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Madrid braced for Benítez return

Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC meet for only the second time in their illustrious histories in the first knockout round when Rafael Benítez takes his Premier League side back to the club he represented as player and coach.

Rafael Benítez spent 15 years at Real Madrid as player and coach
Rafael Benítez spent 15 years at Real Madrid as player and coach ©Getty Images

Two of European football's most illustrious names will come together for only the second time when Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC get their first knockout round contest under way at the Santiago Bernabéu.

• Twenty-eight years after Liverpool claimed the European Champion Clubs' Cup at Madrid's expense with a 1-0 final win in Paris, these two clubs with 14 continental crowns between them will meet again in a duel containing multiple subplots.

• The presence of Rafael Benítez in the opposition dugout adds arguably the thickest splash of intrigue given his close association with the Spanish champions, with whom he spent a decade and a half of his sporting life.

• Born in Madrid, Benítez joined the Santiago Bernabéu side as a young hopeful in 1973/74 and spent seven years in the youth and reserve ranks. After injury had ended his playing days, he returned to the club in 1986 to embark on a coaching career in their youth system. He rose the ladder to become coach of Castilla, Madrid's B team, and, in 1993/94, had an eleven-game spell assisting then caretaker boss Vicente Del Bosque with the first team.

• Benítez is not the only man at Anfield with a Madrid connection for defender Álvaro Arbeloa made two Liga appearances for Los Merengues in the 2004/05 campaign, the high point of a three-season spell with the club. A regular for the B team, he moved on to RC Deportivo La Coruña in 2005 in search of first-team football.

• Liverpool's squad features five Spanish players in Xabi Alonso, Arbeloa, Pepe Reina, Albert Riera and Fernando Torres, the erstwhile icon of Madrid's city rivals Club Atlético de Madrid.

• In the white corner, meanwhile, is Juande Ramos, the Madrid coach who took the helm at the Bernabéu in December, six weeks after his 12-month stay in the Premier League had ended with his dismissal by Tottenham Hotspur FC.

• Madrid's bench will also likely feature Jerzy Dudek, now back-up goalkeeper at the Bernabéu but, in 2005, the hero of Liverpool's penalty shoot-out triumph against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul. Dudek's miraculous extra-time double save from Andriy Shevchenko and decisive penalty stop from the same player earned him a place in Anfield folklore.

• Champions for the fifth time in 2005, Liverpool's recent record in the competition – they are targeting a fourth quarter-final in five years – means they will start as slight favourites against a Madrid side who have not advanced beyond the last 16 since 2004.

• The Merseyside club progressed from the first stage as Group D winners ahead of Atlético having recorded four victories and two draws in their six games. Hosts Madrid finished runners-up in Group H behind Juventus, with four wins and two defeats to their name.

• Madrid's home record against English opposition reads P9 W4 D4 L1. Their only defeat to date came in their most recent UEFA Champions League tie against a Premier League team, when Arsenal FC won 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the 2005/06 first knockout round.

• Madrid's defeat by Arsenal left them with a record of five wins and three losses in two-legged ties with English sides.

• Madrid have lost three UEFA finals against opposition from England, notably the European Cup final against Liverpool in Paris on 27 May 1981. Alan Kennedy's solitary 81st-minute strike that evening earned Liverpool manager Bob Paisley the honour of becoming the first and so far only man to have led a team to three European Cups.

• Liverpool's team included their current assistant manager Sammy Lee and the full lineups were:
Liverpool: Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Alan Hansen, Phil Thompson, Alan Kennedy, Sammy Lee, Terry McDermott, Graeme Souness, Ray Kennedy, Kenny Dalglish (Jimmy Case), David Johnson.
Real Madrid: Agustín Rodríguez, Rafael García Cortés (Francisco Pineda), Andrés Sabido, Antonio García Navajas, José Antonio Camacho, Ángel De Los Santos, Vicente Del Bosque, Uli Stielike, Juanito, Carlos Santillana, Lawrie Cunningham.

• Madrid also lost both the 1971 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final and the 1998 UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea FC.

• Liverpool, by contrast, also triumphed against Spain's Deportivo Alavés in the 2001 UEFA Cup final, winning a remarkable match 5-4 after extra time.

• Liverpool's record in Spain reads P12 W6 D4 L2. Their last victory was a 2-1 success at FC Barcelona on 21 February 2007 and their most recent loss came five games ago, 2-0 at Valencia CF in the 2002/03 first group stage.

• Liverpool also have an excellent record in two-legged ties against Spanish opponents, having won six of their seven previous contests. Their most recent success came in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round in 2006/07, an away goals triumph against Barcelona following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

• Madrid veteran Míchel Salgado featured in the RC Celta de Vigo side that became the first, and so far only, Spanish team to have bettered Liverpool over two legs with a 4-1 aggregate win in the 1998/99 UEFA Cup third round.

• Despite their pedigree against Spanish sides and wealth of European experience, Liverpool had never played a competitive fixture in Madrid prior to their 1-1 draw with Atlético in the group stage in October.

• Madrid manager Ramos faced Liverpool twice last season during his time in charge of Tottenham. His Spurs side earned a 2-2 draw at Anfield on 7 October 2007, Torres denying him victory with a 90th-minute equaliser. Torres also struck Liverpool's second when Tottenham went down 2-0 in the return fixture in north London on 11 May last year.

• As coach of Sevilla FC, Ramos's record against English clubs in the UEFA competitions was P5 W2 D2 L1. His Sevilla side beat Middlesbrough FC 4-0 in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup final and overcame Tottenham over two legs in the 2006/07 quarter-finals.

• During his time at Valencia between 2001 and 2004, Benítez took his side to the Bernabéu four times. They suffered Liga defeats there in 2001/02 and 2002/03 – losing 1-0 and 4-1 respectively – and went down 3-0 in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals in his final season, although they did also earn a 1-1 league draw there in 2003/04.

• Madrid winger Arjen Robben spent three seasons in the Premier League with Chelsea and finished on the losing side in a trio of semi-finals against Liverpool in that time – the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League, the 2005/06 FA Cup, and the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League, having a penalty saved by Reina in the shoot-out that decided the last of those ties.

• Liverpool striker Torres did not win a single game against Madrid in nine attempts with their city rivals Atlético. His only strike in the fixture came in a 1-1 home draw on 24 February 2007, his final derby for Atlético.

• When Madrid and Liverpool met at the Bernabéu during a four-team friendly tournament on 2 August 2002, the home side won 2-0 through goals from Luís Figo and Javier Portillo. Guti and Salgado featured for Madrid that day and Dudek and Jamie Carragher for Liverpool.

• The second leg will be played at Anfield on 10 March.