Liverpool spared nightmare run of fixtures after Real Madrid draw
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UEFA has spared Liverpool a nightmare run of Premier League fixtures after Monday’s Champions League round of 16 draw. One week has made a significant difference for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who face the daunting task of a 2022 final against holders Real Madrid.
Last-16 first-leg fixtures will take place on February 14/15 and 21/22 before the second legs on March 7/8 and 14/15. And after being handed the latter dates, Liverpool’s preparations to battle Real won’t be disrupted by two of their biggest fixtures on the Premier League schedule.
If Liverpool had been drawn to face Los Blancos on February 14/15, the first leg at Anfield would have been sandwiched between their home Merseyside derby against Everton and an intimidating trip to Newcastle United. The March 7/8 second leg, decisive in the tie, at the Santiago Bernabeu would’ve fallen after hosting bitter rivals Manchester United.
But Liverpool will face Real on February 21/22 at Anfield, which still follows the away game at Newcastle but comes before Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The away leg on March 14/15 is even more favourable, with the Reds set to travel to the Spanish capital between AFC Bournemouth away and Fulham at home.
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However, as clubs in European competition are learning, UEFA’s scheduling has left the Premier League with a nightmare to solve. Due to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur being in opposite weeks in the Champions League schedule, there are now no vacant slots to play Chelsea vs Liverpool and Manchester City vs Tottenham – postponed earlier in the season.
There are only three vacant midweeks after the World Cup break, but they have been made available for clubs in the Carabao Cup final, FA Cup quarter-finals and FA Cup semi-finals. It would further complicate the schedule if Liverpool go far in Europe, as they often do.
UEFA’s scheduling has helped Liverpool with the Premier League fixtures around both legs, though, and Klopp has expressed his excitement over the draw.
He told Liverpool’s website: “The first thing that we can say about this draw is it is proper Champions League. This is a tie that speaks for itself and one that we should all be excited about. I know we have played Real Madrid in a couple of recent finals, but it is not so often that our two clubs have met in a two-legged tie, so now we can look forward to this happening.”
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