Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg, Nou Camp
May 1, 2019
Goals: Suarez 27, Messi 75′, 82′
How the Teams Lined up :
Ernesto Valverde opted for a 4-4-2 formation, with Arturo Vidal playing surprisingly as a wide midfielder in place of Arthur on the right. Lionel Messi played a free roaming role off Luis Suárez, while Philippe Coutinho was the left midfielder against his former side. Ivan Rakitić was chosen as Sergio Busquets’ midfield partner while Sergi Roberto started at right back instead of Nelson Semedo.
Jürgen Klopp stuck to his preferred 4-3-3 shape, but to everyone’s surprise, he played Wijnaldum as a false nine between Mané and Salah, as Roberto Firmino was only fit enough for the bench. James Milner and Keïta were chosen ahead of Jordan Henderson, who has been in fine form,and Fabinho played as the number six behind them. Another surprise selection was the inclusion of Joe Gomez at right back instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold, his first start since his serious injury in December.
Here are a few talking points from the match:
High Press and Counter press:
Unlike some of the more cautious setups we have seen from Liverpool especially against Manchester City, Klopp chose to press Barcelona high and take the game to their opponents in Camp Nou. This had a defining effect on the game. Despite Liverpool being arguably the best side in the world at doing this, Barcelona is still one of the best teams to build from the back and evade pressure. Liverpool’s brave approach produced a first half wherein both teams looked very threatening when they passed the halfway line and entered the opposing half.
Wijnaldum as No.9:
With Firmino starting on the bench,many people thought Klopp would go with a 4-4-2 diamond system, he shocked everyone by deploying Gini Wijnaldum as a false nine in a 4-3-3, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane either side of him. An interesting move by Klopp seemed to be paying off for the visitors during the early parts of the game with the no.5 pressing high and dropping deep to receive the ball but it quickly became clear that Liverpool missed Firmino. He didn’t have the movement,link up play or goal threat of Firmino, and in hindsight, it backfired spectacularly and played a key part in the result.
Contrast in end product between the teams:
The main difference was end product, with Barcelona burying the opportunities that came their way, barring Ousmane Dembele’s last-gasp sitter, and the Reds fluffing their lines constantly.
James Milner was twice denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the second of which was not a clinical enough effort, while too many crosses were either aimless, behind a man or over-hit. Salah’s late effort that somehow hit the post, after Firmino’s attempt had been cleared off the line, epitomised a desperately frustrating 90 minutes. When ties are as finely poised as this one was before kickoff, ruthlessness is everything.
Jordi Alba: Often Underrated?
Jordi Alba was proved to be a constant menace for the Liverpool right hand side and combined brilliantly with Messi,Coutinho and eventually Suarez by providing a pinpoint cross for a brilliant team goal for the hosts. Alba constantly pegged the Liverpool midfielders back and most of Barca’s attack came through the left hand side.
Introduction of Semedo:
After the break Liverpool were energised, focused, clearly intent on getting back into the match. A great spell of domination ensued, with Sadio Mane in particular continuing to rampage on the outside of Sergi Roberto and the left-channel triangle of Mane, Andy Robertson and James Milner often working overloads. But Barcelona moved first and Ernesto Valverde fixed it, a proactive switch which very much earned his team a foothold in the balance of play in the second half. Nelson Semedo’s introduction at right-back on the hour mark, for the ineffective Philippe Coutinho, sent Barca’s midfield to a flatter quartet and a more structured 4-4-2, with Arturo Vidal switching flanks and Sergi Roberto pushing into the middle line. On the other hand,you could argue that Klopp delayed in making the substitutions at the right time and questions can be posed on Why he didn’t bring on Shaqiri?
Performance Better Than the Result for the Reds:
A 3-0 defeat never looks pretty on paper, but Liverpool played well in the first half and were superb at times before Messi’s first of the evening made it 2-0 after the break. The Nou Camp crowd were clearly sensing Liverpool’s dominance as Klopp’s men came out superbly in the second half and should have found an equaliser. Sadly, the Reds’ profligacy proved to be their downfall, and in truth, they could easily have lost by more in the final minutes as they desperately searched for that all-important away goal. For large chunks, however, this was a display to be proud of, but the result is one that would happily never be spoken of again.
Sometimes it feels like there are no more superlatives left. Seriously, what else can be said about this little guy with the No 10 shirt and magic in his feet . Clearly,Messi was the difference between the two teams. The free kick by the Little No.10 was truly sublime and during the final seconds of the match,he even created a clear cut chance for Dembele,only for the youngster to fluff his lines.
Leo Messi at the biggest of Stages always deliver for Barcelona and people are still in awe of him.(even Klopp).
Liverpool on the other hand have a mountain to climb in the second leg but Liverpool never shy away when they are 3-0 down against a European Giant. Perhaps Klopp could guide the Reds to a similar sort of comeback as Istanbul 2005.
Watch the Highlights here