And then there were four… and the four remaining clubs in European football’s premier competition include one of last year’s finalists, a current heavyweight massively favoured to take home the trophy, an club of yesteryear legend reborn, and a newcomer to the dizzy heights of the semifinals.
Barcelona vs Liverpool Semifinals Prediction and Preview
In this UEFA Champions League Semifinals preview we try examine the complex question of which sides will meet each other in Madrid for the final charge at the 2018/19 trophy.
|Head to Head||Barcelona||Liverpool|
|All Time European Matches||Barcelona 2 Wins, 3 Draws, Liverpool 3 Wins|
|Last time they met…||Round of 16 2007; 2-2 on aggregate; Liverpool won on away goals|
|Current League Record (as at 27 Apr)||1st||1st|
|Last Semifinal Appearance||2015||2018|
|Last Season’s Performance||Quarterfinals||Runners Up|
|Odds of Interest (as at 27 Apr)||Barcelona||Liverpool|
|1st Leg Result (Draw = 2.89)||0.81||3.09|
|2nd Leg Result (Draw = 2.49)||1.85||1.48|
|Winner of Champions League||1.60 (favourite)||2.20|
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The more glamorous of the semifinals, last season’s runners up Liverpool may well be encouraged by their record against recently crowned La Liga champions Barcelona, who like Ajax, are also challenging for a treble. The English side are yet to lose to the Spanish side in knockout competition. Liverpool also have a remarkable unbeaten away record at the Nou Camp to take into this tie. The major subtext of course, is the return of former stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho to their former employers. Added to the threat of Lionel Messi and contrasted against Liverpool’s own threat of Mane, Firmino and Salah, the tie ultimately rests not on who will score, but who will handle each other’s attacking threat more effectively.
Form: Barcelona are enjoying a 22 match unbeaten run in all competitions spanning back to January. They enter the 1st leg coming off 4 consecutive wins including the title clinching win over Levante. Liverpool have accumulated an incredible 10 wins in a row, as part of an unbeaten run of 19 matches in all competitions.
Scheduling: Barcelona won La Liga with their win over Levante on the weekend, a day later than the Reds played, but won’t need to travel ahead of the 1st leg. They’ll played away to relegation threatened Celta Vigo before the 2nd leg in England. Liverpool played bottom of the table Huddersfield on Friday, giving them a day’s advantage for the trip to Spain, after which they make a trip to the Northeast to face plucky Newcastle ahead of the 2nd leg at Anfield.
Even though Liverpool may be fatigued by the idea of needing to win every game to keep Manchester City having to win their games in hand, it’s helped establish the Reds into some excellent form. While quality of opponents has been mixed, Liverpool have pulled off 10 wins from 10, with 4 clean sheets in the last 5, scoring 29 and conceding 7 on the way. Their front 3 has played its way back into form too with goals from Firmino (4), Mane (4) and Salah (5). Add the solid look and fitness of their backline and the reliable contributions of Fabinho and an improving Keita and the outlook looks excellent for the English side.
The key will be whether Liverpool can show the form that has kept them unbeaten at home almost the entire season (only Chelsea managed to inflict defeat against a substring side early in the League Cup), and manage the attacking majesty of Lionel Messi, who is a far more refined prospect than the youngster who last touched Anfield in 2007. Like Liverpool, Barcelona have also only incurred one defeat at home, and have been just as proficient in the defending numbers with 13 clean sheets in those 22 matches.
For Liverpool, the challenge resides in midfield and in the partner to Virgil Van Dijk. Should Klopp make the choice to exclude Fabinho in particular from any lineup in the tie, and the form of Joel Matip not hold up to recent standards, the chances of Messi and his teammates simply outlasting Liverpool’s attack by default increase. This tie won’t be about which side’s attack performs better but rather which side’s defence manages more effectively. And while Liverpool’s defenders have been arguably more impressive to watch than those of Barcelona, the Reds may just find that managing Messi, Suarez, Coutinho and Dembele over 2 legs may prove just inches beyond what they have in order to reach the final again. Barcelona should win, but likely with little distance.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.
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