In another season, the daunting challenge of recovering a two-goal deficit against a team of the stature of Real Madrid would be accompanied by an even greater sense of anticipation.
What better opportunity, after all, to add to the roll-call of memorable Liverpool comebacks in Europe, epic battles that reach back via the astonishing 4-0 defeat of Barcelona two years ago to the 1977 meeting with St Étienne and beyond.
This time, though, the circumstances are different. On this occasion, Jurgen Klopp’s side will be forced to dip into their reservoirs of self-belief and resolve without the assistance of the familiar, fervent home support that has been such a factor in previous triumphs.
For now, a cauldron does not lie in wait for visitors to the stadium and both Klopp and Andy Robertson, the Reds' left-back, acknowledge that changes the dynamics of a game in which Liverpool must overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit if they are to progress to the semi-finals of this season’s Champions League.
“We need to produce as close to a perfect performance as we can,” said Robertson. “We’ve done it in the past but we can’t rely on that. We need to create our own atmosphere, of course. We’ve not got our own fans in there with us. It’s up to us to create a Champions League night at Anfield without the fans.
“The Barcelona game - it is no secret, the manager said it before - would not have been possible without the fans. They made us feel 10 feet tall and believe even more. We felt before that game we could overturn it. Walking out in front of 55,000 other people who believed gave us that extra five or 10 per cent which makes a huge difference. Tomorrow we have to find that ourselves.”
Mohamed Salah’s away goal salvaged something from an otherwise frustrating first leg performance that left the balance of the tie firmly in favour of Zinedine Zidane’s side and both Klopp and Robertson were in no doubt about the level of performance Liverpool must produce if they are to go through.
The importance of keeping a clean sheet is clear and to do so Klopp’s team must discover a defensive certainty that has been missing too often during a season when injuries have been such a disruptive factor. This time there can be no room for the kind of mistake made by Trent Alexander-Arnold that led to Marco Asensio’s goal in Madrid while Liverpool must deal more effectively with the threat of Vinicius Junior, scorer of Real’s other two goals last week, and Karim Benzema.
“I have no idea if anybody in the world can deny Real Madrid from having any chances,” said Klopp. “They beat us a week ago. Yes, we were not good. But a few days later they beat Barcelona in a very important game as well. So they are obviously in a good moment. We have to deny that, we have to defend on our highest level and then we have to create as well. That’s it.
“We have to be 100 per cent on our absolutely top level to have a chance to make it. But that’s possible that we are at our 100 per cent, so we should try it.”
Saturday’s victory over Aston Villa, secured by Alexander-Arnold’s outstanding late goal, was undoubtedly timely as they scored their first home goals from open play since December 27 and recorded their first home victory since December 16. Robertson admits that win has helped lift some of the pressure that had been building on his side’s home fixtures.
“Our run at home has not been good enough since Boxing Day in terms of points dropped and defeats,” said the Scotland international. “To get our first win of the new year always makes a difference. It removes the negative feelings and we go into tomorrow full of confidence and with nothing to lose.”
Liverpool will need that confidence. Real are unbeaten in 13 league games and buoyed by the weekend victory over Barcelona but Klopp has no doubt his side can go through if they can maintain their belief.
“This Real Madrid team has some of the greatest talent playing football in the world today,” he said. “This isn’t a surprise – it’s what Real Madrid do. So to beat a side like this you must always strive for the perfect performance.
“What we will not lose sight of is how good we are. The talent we have. The magic in our dressing room. And the character required to make special moments happen. We have the entire package at Liverpool.
“So for me, tonight is about two giants, on the biggest stage, having the opportunity to compete. How cool is that? Let’s embrace it and attack it. ‘Vamos’, as a few of the players like to shout before kick-off.”