Champions League Semi Final Preview: Barcelona vs Liverpool (First Leg)

Two of the most recognizable brands in global sports. The greatest scorer in the game versus the game’s greatest defender. Two former Liverpool superstars returning to Anfield now wearing the St. George’s Cross, coat of arms and Catalan flag.

Add to this the fact that in their 43-year history Barcelona have NEVER knocked Liverpool out of Europe and NEVER defeated the Reds at the Camp Nou and what you have is a recipe for one of the most anticipated Champions League Semi Finals in recent history.

Four home matches: two defeats, two draws, one solitary goal scored — 12 years ago, by Deco. It’s an angry blemish scarring an otherwise superb European record from a club that, like Liverpool, is pursuing its sixth Champions League trophy. – ESPN

Lionel Messi’s Barcelona will need to improve against Liverpool. David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Barcelona captured their 25th La Liga Title this season and Liverpool who reached the Champions League final last year and are currently in a photo finish race with Manchester City for the Premier League. Liverpool have also won 10 games in a row in all competitions.

Credit Liverpoolfc.com

It used to be a rarity for a team to score 100 goals in all competitions, but Liverpool passed that mark on Saturday and Barcelona did it back in February. Yet though both can (and do) score plenty, there’s a more patient, defensive dimension to what they do as well.

Credit Sky Sports

Jurgen Klopp only wheels out his “heavy metal” all-out press intermittently, and compared to prior incarnations, this Barca side are more safety-oriented in the middle of the park. That fact that both have outstanding goalkeepers in Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Alisson adds another layer of solidity.

Lionel Messi has scored 45 goals this season (Image: GETTY )

Lionel Messi. He’s averaging more than a goal a game (again) while playing an even bigger role than before in terms of dropping deep and creating chances for others. You can find your own superlatives here.

Virgil van Dijk. Few signings have been as transformative in recent years as the Dutchman’s arrival at Anfield in January 2018. A colossus in the air, his work in reading the game and leading a defense in which both fullbacks are often attacking at the same time is second to none.

Premier League players’ player of the year, Virgil van DijkOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Roberto Firmino. He’s a center-forward who doesn’t score that much (he has broken the 20-goal mark just twice in his career) but his prodigious movement and off-the-ball work rate more than make up for it. Between Sergio Busquets in midfield and Gerard Pique at the back, Barcelona won’t want to lose sight of him.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 29: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield on December 29, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The question is, will Firmino play? If the Brazilian can’t go, it changes a bit of what this team will do. Firmino’s hold-up play is huge when it comes to creating chances for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

The Guardian reports, Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Firmino could miss the game, but he did return to training ahead of this match.

Liverpool have been very strong away from home in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Barcelona have the greatest player in the game. It’s a coin toss of quality and young Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson will be tested by the Barcelona attack. In transition, Liverpool will counter and create pressure for a questionable Barca back four.

PREDICTION

Liverpool have the best front three in football (if healthy). Barcelona have the best player to ever play the game. Both sides will get a goal, but Liverpool’s will be vital heading into the return matchup at Anfield on May 7.

First Leg: Barcelona 1 – Liverpool 1

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