After a splendid night of celebration at Camp Nou on Saturday following their La Liga triumph, FC Barcelona return to action in a much more important game on Wednesday night as they host English side Liverpool in the first leg of their 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League semifinal. The Catalans started the season with the aim of winning the treble and are currently on the right path as they have secured the Liga title and are in the final of the Copa Del Rey where they will go head-to-head with Valencia later this month. Now, they face a daunting task against a Liverpool side that have been in wonderful form this season and have excelled in both attack and defense. Here, we outline five reasons why we believe FC Barcelona, rightly top dogs, will see off their English counterparts at Camp Nou.
- THE FORTRESS CAMP NOU
Yes, you heard that right. Camp Nou is a fortress, but for only the home side FC Barcelona and can be hell for any team that visits it. The Catalans have a magnificent record when they play in front of their fans in the Champions League and are unbeaten in the last 31 games at home, winning 28 and drawing just 3. This means that Liverpool will have to be at the zenith of their game to be able to get a result tonight which definitely won’t be an easy task.
2. BARCELONA ARE THE BETTER TEAM
There are a lot of people who share the opinion that Liverpool possess a better team than Barcelona but it is a really clear fact that this is untrue. This Barcelona team is better than this current Liverpool side in all angles in terms of quality as well as squad depth. The Catalan side beats Liverpool in a man-to-man comparison and also wins in a position-to-position comparison as they come out top from goalkeeper to attackers. This factor gives Barcelona the edge has they have more players in their ranks that are capable of changing the game in a switch. It is a fact that it’s not every time the better team is the winner but this time, it is very likely that will be the case.
3. THE PRIORITY
Is definitely the Champions League for Barcelona. This is very clear as the Catalan giants have put more effort in winning this title this season than any other title. Barca have failed to advance past the quarterfinal in the last three editions which led to the fans protest on an improvement, they have done that and have made it clear from the start that they want to bring the title back to Catalonia after four years. We can see the efforts and sacrifices coach Ernesto Valverde is putting in, resting key players in many games and giving the youths more playing time than usual. To Barcelona, not winning the title will mean their season didn’t go as well as planned and they know how dangerous Liverpool are so a victory at Camp Nou is necessary. They will get it at all cost.
4. THE TACTICS
This current Liverpool side are really fast in transition with their wingers and fullbacks devastating on the counter while their midfielders are specialised in carrying out the gegenpressing. This is the main reason why Klopp’s men have been winning a lot of games this season but if there’s a team that can stop them, it is this current Barcelona side under Ernesto Valverde’s setup. The traditional Barcelona side is a possession-based team that exerts pressure at opponents leaving spaces behind their defence for the opponents to counter with their only solution to that being their over-possession, now, Valverde has mixed this with direct play and added a more defensive spice to his team, making a more reserved Barca. With his tactics, this Barca are more reliable in closing down Liverpool’s style than the Barcelona of old and this is a huge factor for Barca. Now they can minimize Liverpool’s efficiency in attack whilst pouncing on spaces when they go on the break.
5. LIONEL MESSI
I know you’re not surprised because you expected to see his name pop up somewhere. If Lionel Messi is on his good day tonight, then Liverpool absolutely stand no chance. This man has 24 goals against English oppositions in the Champions League, more than against any other nation and also more than any player has got vs PL teams in the competition. He did it in the last round vs Manchester United and he is likely to pull such a hot one on Van Dijk and co tonight. He is almost unstoppable at Camp Nou, a stadium he’s played in all his life and he will be looking to add to his 10-goal tally vs the reds.