Real Madrid arrive on Merseyside today having taken a fortuitous point from an energy-sapping local derby on Saturday, thanks to a goal scored by a striker who cannot play in the Champions League – hardly the best way to prepare for tomorrow night's second leg.
In need of a goal against Liverpool, how Juande Ramos would like to be able to include former Ajax frontman Klass Jan Huntelaar in his starting XI. The Dutchman has now scored four goals in three games since his €23m (£20.6m) move in December.
Failure to read the small print on Uefa guidelines meant no one spotted that a club playing in the Champions League can only register one player who has already played in the Uefa Cup for another side. With former Portsmouth midfielder Lassana Diarra filling that position, Madrid have been forced to leave out Huntelaar.
Making the most of his league involvement, he saved Real with a second-half strike from a Gonzalo Higuain pass. Receiving the ball in a fractionally offside position, he rifled home from the edge of the box to cancel out Diego Forlan's first-half opener – a goal that will have had Rafa Benitez rubbing his hands.
Madrid were attacking in numbers, as they will have to do tomorrow night, when Atletico raced away down the home team's right-hand side to score. Tomas Ujfalusi combined with Sergio Aguero and when the Argentine crossed, Forlan was all alone to finish past Iker Casillas. "We come away from the game with our morale still intact" said Ramos, who had rested Higuain, the man who will fill Huntelaar's boots at Anfield, only to then have to introduce him just 10 minutes into the second half as the game appeared to be slipping away from his side.
Barcelona ended a run of three games without a win by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0. Pep Guardiola's side could have been behind on 16 minutes when Yeste sprang the home team's off-side trap, only to shoot wide with just Victor Valdes to beat. Barcelona responded immediately with Sergio Busquets heading in Xavi's free-kick.
And on the half-hour mark, Barça doubled their lead from the penalty spot when Lionel Messi coolly sent Gorka Iraizoz the wrong way after Carlos Gurpegui was adjudged to have brought down Andres Iniesta.
The home side hit the post four times in the second half as they looked to extend their lead. Samuel Eto'o twice struck the woodwork as he looked to end a run of three games without a goal, but the margin remained at two and defender Carles Puyol twisted an ankle, ruling him out for three weeks.
The win means Barcelona are now six points clear of Real, but Ramos remains convinced his side can overhaul the leaders. He said: "We have already closed the gap by eight points, now it is back up to six but that is only two games and Barcelona have to come to the Bernabeu. There are 12 games left and still a lot to play for."
Champions League: English clubs' opponents
* JUVENTUS (Chelsea (h), tomorrow): Rested Alessandro Del Piero in the 1-0 win over Torino. Lost Mohamed Sissoko to a foot injury.
* INTERNAZIONALE (Manchester United (a), Wednesday): Won 2-0 at Genoa through goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli, but defenders Marco Materazzi and Nicolas Burdisso are out injured.
* ROMA (Arsenal (h), Wednesday): Francesco Totti sat out the 1-1 home draw with Udinese while defender Cicinho picked up a knee injury.Reuse content