The time has come. Barcelona’s biggest, and potentially most difficult game of the season is upon us.
For the second season in a row, Liverpool have reached the Champions League semifinals, and they are at least Barca’s equal in this two-legged affair.
The Reds have history on their side too, as the Catalans have never beaten them over two legs in European competition.But that’s just the sort of motivation that Lionel Messi and Co. need. Going into the tie as overwhelming favourites often doesn’t help, and the Blaugrana only need to look back at the quarterfinal versus Roma last season to know how costly lost focus can be.
Liverpool are strong in all areas, so heading to Anfield with an advantage of some sort will suit Ernesto Valverde because he will know that his team are capable of scoring on Merseyside.
Therefore, the pressure is on the Reds in the first leg. To that end, Jurgen Klopp’s side will have to come out and play, and that will suit Barcelona to a tee. They’ve always played better football when teams stand toe to toe with them rather than parking the bus.
Virgil Van Dijk has enjoyed a fabulous season so far, but it’s doubtful that he’s faced a front line with the capabilities of Messi, Suarez and Coutinho/Dembele.
Barca have to isolate the big man where possible and aim to get balls in behind Dejan Lovren who isn’t as able as his colleague when he’s turned towards his own goal.
Balls into the channels can also cause problems for the Reds as Klopp will ensure both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson get forward as often as possible.
Barca’s tackling in the midfield must be sharp, firm and fair too and their transitions into the front three lightning-quick.
Occasionally, Liverpool have been found wanting in those central midfield areas and if Sergio Busquets is able to keep Jordan Henderson at arms length, the likes of Arturo Vidal (if he plays) or Ivan Rakitic are more than capable of exploiting that space and driving the hosts forward.
It goes without saying that Barca’s defence will need to be at their best for 90 minutes, but that also applies to the visitors as both Suarez and Coutinho will look to show their old supporters what they’ve been missing.
Messi too, will have the bit between his teeth, just as he did against Manchester United.
La Liga is won, Barca are in the Copa Del Rey final… and he knows how close his team are to another, unprecedented, treble. Liverpool on the other hand have a league to still go out and win.
The Argentinian stated at the start of the campaign that the Champions League was the one he wanted to bring home to the fans, and he’s as fresh as he’s ever been at this stage of the season.
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