Barcelona vs. Liverpool
| Wednesday, May 1 |
Champions League | Camp Nou
8PM BST / 3PM EST
Barcelona. Liverpool. For a chance to go to the final. This is the kind of matchup you dream on in the Champions League. It’s the kind of match that makes the competition worthwhile. And much like some of Liverpool’s other recent opponents their Champions League runs over the past two seasons, clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, it is a clash of titans who both have a deep history in the competition.
In this case, 10 European titles are shared between the Catalan giants and the Reds from Merseyside, won by a list of star players too long to mention who have come through the ranks of both teams. For the neutrals and the supporters alike, it’s a pairing to relish.
From Barcelona’s perspective, the tie puts them up against a Liverpool squad that has not been dominant during the period that has seen the Blaugranes enter a Golden Age. While much has changed since the days of Pep and Xavi, the team still boasts one of the most recognizable and talented squads in all of Europe, headed of course by Lionel Messi. The team will also be entering the tie on a high as they secured La Liga with a win over Levante on the weekend.
Liverpool, meanwhile, aren’t quite the upstarts some might make them out to be. Aside from the historical record of the club in Europe, this particular iteration of Liverpool has now made it into the semis of the Champions League in successive seasons. And while they may not have Messi on the books, the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane is among the world’s best. Coupled with Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker, this team has a clear run of world class quality running from front to back.
More importantly, Liverpool have in Jürgen Klopp the most experienced and renowned coach left in the competition. The power of the gaffer to exert his tactical will shouldn’t be underestimated and will undoubtedly play a role here and, on that front at least, Liverpool appear to hold a potentially valuable advantage.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Mané, Firmino, Salah
It’s unlikely that Liverpool will roll out a different look here, and Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3 with his most-trusted players should be expected, with perhaps the only questions being which midfield he will choose to start at the Camp Nou. If Fabinho comes in to hold the six, it would allow Wijnaldum and Henderson to provide an exceptionally stable midfield base—though it’s also possible Henderson is in the six with Milner’s muscle deployed ahead of him.
Whoever starts, the key in midfield will be holding onto the ball, cycling possession, and trying to work the inevitable openings as Barcelona push forward will be the goal, as well as providing the kind of defensive solidity Liverpool’s fullbacks count on in order to make their forward runs.
The backline, meanwhile, looks fairly sorted, and on recent form Joel Matip appears a lock to start this week—though it wouldn’t be surprising if Dejan Lovren is rotated back in on the weekend to face Newcastle in the league. And lastly, while Roberto Firmino’s status is still unclear, the widespread expectation is that he will play, and Klopp seemed positive when speaking about him following the Huddersfield match.
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Assistant referees: Mario Diks, Erwin Zeinstra (NED)
Kickoff is set for 8PM BST/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.