What Liverpool Must Do To Qualify For The UEFA Champions League Final

Champions League Playoffs Liverpool

Liverpool welcome FC Barcelona to Anfield on Tuesday night, knowing that they must overturn a 3-0 deficit in order to have any chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid.

A Luis Suarez goal was followed up by a Lionel Messi brace in the first leg of the tie, just before Ousmane Dembele missed a golden chance to finish the tie in Barcelona itself, when his shot from a glorious counter attack failed to hit the target. A 3 goal lead is particularly healthy when you consider than Liverpool did not score a single away goal, with Mohamed Salah hitting the post from 3 yards out in Liverpool’s best chance of the day.

Roberto Firmino missed the first leg with a groin injury, and from a medical standpoint, hasn’t been cleared to play any part in the return leg. Mo Salah suffered a concussion against Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday, and he too has been declared unavailable for selection by the medical staff.

Barcelona meanwhile were able to rest every single first team player over the weekend, having already won La Liga in style. It therefore seems a mismatch in terms of fitness levels, with the Spanish side at their peak and Liverpool’s tank clearly depleted.

Here’s what Liverpool must do to overturn the 3-0 drubbing at the Camp Nou and secure a berth in the Champions League final:

  • Play a back 3

While matching 3 (Liverpool centre halves) for 3 (Barcelona attackers) seems complete suicide, it is the only way that Liverpool will be able to retain enough possession in the midfield area to keep attacking. Even more importantly, it will allow their full backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to get forward without any defensive responsibility, liberating their greatest attacking threats.

  • Start Xherdan Shaqiri

In one of the most baffling sagas of this season, Jurgen Klopp has refused to start Swiss technician Xherdan Shaqiri in the vast, vast majority of his games. A very shrewd signing in the summer, Shaqiri finds himself out of favour despite his abilities and his impact off the bench. He will need to start in Mo Salah’s absence, for he supplies pace, ability to carry the ball, a tendency to shoot from distance and a good eye for a pass.

  • Neutralise Arturo Vidal

Arturo Vidal was brought into Barca’s XI specifically for his robust-ness, his physical stature, aerial ability and his upper body strength; a perfect opposite to Arthur Melo, who is a more nimble and technically gifted player. Vidal did an extremely good job winning headed duels against the likes of Mane, Wijnaldum and Milner. That has to be stopped if Liverpool are to make inroads in the Barcelona midfield.

  • Start Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez was a key miss in Liverpool’s title chase. The centre half offers quickness and agility, something which perfectly complements Van Dijk’s physical stature. If they are to play a back 3, Gomez will be indispensable in covering the runs in behind, and in covering for the marauding Robertson / Alexander-Arnold, depending on which side he plays.

  • Isolate Clement Lenglet

Clement Lengelt has been a spectacular addition to this Barcelona side. Initially judged to be an underwhelming signing, the Frenchman has been a more than able deputy for Samuel Umtiti’s spot alongside Gerard Pique. So much so, that Umtiti is now firmly 3rd choice, and if speculation is to be believed, has left Umtiti contemplating a move abroad. With Jordi Alba never fearing to make attacking runs, Lenglet was isolated a couple of times the last time these 2 met. He was forced into a tactical foul, and had to walk on eggshells after being booked for it. It is imperative for Liverpool to attack down his side and try and get Shaqiri or Mane 1v1 against him.

Liverpool will need to play the game of their season to have any chance at all of qualifying. But they must not overcommit to the extent that they have nothing left in the tanks against Wolves on the final day of the Premier League season. It truly is quite a conundrum.

Click to read: La Liga Santander 2018-19 Season Round-Up

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