Sports Monks

Liverpool v/s Barcelona – Previewing the UEFA Champions League Semi Final

Liverpool-Barcelona

Barcelona v/s Liverpool

Dates:

  • 1st leg – May 1nd, 2019: Camp Nou, Spain
  • 2nd leg – May 7th, 2019: Anfield Stadium, England

FC Barcelona, the Spanish champions take on last year’s finalists Liverpool in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League in May this season. Both sides enter the penultimate round of the season on the back on very convincing quarter final victories, against Manchester United (4-0 aggregate) and FC Porto (6-1 aggregate) respectively.

Road to the semi – final:

Barca topped the ‘Group of Death’, emerging unbeaten and occupying first place from amidst Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven. They then grinded out a 0-0 away to Lyon, and cruised to victory in the return (home) leg, with a Messi masterclass leading a 5-1 drubbing of the French side. The 2 legs against Manchester United in the quarter finals were extremely professional, with clean sheets home and away ensuring smooth sailing to their bout against current Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Liverpool have reached new heights under Jurgen Klopp this season, but away losses to each of their 3 group opponents (Napoli, Paris St. Germain, and Red Star Belgrade) had almost knocked down the English side to the Europa League in the first round itself. However, chief goal-scorer Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Alisson Becker stepped up their game to grind out a 1-0 victory to send them through to the knockout stages at the expense of Napoli.

From there, a home leg 0-0 standoff with Bayern was followed up by a brilliant away leg showing at the Allianz Arena set up an encounter with FC Porto. Liverpool proved to be too good for the Portuguese side over 2 legs, emerging winners in and across both legs.

Injury News:

Fabinho suffered an injury scare against Cardiff City, being subbed off mere minutes after entering as a sub himself, with a potential head injury. However, the injury isn’t serious, and Fabinho will very likely be available for selection against Barcelona

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain has been out for over a year with an ACL injury suffered in the Champions League last season. There isn’t a timeline on his return, but he has featured for the under 23s in a bid to gain match fitness. However, due to the magnitude of the game, I don’t expect him to start either leg.

Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have missed out a few matches due to illness, but both should be able to make the squad for the away leg on May 1st.

For Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele has returned from a hamstring tear that kept him out for a month, and is likely to be match fit in time for the 1st leg. However, he may not have regained match-sharpness by then, and will likely start on the bench.

 Predicted Starting XIs:

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Arthur, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Coutinho

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane

The main battle that has been hyped by the media includes Messi against Van Dijk. However, I personally feel that Liverpool’s tie rests on how well Fabinho is able to neutralise Messi’s movement between the defence and the midfield. Should Messi be afforded enough space between the lines, his quality on the ball and runners in behind will work in Barcelona’s favour. However, that depends on whether or not Fabinho actually starts; Jurgen Klopp has a tendency to bench him in such games in favour of the workhorse that is Jordan Henderson. An excellent battle awaits.

“Click to read: Tottenham v/s Ajax – EUFA Champions League Semi Final 1 – Match Analysis and Talking Points”

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