"Game's gone."

In the English-speaking football world, there are few better means to share your deepest frustrations than those two-and-a-bit words. Defending, diving, transfer fees, haircuts – there is not a pet peeve in the modern game that can escape that withering proclamation, even if nobody knows how far away 'gone' really is.

Still, nothing triggers the 'game's gone' gag reflex quite like VAR. That may prove to be the system's defining contribution: the rallying point for fans and professionals determined to bring football 'back' from this sanitised circus, where the clowns clean up the stalls mid-show while the ringmaster reminds the kids to keep fun to a minimum.

By half-time of Sunday's Premier League game between Tottenham and Manchester United, "game's gone" was cried, broadcast and tweeted with the gusto and impact you might expect. It wasn't really necessary, of course. We know the game is 'gone'. VAR has been pushing it 'gone' for months. It's a long, long way 'gone'. In fact, since it's practically a sitcom anyway: the game is so far gone that you can't even see the game. The game is a dot to you!

Edinson Cavani presumably felt like that. The Manchester United striker, already weighing up whether another season in England is worthwhile, saw his first league goal since February 6 disallowed for a foul by Scott McTominay on Son Heung-min in the build-up. Son tried and failed to grab McTominay's shirt, and the United midfielder caught him in the face with a flailing finger. Several replays in Stockley Park and on the sideline at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium convinced referee Chris Kavanagh that the contact was severe enough to merit disallowing the goal, but not to show McTominay what would have been a second yellow card. Five minutes later, Son made it 1-0 to the home side.

Predictable incandescence followed. "I'm amazed, really. If this is a foul, we should all go home. It's really bizarre," said former United captain Roy Keane on Sky Sports. Ex-Manchester City defender Micah Richards said football was beyond recognition, adding: "It's embarrassing. This is not football anymore. I know we have a laugh and joke, but it's spoiling our game."

Perhaps Jose Mourinho said it best: "I don't understand anything anymore." As for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ever the populist: "The game is absolutely gone."

Rio Ferdinand added his fury to the frothing vitriol of social media. "Scrap VAR... an absolute shambles! The fella at Burnley volleyed Longstaff in the face earlier and wasn't a foul... now this! My tv is moments away from being on the patio in 100 pieces," the former United centre-back tweeted.

Ferdinand was comparing the Son incident to one in Newcastle United's earlier win at Burnley, when James Tarkowski was not penalised by VAR for kicking Sean Longstaff in the face while trying to clear from his own box. The message seemed to be that McTominay's errant pinkie was the more egregious, "unnatural" movement. The half-and-half screenshot memes bellowed their disapproval.

The point of retelling this story, at the end of a gripping game where United once more fought back to win away from home, is that that is what VAR is: the story. Everything else in football matches is a subplot. Spectators, who are still confined to watching at home, tune in expecting not the first goal, but the first visit to the pitchside monitor. 'The game' is played out on TV screens, in houses and stadia alike.

So what that Cavani recovered to force Fred's equaliser and then put United ahead? Who cares that Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba, lightning rods for Mourinho jibes in his United days, were standout performers? What does it matter that Spurs are now six points behind the top four and United are getting closer to Manchester City? The game's all the way over there!

Edinson Cavani shrugged off first-half VAR disbelief to head the winner as Manchester United stretched their unbeaten Premier League away run to 23 games with a 3-1 victory over Tottenham.

Spurs went ahead five minutes before half-time when Son Heung-min slotted home, just moments after Cavani's strike had been ruled out for a soft-looking foul by Scott McTominay on Tottenham's South Korean forward.

United were raging about the decision, but they bounced back in style in the second period with goals from Fred, Cavani and Mason Greenwood. 

The result moved second-placed United seven points ahead of Leicester City, who sit third, while Spurs remained in seventh, six points away from a Champions League qualification spot.

England international James Maddison was one of three Leicester City stars dropped for the 3-2 Premier League defeat at West Ham on Sunday after breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez were absent for disciplinary reasons, with the Telegraph reporting the trio were left out by manager Brendan Rodgers for attending a party last weekend.

Speaking after the game, Rodgers said he was "bitterly disappointed" with their breach of the rules but said the players would be back in contention for the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton next weekend.

He said in a press conference: "My objective coming into Leicester City was to create a standard on and off the pitch. The standards fell way below what we'd expect and particularly at this time of the season, when we're challenging and fighting to finish off a really exciting season.

"That standard and the values we have as a club, they fell well below that. The guys that weren't involved in the squad today would have been, but as a consequence of their behaviour, they weren't.

"I could easily fine players and it's a drop in the ocean now and everything is right, but then the dynamic isn't quite right in the squad. I had to deal with that throughout the week, the players are bitterly disappointed.

"They are good boys, they knew what the consequence was, they wouldn't be involved in this game and now we draw a line under it. They will rejoin the squad, train next week and get ready for next weekend."

Leicester said in a statement: "The club has made its expectations around adherence to COVID-19 protocols abundantly clear to all its personnel.

"It is extremely disappointing, therefore, to learn of a breach that had the potential to undermine the efforts of club staff to protect the environments in which our teams train and play. Appropriate measures have been taken to prevent our team bubbles being compromised.

"We wholly expect our people to behave in a way that reflects the national effort and the sacrifices made by our communities to control the spread of the virus. Those involved have apologised for their poor judgement.

"Our response to the matter will be concluded internally."

Harry Kane will only leave Tottenham if Daniel Levy is offered "a king's ransom" for the England captain, according to former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

Kane has three years remaining on his contract, but last month revealed he plans to make a decision on his future after Euro 2020.

Manchester City and Manchester United are among the clubs to have been linked with the prolific striker.

Redknapp, who handed Kane his Spurs debut in 2011, expects him to stay put as it would take a massive fee to prise the 27-year-old away from his boyhood club.

"Daniel [Spurs chairman Levy] drives the hardest bargain in the world and unless he gets what he wants and a deal that suits Tottenham then he won't go," Redknapp told talkSPORT.

"He's going to demand a king's ransom and give him the money for whoever he wants to buy and rebuild the team.

"Unless he gets that then Harry won't be going anywhere."

Kane has scored 29 goals and provided 16 assists in all competitions for Spurs, who face a huge clash with United on Sunday in their battle to qualify for the Champions League, this season.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, while Ronaldo's future at Juventus is far from certain.

A possible switch to the Spanish capital could reportedly impact Ronaldo.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could join Paris Saint-Germain if Kylian Mbappe leaves for Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid, who have been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

If Mbappe makes the move to the Santiago Bernabeu, it could send Ronald to Paris as Juve look to reduce their wage bill in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic reports Harry Kane will ask to leave Tottenham if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League. The Spurs star has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Madrid.

Barcelona are eyeing Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, claims Mundo Deportivo. The LaLiga giants are not rumoured to be interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who is set to depart Bavaria at season's end.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are interested in signing Barca star Pedri, who reportedly has a release clause around £70million (€81m).

United have been warned West Ham will not accept an offer to include Jesse Lingard as part of a deal to prise Declan Rice to Old Trafford, claims The Sun. United are also keen to bring back Sam Johnstone from West Brom if David de Gea or Dean Henderson leave.

- Bild says Liverpool are entering the final stages of a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Premier League rivals United have also been linked.

Thomas Tuchel praised a "good step" taken by Kai Havertz and called on the Chelsea forward to continue to show his quality after his instrumental role in the 4-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Havertz has largely struggled since his close-season move from Bayer Leverkusen but opened the scoring at Selhurst Park, where Chelsea surged back into the top four.

He laid on the second goal for Christian Pulisic as Chelsea went two up inside 10 minutes, with Kurt Zouma's header and a late effort from Pulisic, sandwiched by a Christian Benteke consolation, giving the Blues a comfortable victory.

Havertz's goal was his first in the Premier League since October while this was his first game in the competition in which he has both found the net and provided an assist.

Chelsea have the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Porto, which they lead 2-0, on Tuesday before taking on Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final next Saturday.

With so many significant fixtures on the horizon as they also fight for Champions League qualification next season, Tuchel wants more from Havertz.

The coach told a post-match media conference: "He has quality, he needs to show it. Easy as that.

"He will never be our emotional leader, we don't expect him to be. But we expect him to show his quality.

"Honestly, he needed to show he can do better. So many decisive matches coming, he got another chance to show he can do better than he did against Porto. A good step and a good performance."

Mason Mount was similarly impressive for Chelsea, playing four key passes and providing the assist for Zouma's fifth goal of the season.

The midfielder also completed 93.8 per cent of his passes in the opposition half and sent in a game-high 15 crosses.

Asked about Mount, Tuchel added: "Mason was focused, high energy level, strong performance.

"It's in our DNA that we have a high work rate, high intensity and are tired after a match. This is how it should be, we are Chelsea."

Jurgen Klopp does not want to continue the debate surrounding Trent Alexander-Arnold's England hopes after the right-back again wrote himself into the headlines, this time in front of Gareth Southgate.

Alexander-Arnold was controversially left out of the latest Three Lions squad by Southgate last month, the team's final gathering before a group for Euro 2020 is named.

Liverpool manager Klopp defended his player and said Alexander-Arnold's form - widely questioned this season - "cannot be the reason" for his omission.

The 22-year-old has since turned in an influential display at Arsenal, assisting the first goal in a 3-0 win, before his error let Marco Asensio in for one of three Real Madrid goals in the Champions League in midweek.

Back in Premier League action on Saturday, Alexander-Arnold was a talking point again for the right reasons.

His superb 91st-minute strike clinched a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, Liverpool's first Anfield success of 2021.

The academy graduate wrote on Twitter: "Are you not entertained!?"

Alexander-Arnold had a game-high 102 touches and no Reds player created more chances than his three. Crucially, he also made a joint-high three tackles.

A balance between attack and defence has been identified as key, and this was the first time all season Alexander-Arnold had three key passes and three tackles in the same league match.

Klopp was again asked about his star performer post-match but hopes the topic of conversation can finally now change.

"He wants to be in the [England] squad - that is clear - so we don't have to talk too much about it," Klopp said. "He is a wonderful player.

"I think Gareth agrees that he is a really wonderful player, then there is a manager who has to make a decision.

"I respect that, I really respect that. Trent respects that, I respect that.

"To be in the England squad, you have to play outstanding football. Trent did this very, very often at a very young age. So there's nothing to talk about.

"There will be tough decisions, not only at that position, too, for Gareth. I have to make tough decisions every day – that's normal in the job.

"But we don't have to talk about it; just leave the boy playing football, which he's pretty good at, and don't talk any more about it."

Although Alexander-Arnold lost possession 35 times and was dribbled past twice, there were no errors leading to shots to add to the two against Madrid - one of which Asensio punished.

Prior to the trip to Spain, Alexander-Arnold had only made one such error all season across all competitions.

"Life is like this, football is like this," Klopp said, hailing the defender's character.

"He played an exceptional game against Arsenal, a top game today, and in Real Madrid, we don't have to hide that, he was involved in the second goal they scored. That's how it is.

"I don't think Trent is in a situation where he has to prove himself constantly at this level; he has to play good football.

"As a young player, you have to develop, and you only do that if you challenge yourself in specific moments.

"If he's not playing well, it's not that he's not bothered or doesn't care, it's the opposite."

Jurgen Klopp feared Liverpool were living the "same old story" against Aston Villa, but hopes his side's response to falling behind can help them against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Reds finally recorded a first home win in the Premier League in 2021, though the champions had to rally from a goal down at half-time following Ollie Watkins' opener at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah drew Liverpool level before Trent Alexander-Arnold struck a superb stoppage-time winner, the full-back's goal coming with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on inside the stadium.

Klopp was particularly pleased with the spirit shown by his players, with Liverpool ending a six-game losing streak at Anfield in the league. The 2-1 triumph aids their hopes of a top-four finish this season, while it also offers a timely boost ahead of hosting Madrid in midweek.

"Obviously, the other game [against Arsenal] was really, really good, but today seemed to be the same old story, if you like," the Liverpool boss said.

"We played well but we made one mistake – which is not the biggest mistake in the world – to give them the opportunity to score, and they do. We score an equaliser, which was a great goal – a great pass, great link-up play, all these kinds of things – and then you get the information it is offside.

"We go in at half-time and it's a little bit like the same story again. But it was decided long ago and we have accepted that it’s going to be a bumpy season for us, we have to strike back again, and again, and again.

"The boys did. It took a while until we scored, but we scored a really nice goal. Then, in our situation, we had to increase a little bit the risk, took off a centre-back [Ozan Kabak] for [Xherdan] Shaqiri.

"Then we scored this wonderful goal for 2-1. It was the best goal for ages, emotionally. I'm really happy for the three points."

Liverpool ended an eight-match winless run in the Premier League at their own ground. In doing so, they scored as many goals against Villa as they did across that shocking streak.

Klopp said in his media conference: "It's no secret that it's quite a bumpy season for us. We have to fight through and if, in the end, we finish in a Champions League spot, then great.

"But it's tricky. I'm not surprised any more when things like the first half happen, I'm interested in the reaction. I liked the reaction. If we didn't turn the situation around previously, that's why we lost six games in a row at home, which should not happen - but it happened."

Next up is the return fixture in the quarter-final tie with Madrid, who triumphed 3-1 in the opening leg on Spanish soil.

While making clear his players will give it their all in attempting to turn the situation around, Klopp appreciates they face a tall order against opponents who were so clinical in the first meeting.

"We need a perfect performance on Wednesday if we want to have a chance – just a chance," Klopp said.

"I really think that with the way we played – and the way Real Madrid played there – it doesn't look very promising, but the good thing is we can play better.

"Real Madrid doesn't come here and think they are already through. It's going to be a tough one, but we will give it a try, I can promise.

"This helps, of course. When you are in the moment and win everything, you don't feel the intensity, you just want to play the next game – you would play the next day if you could. 

"Obviously, for us in the moment, it's not that easy. We have to work really hard. We have to create five chances to score a goal, or 10 to score. You have go through that, you cannot change it just because you want to. You have to work for it. We did that against a strong opponent, a very important three points.

"Whatever it gives us for Wednesday, we will use."

Kai Havertz scored his first Premier League goal since October as Chelsea got their top-four push back on track with a comfortable 4-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Chelsea responded to their stunning 5-2 home loss against West Brom by beating Porto 2-0 in the Champions League in midweek and they built on that performance in fine fashion.

Havertz has struggled to reproduce his Bayer Leverkusen form at Chelsea but was instrumental in lifting the Blues back above Liverpool, 2-1 winners over Aston Villa earlier on Saturday, and into the Champions League places.

The Germany international ended his drought in the eighth minute and then teed up Christian Pulisic a minute and 42 seconds later to give Chelsea command, which was furthered through Kurt Zouma's header.

Christian Benteke reduced the deficit in the second half before Pulisic had the final say with his second 12 minutes from time.

Vicente Guaita sharply denied Pulisic from Mason Mount's cross but within 12 seconds the Palace goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net after Havertz ended his near six-month wait for a league goal with a wonderfully measured finish into the bottom-left corner.

The exquisite placement of Havertz's strike rendered Guaita helpless and he was soon undone by the power of Pulisic's left foot as he collected Havertz's pull back and rifled into the roof of the net from point-blank range.

Brimming with confidence, Havertz went close to sublime second when he produced a deft touch to lift Jorginho's long ball over the head of Patrick van Aanholt and shot on the half-volley, only to see Guaita repel his effort with a fingertip save.

The third goal did arrive in short order, however, as Zouma towered over Gary Cahill to meet Mount's excellent free-kick delivery with a powerful header, the Premier League's top-scoring defender registering his fifth of the season.

Another excellent Guaita save was required to deny Mount a deserved goal and Zouma would have had a second if not for a goal-line clearance by Van Aanholt.

Chelsea took their foot off the accelerator somewhat in the second half, and Palace took advantage when Benteke headed in Jeffrey Schlupp's left-wing cross.

Guaita again prevented Havertz from doubling his tally but could not stop Pulisic from doing so as the tucked home Reece James' deflected low cross to round off a superb showing.

What does it mean? - Tuchel's Blues back in the groove

The defeat to the Baggies smacked of an aberration rather than a harbinger of a costly slump from Thomas Tuchel's men, and they were back to their best in south London.

Havertz and Pulisic quickly put any thought of another shock reverse to bed and Tuchel should sleep soundly ahead of the second leg against Porto in Seville, with Chelsea having returned to the form that has become the norm under the former Paris Saint-Germain boss.

Havertz ends drought in style

After scoring his first league goal since the 3-3 draw with Southampton at Stamford Bridge, Havertz produced the performance of a player with the weight lifted from his shoulders.

It was his first Premier League game with a goal and an assist at the 23rd attempt. Havertz also hit the target with four of his five shots and his passing accuracy in the opposition half was an impressive 91.7 per cent.

Eagles fail to soar

Two goals behind inside 10 minutes, Palace did not threaten a response until Benteke netted with their first effort of the game. The second half was better, but this was a display reflective of a team safe from relegation with nothing to play for.

What's next?

Chelsea will look to move into the last four of the Champions League by completing the job against Porto on Tuesday before an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City next Saturday. Palace are not in action again until an April 26 meeting with Leicester City.

Pep Guardiola insisted he had no regrets over ringing the changes as Manchester City went down to a shock 2-1 defeat at home against Leeds United.

Stuart Dallas broke away to score his second of the game in stoppage time to give Marcelo Bielsa's men a hard-fought triumph over the Premier League leaders, despite losing captain Liam Cooper to a red card shortly before half-time.

Ferran Torres cancelled out Dallas' first-half opener with 14 minutes to play but it was a frustrating outing in front of goal for Guardiola's men overall as they racked up 29 largely fruitless attempts and Leeds scored from their only two shots.

City will defend a slender 2-1 advantage in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Borussia Dortmund and Guardiola named an XI showing seven changes from the initial encounter with the Bundesliga side.

Spain forward Torres was making only his third Premier League start since the beginning of February, while centre-back Nathan Ake played for the first time in 2021 following a serious hamstring injury.

"When you win I'm a genius, when you lose you have to take it," Guardiola said at a post-match news conference.

"I don't have regrets about the 11 selected because I trust them a lot. Maybe they don't trust me, but I trust them. If I didn't trust them they would not play.

"John [Stones] was fantastic, Nathan, Benja [Benjamin Mendy], all of them. Everyone was good.

"Playing against Leeds is difficult because they are used to winning duels and when you beat that duel they come back more aggressive than before to dribble again."

Guardiola blamed the defeat on City failing to stem counter-attacks when Leeds emerged from their defensive shell during the closing minutes, with Ederson making a vital sliding challenge to deny Raphinha before Dallas latched on to Ezgjan Alioski's throughball with aplomb.

"It is a game of transitions. We had to avoid it, they did it. We defended well at their goal kicks, short and long. And after, 10 against 11, we needed inspiration of the players and especially don't let them run," Guardiola said, having withdrawn Ake in favour of playmaker Ilkay Gundogan before the hour mark – a move that appeared to leave City more vulnerable on the break.

"We did it during 37 minutes [in the second half] but before the goal we conceded Raphinha had a chance and Edi saved. The second one at the end we could not control it and we had to.

"In the last five years, always we work and talk about that. When you attack and attack and attack, always we have to control and don't let them run. If you don't, then it's impossible to play in this way."

If that is a lesson Guardiola is preparing to repeat once again before his squad heads to Signal Iduna Park, he will also be keen to draw attention to their recent achievements with pivotal fixtures on the horizon.

City take on Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley next weekend before returning to England's national stadium on April 25 to face Tottenham and attempt to win a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"What happens when you lose a game is you realise how difficult it is, what we've done so far," he added, with a maximum of 10 points required from their final six Premier League games for City to secure the title.

"When you see in the last 28 games we have won 26, you realise how difficult it is what we have done.

"The Premier League must be won. We need points still because now our opponent can win all the games. We need to do it again.

"We have Aston Villa in the middle, but three of the next four games are finals - in the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

"If you tell me about faith, wow, we have incredible confidence in the guys. Sometimes defeat is necessary to understand what we have done and what we need to do to move forward."

Liverpool left it late to secure a first Premier League win at home in 2021, with Trent Alexander-Arnold's superb stoppage-time strike downing Aston Villa 2-1 at Anfield.

The Reds rallied from a goal down to secure three crucial points in terms of the top-four battle, while the result is also a timely boost with a Champions League second leg against Real Madrid coming up in midweek.

Ollie Watkins – who scored a hat-trick in a stunning 7-2 win for his side when Liverpool visited Villa Park early in the season - gave the visitors a half-time advantage on Merseyside, his left-footed shot squeezing underneath Alisson.

Roberto Firmino had a potential equaliser ruled out by the video assistant referee before the interval, but Mohamed Salah scored the Reds' first home goal from open play in the league in 765 minutes to level early in the second half.

Liverpool had a let-off when Trezeguet hit the post but, with England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and curled in a late winner.

Leeds United's shock win over Manchester City on Saturday was Marcelo Bielsa's first over Pep Guardiola, and it was achieved through a remarkable statistical anomaly.

Bielsa's side prevailed 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium through Stuart Dallas' double, sandwiched by Ferran Torres' close-range strike, despite spending most of the game on the back foot, with captain Liam Cooper sent off before half-time.

City racked up 29 shots to Leeds' two, but it was the visitors who proved the more clinical as they scored from unlikely positions on both occasions.

Indeed, Leeds' expected goals (xG) total for the game was 0.1 compared to 2.0 for City.

Dallas' 91st-minute winner saw Leeds become the first team since Opta began tracking xG for the Premier League in 2010-11 to win a game by scoring twice with an xG of 0.1.

Tottenham scored twice with an xG of 0.1 against City in August 2019, but that contest ended in a draw.

With City hitting the target just seven times and their 29 attempts bringing a meagre xG return, Guardiola accepted the runaway league leaders did not create enough quality chances.

"It was not clear the chances, we shoot but not much clear. We arrive in the final third but after that we could not create much," he told BT Sport.

And the City boss shrugged off the smash-and-grab nature of Leeds' win, pointing to similar circumstances in Paris Saint-Germain's 3-2 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

PSG triumphed by scoring three times from six shots with an xG of 1.3, while Bayern had 31 shots and an xG of 3.8.

"The last game in Champions League, Bayern Munich had [31] and PSG [six] and PSG won the game," added Guardiola, whose side will look to avoid a repeat performance in four days' time when they face Borussia Dortmund.

City lead 2-1 from their home first leg as they hope to progress to the last four of Europe's elite club competition.

City hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg but could be met with a similar rearguard action if Dortmund take the lead needing only a 1-0 win to go through.

Manchester City suffered a shock defeat as their seemingly inevitable march to the Premier League title hit a bump in the road with a last-gasp 2-1 loss to 10-man Leeds United.

Pep Guardiola shuffled his pack with this fixture sandwiched between both legs of their Champions League quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund, and his much-changed side fell behind to Stuart Dallas' opener late in the first half.

A red card for Leeds captain Liam Cooper seemingly tilted the game in City's favour and they eventually broke down their undermanned opponents when Ferran Torres equalised 14 minutes from time.

But Marcelo Bielsa's men caught City on the counter as they pressed for the winner, Dallas latching on to Ezgjan Alioski's throughball and sliding his second through Ederson's legs to clinch a remarkable victory for Leeds.

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish proclaimed "maybe romance isn't dead" and is dreaming of a famous Reds comeback against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Los Blancos were a class above Jurgen Klopp's men in Tuesday's first leg in the Spanish capital, Madrid running out 3-1 winners with Vinicius Jr scoring twice and Marco Asensio also on target.

Europe's premier competition is Liverpool's last remaining hope of silverware this term after a faltering defence of their Premier League title.

The odds may be against Liverpool ahead of the second leg at Anfield but with the final being played at the Ataturk Stadium – the venue of their famous comeback from 3-0 at half-time against Milan in the 2005 showpiece – Dalglish believes all is not lost.

"We're 3-1 down in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, playing again on Wednesday against Real Madrid, the final is being played at the Ataturk Stadium which is the stadium where we beat AC Milan on penalties," Dalglish said in quotes published by several British newspapers. 

"So maybe romance is not yet dead and the bad season is going to have a happy ending."

Liverpool are no strangers to memorable European comebacks and overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals en route to winning the trophy in 2019.

But Dalglish thinks the circumstances are different against Zinedine Zidane's side.

"I think what will make it harder [than the Barcelona game] is that Real are a better team than Barcelona were," he added. 

"Barcelona won 3-0 at the Nou Camp and they missed a sitter late on with the last kick of the game.

"You thought at the time, 'that's given us a chance now'. Real Madrid have got a better team defensively even though they had to make changes [in the first leg] – [Sergio] Ramos never played and they had to bring a couple of guys in. They're better than Barcelona were."

Last term, Liverpool romped to a first top-flight title since 1990, a team that was managed by Dalglish.

This season, the Reds are in seventh with only eight games to play, some 25 points back of runaway leaders Manchester City and three adrift of West Ham in fourth.

Dalglish feels Liverpool's extensive injuries have played a contributing factor.

"There are no excuses, but there are some reasons. For me, one of the biggest contributory factors was losing four players in the same position, because then that was the back four out of commission or certainly weaker than they were," he added.

"When you look at Van Dijk, you're looking at a colossus and you're thinking, 'how do I get past him?'

"It's the same with [Joel] Matip beside him, Joe Gomez... they had to put the two stalwarts from midfield, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, back into the back four, so they are now 20 yards deeper than they would normally play.

"You couldn't replace those two in the middle of the pitch. I think it was just unfortunate that that happened. Virgil has been a huge miss, but when you're not winning games, anyone not playing is a huge miss.

"I think the players are as hungry as they were last year, they are trying to replicate what they did. They lost six in a row at Anfield which is unheard of. 

"People might attribute it to no fans being in, and it is detrimental to Liverpool that they have not had the fan support because they have always been a huge part of the success at the football club."

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