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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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 Liverpool's reputation for turning on the style in Europe face the acid test on Wednesday when they play on-form Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

On a night that will notably see Liverpool's domestic rivals Chelsea host Juventus, Real are looking good to strike the first blow in a two-leg encounter that gives the winners passage to the Champions League quarter-finals.

A 6-1 hammering of Real Betis on Saturday, complete with a brace apiece from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Raul moved Real to within seven points of leaders Barcelona, who suffered a shock 2-1 derby defeat against Espanyol.

Despite Liverpool traditionally coming out fighting in Europe whatever their progress at home - an approach which led them to 2005 Champions League victory and a UEFA Cup title in 2001 - nine-time European champions Real are brimming with confidence.

While most Real players know the Reds are a far bigger threat than Betis, midfielder Rafael Van der Vart believes the Merseysiders will be running scared.

"We're Real Madrid, which is why I think Liverpool are frightened of us," said van der Vaart.

"We are working hard to be in perfect shape. We're anxious to do well in Europe, and I will do anything to win the Champions League."

Just how much Liverpool's latest Premier League setback affects their self-belief ahead of a first leg in which scoring a precious away goal could be crucial to their plans remains to be seen.

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