At their best Liverpool have been irresistible under Jurgen Klopp, the most vivid expression yet of the German’s high-octane vision of football – except, it seems, when facing Real Madrid.
Klopp has led the Reds into battle with the Spanish giants four times since he took the helm at Anfield in 2015. They have lost three, won none and scored just two goals.
So, as the two teams prepare to meet again on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, have Real Madrid cracked how to beat Liverpool?
“If we don’t play our best we don’t have a chance,” said Klopp. “Real Madrid doesn’t have to play their best and still have a chance.”
Perhaps it is a case of Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid’s much-travelled head coach, having Klopp’s number.
The Liverpool boss has lost five and won just three of his 11 meetings with the Italian; equivalent to averaging 1.09 points per game.
Of all coaches to have faced Klopp 10 or more times, only two – Felix Magath and Ralf Rangnick – boast a superior record.
But Liverpool’s hoodoo with Real Madrid predates the arrival of Ancelotti at the Bernabeu in 2021, and indeed Klopp’s appointment.
The Merseysiders also lost home and away group games to them under Brendan Rodgers in 2014, meaning they are winless in their last six meetings.
Before that, Liverpool had a 100 per cent record in their only three previous matches against their fellow European heavyweights.
So it is the modern Real Madrid that seems to have found the secret to beating the modern Liverpool, although even that comes with an asterisk.
Two of their most recent meetings came in the Champions League finals of 2018 and last summer, and both Liverpool defeats came with unique mitigating factors.
In the first, Mohamed Salah limped off injured early on and goalkeeper Loris Karius was impeded by a concussion that was only detected days later.
Last year, meanwhile, Liverpool never got going after seeing their loved ones and Reds supporters caught up in crowd trouble that delayed the kick-off in Paris.
The one-sided rivalry between the two teams is also a reflection of a wider trend: Real Madrid’s recent dominance in the Champions League.
Five of the club’s record 14 European crowns have come in the last nine years, with the competition, rather than LaLiga, becoming their top priority.
Ancelotti’s CV makes him a perfect fit for them, the former Chelsea, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain coach having reached a record five finals.
Liverpool, of course, have their own proud tradition in Europe: with six wins and three more final appearances, they are England’s most successful representatives.
Like Ancelotti, Klopp has also thrived in the Champions League, reaching three finals with his current side to add to his one with Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
But even they are trumped for European pedigree by Real Madrid, for whom the competition perhaps means even more than at Anfield.
This time around, the Champions League has taken on even greater significance for Los Blancos and the Reds.
Ancelotti’s men have been left trailing domestically by bitter rivals Barcelona, while Liverpool face an uphill task simply to finish in England’s top four.
In that context, tonight’s match could make or break both teams’ hopes of claiming a major trophy at the end of the campaign.
“In the last few years one of us was always kind of in the final, that’s how it feels at least, and usually if you want to get to the final you have to kick us out, or them,” said Klopp.
“They have enough wins. They are absolutely world class, it is a well set up team and that’s why it is so difficult but it doesn’t mean it is not possible.
“Some of their players have won it five times and probably think they own the competition – and quite rightly – but that doesn’t mean we won’t give it a try.”