JURGEN KLOPP claimed Liverpool had a one per cent chance of causing a sensation in the Bernabeu.

In truth, it was more like the odds against a National Lottery win, as the 14-time champions of Europe strutted into the quarter-finals with Klopp’s men barely able to lay a glove on them.

Karim Benzema tapped in an easy winner to settle the match

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Karim Benzema tapped in an easy winner to settle the matchCredit: Getty

The Anfield boss had boldly told the Red Army to book their hotels for this season’s final in Istanbul after they had been beaten by Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Paris last May.

But those words looked foolhardy ever since Real’s 5-2 demolition job on Merseyside last month.

That Real have comprehensively outplayed Liverpool in both legs shows just how far the Reds have regressed since their quadruple-chasing days of last spring.

A miracle never looked like happening, even before Karim Benzema’s late strike – his tenth against English opposition since the start of last season – extended Real’s comfy first-leg lead.

It was the fourth time Real had ended Liverpool’s Champions League hopes under Klopp – twice in finals, twice in knock-out ties.

And their crosstown rivals Atletico are the only other club ever to have eliminated the Reds from this competition in the Klopp era.

This result confirmed a season without silverware for Liverpool, who now face an almighty scrap for fourth place against Tottenham, Newcastle, Brighton and Brentford just to be able to compete at this elite level next term.

They have been wildly inconsistent this campaign – but their form away from Anfield suggested this unlikely salvage mission was always going to be a non-starter.

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The Champions League knock-out stages have been so crazed in the past few seasons, that we had almost come to expect extraordinary second-leg comebacks.

Return matches which have looked on paper like dead rubbers have rarely ended up as such.

But this one was dead, all right. All it needed was the princely duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to establish their midfield mastery over a fading Fabinho and an ancient James Milner and Klopp’s side never stood a serious chance.

Modric is actually a little older than his fellow 37-year-old Milner but he is simply much better than Liverpool’s admirable Yorkshireman.

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Real squandered a string of excellent chances, and Alisson made a couple of fine saves before Benzema finally found the net.

Ancelotti’s side were under-rated in England last season, when they went and defeated each of the Premier League’s top three clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to claim Old Big Ears yet again.

But neither City or Chelsea will relish being paired with them in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Liverpool’s monumental task wasn’t helped by the absence of Jordan Henderson and Stefan Bajcetic – meaning a start for Milner, who was playing top-flight football before Bajcetic was born.

Miracles do happen, not infrequently, in the Champions League but generally when the miracle-workers are at home in the second leg – with few better than Liverpool’s comeback from 3-0 down to Barcelona in the 2019 semi-final.

Who knew what to make of Liverpool – 7-0 winners over Manchester United and losers at Bournemouth since these two last met at Anfield?

It was, unsurprisingly, an attacking line-up from Klopp, with four specialist forwards, although Gakpo was in a more withdrawn role.

Real were as good as Ancelotti’s pre-match words, refusing to sit back on their lead and it was lively, end-to-end stuff.

Darwin Nunez was presented with the best early chance – Salah darting clear and feeding the Uruguayan, whose shot was saved by the legs of Thibaut Courtois.

But Real were starting to swagger – Modric and Kroos their virtuoso string-pulling section in the middle of the park – and Alisson was soon a busy man.

First he made a point-blank stop to deny Vinicius, the Brazilian tipped a thumping 25-yarder from Eduardo Camavinga on to his crossbar and saved with his feet from Vinicius after a luxurious first-time pass from Kroos.

Diogo Jota miscued a decent volleyed chance for Liverpool but the early goal they craved failed to materialise.

Nunez, though, gave Dani Carvajal a going-over, cut in from the left and drilled a shot which Courtois tipped wide. And Gakpo’s snap-shot forced another save from the Belgian.

These were fleeting moments of hope but the Reds couldn’t seize one and by the interval an improbable mission was looking nigh-on impossible.

Federico Valverde won a tackle on the edge of the Liverpool box and asked another decent save from Alisson.

Klopp, without many riches on the bench, sent on Roberto Firmino and Harvey Elliott for Nunez and Jota – but Real were still crafting the best openings, Valverde failing to keep down a free header from a Modric centre.

Benzema then blazed over after a weaving Vincius run and it was a genuine wonder how the champions hadn’t extended their overall lead before the 79th minute.

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When the goal did arrive, Vinicius even had time to fall over and recover before he squared for Benzema to put the outcome of the tie completely beyond doubt.

Liverpool now face a serious fight just to compete at this elite level again next season.



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