Liverpool v Barcelona, Champions League

Lionel Messi has lit up the Champions League this season with 12 goals

David Hollywood looks forward to the Champions League meeting of Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield, Tuesday 07 May, 8pm

Form:

Liverpool come in to this game compromised by injuries but still with hope based on their form from start to near-finish this season.

The Reds are now odds-on to finish 2019 without any silverware, on any other year they could have swept all before them.

Their one defeat in all competitions in their last ten, came against Barca in their first leg. Solace for Jurgen Klopp and co can be taken by the fact that they were the better team at the Camp Nou.

Liverpool have won the other nine games, keeping clean sheets in four of them, and scoring 27 goals along the way.

Ultimately form counts for little when facing Barcelona and Lionel Messi. To progress to this year’s Champions League final, Liverpool needed to have their best players fit and firing on all cylinders.

Unfortunately for them, and the neutral, Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino will be absent.

See Bar One Racing’s Liverpool v Barcelona betting here

Barca are in decidedly better shape in spirit, fitness and of course aggregate.

Lionel Messi pulled the Catalans through a testing first leg with a brace brimming with his customary magic, without his presence, you feel Liverpool would be nowhere near three goals off.

Ernesto Valverde’s side have dropped points in recent weeks in La Liga. This has to be seen as a direct consequence of them sealing the title well in advance of the season’s end.

In their last ten matches, there’s been seven wins, two draws and a defeat.

Their sole loss came last time out against Celta Vigo. It was apparent however that Valverde was resting his best when Thomas Vermaelen was given a start for just his ninth appearance of the season.

Seven clean sheets have been kept in their last ten games and goes a way to invalidating the constant questions over Longlet and Pique at the heart of their defensive unit.

18 goals from their last ten is a solid return. Messi has delivered seven of those goals despite only starting five.

The Match:

The first leg meeting betweeen these to sides in Barcelona was an elite-level game in every way.

Both sides attacked with intent, defended well, and delivered a barnstormer of a game. 3-0 in favour of the Spanish champions was a size-able distortion of the run of play.

Liverpool had more of the ball and more attempts on goal at the Nou Camp. That is a genuinely rare occurrence and will have served to prepare Valverde’s side for a potential onslaught at Anfield.

While it’s typically hard to make a case for any team beating Lionel Messi, it’s even harder when there’s an English team involved.

Messi has scored a total of 26 goals against the Premier League’s top six sides.

To put that into context, he’s the fourth most successful striker against those sides, including Premier League players. He’s scored more against the ‘top six’ than Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, and Robin van Persie. For a player who does not play in the league, that is just daft.

Liverpool will throw the kitchen sink and the Kop at Barca, however with their deficit and no away-goals from the first leg, they’ll be terminally damaged if they concede one on Tuesday evening.

It’s fair to say goals will be on the cards at Anfield.

Even disregarding the requirement for Liverpool to be gung-ho, Messi and his team mates average 2.4 goals per game in La Liga. Liverpool have the exact same average in the Premier League.

At 3-0, I would still have given Klopp’s men a chance had they kept their front three fit. When they spark, they can rack up any amount of goals over 90 minutes.

As mentioned earlier, Salah and Firmino are out, meaning Sadio Mané and one of, or both of, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge will have to deliver uncharacteristic excellence.

Just to compound the challenge for the home side, Barca have triumphed in 38 of the 42 UEFA two-legged ties that they won the first leg at home, and are unbeaten in all five of their CL away games this season.

I see Liverpool scoring, I see Barcelona scoring at least one and winning the tie overall. They may even nick the match itself.

Team News:

Besides Firmino and Salah, the absence of Naby Keita is another damaging blow to their side’s ambition. Adam Lallana would certainly have been welcomed on the bench or potentially starting eleven but is unavailable due to a muscle strain.

For the 1st leg victors, they will be without Ousmane Dembélé, Rafinha and Jean-Clair Todibo. None of whom would likely start this game in any case.

Verdict:

One the basis of the price alone, I would back Barcelona at 7/4. Add in to the mix Liverpool’s injury concerns and price looks better than right.

Beyond the match result I’m looking at the total goals market.

Over 3.5 Goals at 6/4.

And finally, I would recommend backing Messi to score once again.

On this occasion Messi to be last goalscorer (10/3) and have the last word. He usually does.



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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article