It’s all well and good to study the tape, to plan and prepare. Then kickoff comes and you’re actually in it, facing off against one of the best teams in the world with the game’s greatest ever player leading the attack.
Preparation can help, but the reality of it can’t truly, fully be prepared for. That was Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp’s warning ahead of the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tonight at the Camp Nou.
“It’s difficult,” Klopp said. “So many people came to Barcelona and had an idea and a plan and spoke about—‘If we do this, if we do that’—and got a proper knock. But there are a few who have really caused them problems.
“We saw the game against Real Sociedad, they did really well. Levante did well a couple of days ago. Of course, the better the opponent is, the better the competition is, the higher the stakes are, the more they are in.”
Some of their league opponents have had success, but perhaps more meaningfully to Klopp and Liverpool’s plans for this evening, there have been some European sides who have done well against this Barcelona side.
Manchester United, 26 points behind the Reds in the league, had some success when they turned up their pressing game in the quarter final. Tottenham, desperate for a result, unsettled them in the final group stage game.
Nothing may fully prepare a player for coming up against Lionel Messi and his talented supporting cast, but teams have had success against them—particularly teams that were able to press and harry and unsettle them.
“They are champions since last Saturday and now they can completely focus on the Champions League,” Klopp added. “We will face them still and I’m really looking forward to it, but it will be a tough job to do.”