Liverpool have suffered another early exit from the Champions League.
The 2019 winners lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 tie in Spain, to bow out of the competition on a 6-2 aggregate scoreline.
The damage was clearly done in the first leg at Anfield two weeks ago, where Real came away 5-2 winners.
This means Liverpool had to score three goals in Madrid to take the tie into extra-time.
To their credit, the Reds performed much better in the return leg but were still unable to break down the home side’s defence.
Karim Benzema then put an end to any hope of a fightback by netting the only goal of the game in the 78th minute.
It just had to be Real…again.
Real’s victory marks the third season in a row that they’ve knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League.
They previously eliminated the Anfield side in the quarterfinal stage in 2020/2021 as well as in last season’s final.
This also makes it five victories for Real over the Merseyside club in total since Jurgen Klopp took charge.
Klopp, the players and no doubt the supporters must be sick of the sight of Real by now.
The end of an era?
Klopp himself admitted after the game that his side were simply not good enough to pull off a second-leg turnaround ala the 2005 ‘Miracle in Istanbul’.
In fact, he suggested Real were the better side over most of the two-legged last-16 fixture, except for a brief spell in the opening half during the first leg at Anfield.
The German now says his side faces a massive task to return to the competition next season.
His side are currently sixth in the EPL standings, six points off the Champions League qualification spots.
Mathematically, they stand a realistic chance of finishing in the top four.
But Liverpool’s form has been inconsistent at best this season. And with the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle and even Man United all vying for a place in Europe, the challenge will be tough.
Imagine, a little over three years ago Liverpool were on top of the world when they were crowned European champions. Now they face the prospect of missing out entirely on next season’s competition.
From that 2019 cup-winning side, Sadio Mane has left, Bobby Firmino is on his way out, while Jordan Henderson and James Milner are in their thirties and probably already thinking about the next stage of their careers.
Add to that speculation that Klopp’s future at Anfield remains uncertain, and you can’t help but get the feeling that we could be looking at the end of an era here.