Barcelona and Liverpool have won the Champions League five times each and would be locked in a titanic contest for the chance to have a tilt at the sixth today. The match would be one of contrasting styles as Barcelona would look to monopolize possession playing their traditional tiki-taka style while Liverpool would be looking to break and hit on the counter. Barcelona has found the going easy against English sides in recent years, beating the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham easily in this year’s edition of the competition. Liverpool, their opponent in this encounter would, however, be a different proposition altogether and Barcelona would have to be on guard against the dangerous English side. The Camp Nou, venue of the match has been turned into some sort of fortress as Barcelona has only lost once there in the last ten years.
Barcelona will be buoyed by the latest of its La Liga triumphs, sealed at the weekend with a victory over Levante. A Copa del Rey final awaits against Valencia on the 25th of May, but before then there’s the small matter of negotiating a passage into the Champions League final. Led by the mercurial Lionel Messi, the top goal scorer in this season’s Champions League with 10goals, they would fancy their chances of making it. Ernesto Valverde has a full squad at his disposal and would be spoilt for choice in the attacking department. The big puzzle is who to deploy between Liverpool’s ex-talisman, Philippe Coutinho and fit-again Ousmane Dembele to complement Luis Suarez and Messi in the attack. The irrepressible midfield trio of Busquets, Rakitic, and Arthur would hope to keep things ticking over nicely in midfield and screen the defence and goalkeeper Andre Ter Stegen.
Liverpool is still embroiled in a who-blinks-first contest with Manchester City for the Premier League title. On 91points already, a tally that would have been enough to secure the title in most other seasons, they are second and a point behind City with two games to spare. This may serve as a distraction as Jurgen Klopp’s side battle to make it two Champions League final appearances in a row. They have plugged their Achilles’ heel from last season’s final with the world record fee buy of goalkeeper Allison Becker. Protected by a defence ably marshalled by the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year, Virgil Van Dijk, a solid base is in place to unleash the devastating force that the attacking trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino represent on the opposition.
Barcelona has won eight of its last ten games without a single loss. They have been devastating at home in the Champions League as well, four wins out of five games tell the story better. The likes of PSV, Inter Milan, Lyon, and Manchester United have been blitzed with a total of fifteen goals scored at the Camp Nou. The desire to repeat their treble triumphs of 2009 and 2015 will be an added incentive for them to go all out today to grab a hefty lead to take to the second leg.
Liverpool has been in a similarly rich vein of form, winning nine of its last ten games in all competitions. After a patchy away campaign in the group stages that saw them lose all three games on the road, they have found their range in the knock-out rounds. Impressive victories over Bayern Munich and Porto are indicative of the turnaround in fortunes that their away form has undergone. The question, however, is, will it be enough to stave off the threat of Barcelona?