulties we've had."

Vinicius Junior described Toni Kroos as a player with quality that "nobody else has" after Real Madrid's victory over Liverpool in the Champions League.

Vinicius scored twice either side of a Marco Asensio goal as Madrid claimed a 3-1 win against the Reds in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Kroos' superb 60-yard ball set up the opener and the Germany midfielder was also instrumental in the second, Asensio finishing past Alisson after Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold tried to head the former's clipped pass back towards his goalkeeper.

Mohamed Salah got a valuable away goal with Liverpool's only shot on target in the Spanish capital before Vinicius swept home his second after good work from Luka Modric.

Vinicius was keen to highlight the influence of Kroos after the match, the midfielder having finished with a game-high 68 successful passes and four chances created.

"Toni is incredible, a great player," Brazilian star Vinicius told Movistar. "He's a legend of the club and when he plays he has a class that nobody else has. I'm grateful for that pass."

Aged 20 years and 268 days, Vinicius became the second youngest goalscorer for LaLiga holders Madrid in a Champions League knockout match after 18-year-old Raul netted against Juventus in March 1996.

It was arguably Vinicius' most impressive performance in a Madrid shirt and came after criticism this season of his lack of consistency.

"People outside speak, but I always work, my team-mates give me the strength I need to arrive at important moments and score the goals we need," he said.

"It's good to come off like this. I've given everything for this shirt that I love so much.

"It was really important to win. It's the Champions League and 3-1 is a good result.

"We've worked a lot this year to get to this moment of the season, the most important, winning every game. And we're doing that.

"We didn't let them create anything. They got in once and got a goal.

"We have to continue like this. We train so this doesn't happen. The coach gives us peace of mind and we've done everything [Zinedine] Zidane asked of us very well."

Liverpool must "earn the right" to progress to the Champions League semi-finals, something Jurgen Klopp said his side failed to do against Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Vinicius Junior scored either side of Marco Asensio's goal as LaLiga champions Madrid secured a 3-1 victory in the opening leg of the blockbuster tie, ahead of next week's return fixture at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah scored for Premier League holders Liverpool early in the second half, but the visiting Reds were the masters of their own downfall from a defensive perspective, especially in the opening 45 minutes.

The centre of much media discussion following his omission from Gareth Southgate's latest England squad, Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold endured a first half to forget in the Spanish capital as he failed to track Vinicius for Madrid's opener – created by an exquisite Toni Kroos pass – before the full-back headed straight into Asensio's path nine minutes later.

Liverpool's defence was exposed again when Vinicius found space in the box to drill in his second and restore Madrid's two-goal cushion – goalkeeper Alisson also at fault after getting a strong hand to the ball.

Klopp's men failed to have a single attempt in the first half, the first time Liverpool have not managed a shot in the opening period of a Champions League match since 2014, and the German manager was left far from satisfied.

"If you want to go to the semi-finals you have to earn the right to do so," Klopp told BT Sport.

"We didn't do that, especially in the first half, so the only good thing really that I can say about the game, apart from that we scored a goal, is that it's only the first half of the leg.

"We just didn't play good enough football to cause Real Madrid more problems. I really thought it would have been possible. We made it too easy for them, that's the main thing."

Asked if he was concerned by more dubious defending, Klopp instead cited Liverpool's poor use of the ball as their main issue, though the statistics contradicted his argument slightly – the Reds completing 85.8 per cent of their 605 passes, in contrast to Madrid players successfully finding team-mates with 82.1 per cent of their 507 passes.

"The goals in the end, are quick thinking from Real Madrid, but these are mistakes that can happen," he said.

"I wasn't happy with the way we played football in possession. He situations when we pressed really well, we'd win that ball but the second pass was away again, that was the problem.

"We cannot defend against the speed of Real Madrid if we give them the ball in the completely wrong moment, so if you lose the ball it's not a problem in the right moment if you counter-press then you get the ball back.

"But we lost the ball in the wrong moments, passing it to their feet and then what they want to do is to switch the play, accelerate, with really quick and world class players in a one-on-one situation, it's not cool, not easy for whoever is in the challenge for us. We have to be better defensively but it's not about the last line, it's about what we do in front of that.

Across European competitions, no side has beaten Liverpool more often than Madrid (four, level with Benfica), while Los Blancos have progressed from 15 of their last 16 Champions League knockout matches after winning the opening leg, only failing to do so against Dutch giants Ajax in 2018-19.

It is a daunting challenge facing Liverpool, who have not won at Anfield since December, where they have lost their last six home games – the club's 2-0 victory in the home leg of their last-16 tie with RB Leipzig having taken place in Budapest due to coronavirus travel restrictions between Germany and Britain.

"Intensity with the ball, especially," Klopp replied when asked what he was looking for in the return fixture. 

"We have to create, play better football. We didn't deserve a lot more tonight, one goal in the second half was okay, it gives us a lifeline."

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