Barcelona vs. Liverpool
- What: Uefa Champions League semi-final first leg
- When: Wednesday 1 May
- Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
- Kick-off: 8pm (UK time)
- TV channel and live stream: BT Sport
- Referee: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands)
If Liverpool are to progress to the Champions League final for the second successive year they will have to get past Barcelona and star forward Lionel Messi.
The No.10 has been in superb form in the Champions League this season and scored twice as Barca beat Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. Against Premier League opposition Messi has 24 goals in 32 Champions League games.
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It’s not just Messi who Liverpool will have to keep a close eye on in the two legs, but also former Anfield stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.
Brazilian Coutinho has not had the best of starts to his Barca career since joining from Liverpool in January 2018. But he scored against United in the 3-0 win at the Camp Nou in what has been described as his best performance for the Catalans. He may start from the bench against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The BBC’s Spanish football expert Andy West writes: “With that goal, it looked as if Coutinho was finally starting to feel comfortable alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the Barca forward line, suggesting he could yet convert his talent into meaningful end product on a consistent basis.”
Barca eye European glory
Suarez and Coutinho have spoken this week about facing their old club. Uruguay striker Suarez says that winning the Champions League is Barcelona’s main objective.
He told the Barcelona website: “It’s been years since we last played in a Champions League semi-final, and we are very keen to achieve our objective.
“You can’t get distracted for a second in the Champions League, because you pay dearly for it. The atmosphere at the Camp Nou will make clear that the fans want this trophy.”
On his former team, Suarez added: “Liverpool can bring the ball out from the back. They have very good players in the midfield who can get the ball to the forwards. They maybe have a similar shape to us. I don’t think that there will be too much of a difference in style, but we are both strong sides.”
Reds pose a big threat
While lots has been said about Messi, Saurez and Coutinho, Liverpool have their own attacking trio in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
However, Coutinho has warned his Barca team-mates that the English side have much more to offer than just their strikers.
He said: “They are a great team. They are very strong mentally. I have been watching them all season and they are excellent going forward and in defence, so we will have to be very alert.
“There are important players for them but it’s not just those three [Mane, Firmino, Salah]. There are the defenders, the midfielders who are all quality players and work hard to create goals for the team. We will have to be aware of the whole team and do our jobs as we have recently.”
TV and live stream details
Wednesday’s first leg between Barcelona and Liverpool is live on BT Sport 2. The broadcaster will also show a live stream for subscribers at sport.bt.com.
When is the second leg?
The semi-final second leg between Liverpool and Barcelona takes place at Anfield on Tuesday 7 May (8pm UK time).
What the managers say
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool
“We were in contention last year, but they have been in contention for nearly 20 years. It will be so difficult, but I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity. Will we be perfect? That’s not possible. Will we make mistakes? Oh, yes. Will we suffer? Oh, yes, 100%. Will there be moments when we have a chance? Yes, 100%. I hope we will use them - that is what we will try to do. We can feel completely free to play our game. It is a brilliant team here at Barcelona.”
Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona
“Liverpool play with a great level of pressure and rhythm. They’ll be a very difficult opponent to beat. Our intention is to win, but we know the value of stopping them from scoring. They’re very strong, extraordinary up front, they press and play with a very high rhythm and pace. It’s very similar to the way that [Jurgen] Klopp played at Dortmund and he brought that to Liverpool. You can’t make any mistakes, you can’t switch off.”
Team news and possible starting XIs
Barcelona injury news
The Spaniards will be without Rafinha but otherwise Valverde has a full squad to choose from. The Barca head coach rested a number of players as they wrapped up the La Liga title at the weekend.
Liverpool injury news
Roberto Firmino missed last week’s 5-0 win against Huddersfield but the Brazilian forward returned to training on Tuesday. Klopp will make a late decision on whether Firmino can start at the Camp Nou.
Midfielder Fabinho was also in training and is in contention. Adam Lallana remains a doubt but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back available from his serious knee injury.
Possible starting XIs
How the teams could line up at the Camp Nou, according to the London Evening Standard:
- Barcelona possible starting XI: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Lenglet, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Arthur, Messi, Suarez, Dembele
- Liverpool possible starting XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Mane, Firmino
Michael Owen, former Liverpool striker, Metro: score prediction 2-2
“Barca are unbeaten in 31 home Champions League games but the Reds have never lost at the Camp Nou in four previous visits (W2 D2) and I expect Jurgen Klopp’s side to maintain that sequence on Wednesday. Lionel Messi has scored 24 goals in 32 Champions League games against Premier League opposition, but he has failed to score in his two previous games against Liverpool. How Liverpool cope with the little magician might be the key to the tie.”
Independent: score prediction 2-2
“In spite of their 4-0 aggregate win over Manchester United in the last round, Barcelona’s performances in the quarter-final led many football fans to label Liverpool clear favourites over the Catalan side ahead of the semi-final. Attempting to keep Messi quiet in his own backyard will be the trickiest test of the season so far for Virgil van Dijk - who was named PFA Player of the Year on Sunday - and for Liverpool, it’s about grabbing as many away goals as they can. If they succeed in doing that, they will position themselves promisingly for one of those famous nights of European football at Anfield in the return leg.”
Sports Mole: score prediction 2-2
“This is such a difficult match to call. It is hard to back against Barcelona at any stage when they have Messi in their ranks, but Liverpool match up well against their Spanish counterparts and seem to be strong in areas that Barca tend to struggle with - most notably attacking pace. It should be an entertaining contest whatever happens, and we cannot split the two teams.”
Barcelona vs. Liverpool betting odds
As of 1 May, see Oddschecker for the latest prices.
- Barcelona to win: 10/11
- Draw: 11/4
- Liverpool to win: 3/1
To qualify for the final
- Barcelona to progress: 8/11
- Liverpool to progress: 6/5
To win the Champions League
- Barcelona: 13/8
- Liverpool: 9/4
- Ajax: 3/1
- Tottenham Hotspur: 11/1
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