Liverpool have named Steven Gerrard in their squad to face Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match on Wednesday.
Captain Gerrard has been out for three weeks with a hamstring injury but trained on Tuesday and is set to travel to the Spanish capital. Xabi Alonso returns after a ban but Daniel Agger has a back injury .
Real Madrid boss Juande Ramos is likely to start with Dutch pair Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. Madrid have been in superb form since former Tottenham manager Ramos took over from Bernd Schuster in December.
They have won nine league matches in a row and thrashed Real Betis 6-1 on Saturday to close the gap on leaders Barcelona to seven points.
Liverpool, on the other hand, were held to a 1-1 home draw by Manchester City on Saturday. Gerrard, who picked up the injury during the FA Cup fourth-replay defeat by Everton on 4 February, was not deemed fit enough to play in that match.
But manager Rafa Benitez is hopeful that the 28-year-old England international will be ready to face the Spanish champions.
“Steven will be in the squad. He was OK in training,” said Benitez, who will be returning to his hometown for the first time as Liverpool manager. It was a special training session so we were not testing him 100%, but he trained OK so we will see.”
BIG MATCH STATS
Despite the fact that both clubs have appeared in European competitions on so many occasions, Real Madrid and Liverpool have met only once before.
On 27 May 1981, the two clubs met in the Champions Cup final in the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Alan Kennedy won the match for Liverpool in the 82nd minute.
With 14 Champions Cup/Champions League trophies divided between them, Real Madrid (nine) and Liverpool (five) rank as the first and third most successful clubs in Europe’s most prestigious club tournament. Only AC Milan’s seven CC/CL victories stand between these two clubs.
Real Madrid have played nine European home matches against English clubs, losing only once, winning four and drawing four. That single defeat came in their last home match facing English opposition, on 21 February 2006, when they succumbed 1-0, home against Arsenal.
Liverpool have played 13 European away matches against Spanish clubs and won nearly half of those games (six wins, four draws and three defeats). The Merseysiders are also unbeaten in their last four visits to Spain. Their last defeat came at the hands of Valencia (2-0) on 17 September 2002 in a CL first round group phase match.
Real Madrid have not won in their last three matches against English clubs; their last victory against an English side was a 3-1, home to Manchester United on 8 April 2003.
Reached the knock-out phase of the Champions League for a record 13th time.
Won their last two Champions League matches, keeping a clean sheet on both occasions.
Undefeated in their last six CL matches, winning the last two.
Not lost in three away CL games, and scored at least one goal in the last nine CL away games.
KEY PLAYER NOTES
Madrid’s Raul holds the record for most CL matches (121) and goals (64).
Liverpool’s Alvaro Arbeloa and Albert Riera will both be suspended if they receive another yellow card. Arbeloa was under contract at Real Madrid between 2003 and 2006, but only played two league matches for the first team in the 2004-05 season.