It was a quiet flight back home from Spain for Liverpool last week.

Having been outwitted and outplayed by Real Madrid, there was much for the chastened Reds to ponder in the aftermath of their 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat.

And few will have a greater urge for rewrite the script in tonight's Anfield return than Thiago Alcantara.

It was bad enough for the former Barcelona to have his hopes of a second successive European Cup final appearance left hanging by the flimsiest of threads by his old bitter rivals.

But that he had to watch much of the traumatic early stages from the dugout would have only intensified the hurt.

Thiago, well versed in Spanish football having graduated Barcelona's La Masia academy had been surprisingly overlooked in favour of Naby Keita for a starting role.

The game hadn't even reached half-time when Jurgen Klopp had seen enough, hauling Keita off three minutes the break with Liverpool already two goals behind.

With Thiago on as his replacement, the margin of defeat ultimately remained unchanged although the Reds have the glimmer of a hope provided by Mohamed Salah's away goal during the second half.

Now, as Liverpool seek unlikely European salvation, Thiago will hope the stage is set to justify the excitement engendered by his £20million arrival from Bayern Munich in September.

As well as aiming to keep his own personal grip on the Champions League trophy, the midfielder will surely be eager to start redressing the balance against Real Madrid.

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He hasn't been on the winning side against the Spaniards since the first of 12 such outings, a Copa del Rey victory earned in the Bernabeu while with Barcelona in January 2012.

Since then, the Spain international has lost four out of five Champions League clashes with Real, all bar the latest coming while at Bayern Munich.

Ending such long waits has become an unwanted and unexpected feature of Thiago's Liverpool career to date.

Having impressed as a substitute on debut at Chelsea, his first start was delayed by contracting coronavirus, with the Spaniard subsequently not featuring at Anfield until mid-January after sustaining a knee injury during his full bow at Everton.

That damage prevented Thiago from making his Champions League bow for the Reds until the round of 16 tie against RB Leipzig, during which he impressed over both legs.

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And Liverpool's dire home form since the turn of the year - which coincided with Thiago's return to fitness - meant Saturday's dramatic 2-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa was the first time he had been on a winning team at Anfield.

Even then, Thiago was restricted to a 20-minute cameo, although he was heavily involved in the injury-time winner from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Now the midfielder, similar to Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak, will hope to have his first Champions League experience at Anfield as a Liverpool player in a starting role as Klopp plots the ideal midfield approach for a comeback against Zinedine Zidane's men.

With fans still banished, it won't quite be what Thiago signed up for. But now the stage is set for the midfielder to show exactly why he is a European champion - and end another long wait in the process.