Karim Benzema scored for the fourth consecutive Champions League game to give Real Madrid the victory against Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti made only two changes to the team that defeated Granada 4-0 last weekend with Alvaro Arbeloa and Raphael Varane replacing Dani Carvajal and Pepe.
Brendan Rodgers instead made seven changes to the team that lost at Newcastle on Saturday with Javi Manquillo, Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini coming in for Glen Johnson, Dejan Lovren, captain Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Mario Balotelli, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
Real Madrid destroyed Liverpool at Anfield two weeks ago through goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema [twice], both scoring in the space of 18 minutes in the first half.
Madrid had the first chance after four minutes with Simon Mignolet stretching to his left and denying James Rodriguez’s attempt from just inside the box.
Liverpool fans were in buoyant mood and made themselves well heard from the top tier of Santiago Bernabeu. The Reds’ slick passing preventing Los Merengues from dominating the game as many expected.
That was until Martin Skrtel switched off and gifted a great chance to Benzema who in turn served Ronaldo before Mignolet tipped the ball over the bar.
Momentum then changed and suddenly it was Liverpool doubling up in defence and trying to hit on the break while Madrid started to enjoy most of the possession.
The hosts found the net with a great pass from Isco to release Marcelo before the Brazilian excellently delivered for Benzema, who easily scored his fifth goal in four games, the first time he has scored in four successive Champions League appearances since March 2011.
Ronaldo then shot from distance on one of his classic free-kicks but Mignolet saved, moments before Varane was good enough to spot Benzema with a long ball and Kolo Toure, who had just played one Champions League game since May 2009, risked an own-goal.
The figure at the end of the half really said it all with Real Madrid having 13 shots, just one less than the ones they had at Anfield in the whole game two weeks ago.
The Reds found the first shot on goal 10 minutes into the second half with former Sevilla full-back Alberto Moreno trying to trouble Iker Casillas from outside the box, but Spain’s No 1 eventually managed to celebrate his 144th appearance in the competition with a clean sheet – as Liverpool ended up with the third consecutive game without bulging the net in the Champions League for the first time since 2006.
Gareth Bale made his comeback after a month’s absence replacing James Rodriguez, just in time to hit the crossbar with 20 minutes to go, with Marcelo providing the assist from the left.
Madrid increased the pressure but Toure blocked Ronaldo and then Manquillo did the same with Isco, with Toni Kroos unleashing a ferocious strike from distance in between.
Mignolet successfully attempted a dribble against Ronaldo and avoided a slide from Benzema before unloading the ball to his defence, the Belgian goalkeeper mirroring Liverpool’s confidence as the game neared its conclusion.
Madrid to broke fast to remind Rodgers’ side why they are European champions, with Moreno left with no other option than tackling Bale from behind, Mignolet then saving on the subsequent free-kick from the Welshman on the near post.
Madrid managed to find their 10th consecutive home win in the Champions League for the first time since 1988 but were made to work for their place in the last 16.
Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa (Nacho 83), Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; James (Bale 62), Modric, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema (Chicharito 87)
Real Madrid substitutes: Navas, Pepe, Bale, Chicharito, Nacho, Medran, Torro.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Manquillo, Toure, Skrtel, Moreno; Lucas (Gerrard 69), Allen; Can (Coutinho 75), Lallana, Markovic (Sterling 69); Borini.
Liverpool substitutes: Jones, Johnson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Henderson, Sterling, Balotelli.
Referee: Viktor Kassai