3-0 at Camp Nou, not allowing their opponent get a single away goal, Lionel Messi scoring a brace… It was a moment of outstanding joy for Barcelona fans last Wednesday as Ernesto Valverde and his men out up a masterclass to see off their opponent, a magnificent team in Liverpool in the first leg of their 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League semifinal tie. The Catalan giants now march like kings into the second leg knowing they have full advantage and their chances of qualifying for the final is solely on their own hands.
Liverpool face an herculean task on Tuesday night in the return leg as they need to score at least 4 goals against a defensively-sound Barcelona side in order to progress in normal time and must also ensure Messi and Co. fail to register a goal in the process, a very difficult task given the well-known firepower of the Spanish team’s attack. The objective became much more harder after star man Mohamed Salah sustained a head injury in Liverpool’s narrow 3-2 win over Newcastle on Saturday, ruling him out of the tie. This will mean Klopp will have to bring forth a tactical masterclass in less than 24 hours. As we all know, upsets can happen in football and this game is a very good possibility of being one of them. Here, we outline 5 reasons why we think Liverpool can shock the world and progress over Barca.
- THE FORTRESS ANFIELD
The Liverpool fans are well-known to wreak havoc to opposition teams at Anfield. Barcelona will play against a Liverpool team who will have 50000 reds backing them, cheering for Mane and company whilst trying to destroy the Morales of the away team, this could lead to huge panics from the Barcelona players which may result in an error that can provide a break for the home side. This will also spur belief in the minds of the Liverpool players who will be playing to provide joy to their fans, and who knows, anything can happen. Barcelona will have to be calm against the roaring cheers of the Liverpool 12th man as it’s no news that they can be devastating.
2. LIVERPOOL’S PRESSURE AND BARCA DEFENSIVE APPROACH
It’s almost a certainty that Liverpool will exert strong pressure on the Barcelona midfield and backline in the early stages of the game as well as full attack. Barcelona are likely to opt for a more defensive approach and this can end up being fatal. It’s common for teams to dominate Barca in the first 10-15 minutes and this will surely happen at Anfield and unlike at Camp Nou, if the reds are a tad luckier, they can get an early goal which will instill fear and panic in the minds of the opposition team. Barcelona will have to be extremely disciplined more than in the first leg if they’re to prevent Liverpool from scoring in the first half.
3. VIRGIL VAN DIJK AND CO
Although he didn’t put up a good display at the Camp Nou, Liverpool defender and current PFA Player of the Year Virgil Van Dijk is primed to put up a masterclass at Anfield. This is due to the fact that it is very likely Barcelona won’t have much to do in the final third at Anfield compared to the Camp Nou because Liverpool are the home team and the team who will do most of the attacking while Barcelona defend. Van Dijk will be on hand to stop Barcelona counters and passes more easily than in the first leg because Ernesto Valverde won’t send too many men forward. Matip was arguably the better of the two center halves on the first leg and he will be needed to be at his best this time, which is likely to happen.
4. MESSI POOR AWAY RECORD
He’s the best player in the world, but over the years, Lionel Messi has struggled to score in Champions League knockout away games. This season is a good example, the star has six goals already in the knockout stages but failed to hit the target away at both Lyon and Manchester United whilst also dropping performances a tad below his standard. Messi is a bit easier to contain when he’s not at Camp Nou as his morale isn’t as high, hence, Liverpool have a good chance of preventing the talks man talisman from scoring or creating chances, something they must do.
5. THE FULLBACKS COULD RETURN
A major mistake Sir Klopp made in the first leg was benching right back Trent-Alexander Arnold for a more defensive Joe Gomez. A smart move at first but Liverpool should have gone ultra-attacking in order to get an away goal and Arnold’s absence meant they didn’t. The right back showed his class at the weekend as he racked up two wonderful assists against Newcastle. He now has 11 assists to his name in the PL and is primed to start alongside the in-form Andy Robertson, Barca will struggle to contain qualities in both wings and this is a plus for Liverpool.
All the same, it is still hugely unlikely that Liverpool will get the comeback but then you think, Roma pulled something similar against the same opponent just a season ago. It is football, a beautiful game and anything can happen. Bottom line is Barcelona need to be careful.