Diogo Jota

It is a Titanic European clash when Liverpool visit Real Madrid for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.  

There is plenty of European pedigree for both sides with 19 UCL titles between them. Their most recent encounter being the 2018 final which was notable for Mo Salah’s early shoulder injury, Loris Karius’ goalkeeping blunder, and Gareth Bale’s picturesque brace as Madrid wrapped up a third straight title on Cristiano Ronaldo’s final appearance.

The Reds returned to lift their sixth European Cup the following year and share the distinction of being defending league champions in this last-eight tie. Zinedine Zidane’s men might have shown more experience and winning mentality on that night in Kyiv, but Liverpool have also come a long way since. 

Jürgen Klopp’s ‘mentality giants’ have ceded their title defence to Manchester City in 2020/21, after an unprecedented injury crisis in defence led to a spectacular drop in performances.

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However, Liverpool are currently in a good run of form, winning their last three matches and keeping clean sheets in each of those victories.

The key difference has been made since Klopp put faith in his young centre-backs and reverted Fabinho to his preferred midfield role.

Against Madrid, Liverpool’s hopes will rest on their in-form hitman Diogo Jota, whose return from injury has coincided with a sharp turnaround in form. The Merseysiders are 2.23 to score more than once.

Jota’s quickness, technical quality with the versatility to play in any position across the attack and score a variety of goals has been a huge difference for Liverpool.

Diogo Jota

Indeed, the 24-year-old has been involved in seven goals in his past five games for club and country after a three-month lay-off.

After scoring twice for his country over the March international break, Jota scored another brace in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday.

Coming off the bench, Jota connected with a pinpoint Alexander-Arnold cross to head in emphatically, before ghosting into the box to finish a loose pass.

In doing so, he became the second player in Liverpool’s history to score as a substitute both home and away against the same side in a single league season, after Christian Benteke did so against Chelsea in 2015-16.

The £41million signing would be entrusted from the start against Madrid, his X-factor a key ingredient going into this knockout tie.

In only 13 starts, Jota has registered 12 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions. He is averaging a goal every 91 minutes in the Premier League and every 108 minutes in the Champions League.

He can help overwhelm the right side of Madrid’s defence where Lucas Vázquez has been deputizing for the injured Dani Carvajal. Although Los Blancos have been solid in the new back-three system, Jota’s ghosting movement would be a huge worry for a backline without talismanic captain Sergio Ramos. 

The Portugal international has all the ingredients to breach a sturdy Madrid side who have made a legacy out of excelling in big high-stakes games, especially in the Champions League. Jota is duly 2.80 to score anytime.

As Liverpool aim for a strong end to the season in the league and the Champions League, Jota’s late-season form is instrumental to any hopes.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.


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