Barcelona v Liverpool: The Finals Before the Finals!

On May 1st we will get to see a UCL semi-finals match between Barcelona and Liverpool, which could easily be described as a match worthy of being played in the grand finals. The match will take place at Camp Nou, with the 2nd leg scheduled to be played in England on May 7th.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane during the press conference at the Nou Camp, Barcelona. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Every year, when the UEFA Champions League approaches the grand finals, and when we are left with only a handful of the best European teams, there is bound to be a at least one so-called “finals before the finals”, which features two exceptionally strong teams most of the football fans could imagine seeing in the finals. Last season we had Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid in semi-finals, a year before it was Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, in 2015/16 Manchester City met PSG in quarter-finals… and the trend continues. This year, however, we will be watching a match between Barcelona and last year’s finalists Liverpool, two of the strongest football teams in the world, who will meet each other in the semi-finals of 2018/19 UCL on May 1st.

Messi or Salah, Barcelona or Liverpool?

Messi or Salah, Barcelona or Liverpool? This is a question that goes through the minds of all the football fans around the globe. Will it be Liverpool, who will get another chance to prove themselves in the finals of the Champions League, or will it be Barcelona, who will get to test themselves in the finals after 4 long years? Whichever is the right answer, there is one thing we can be sure of: with the squad, these two teams possess and the importance of the match, we can be sure May 1st will be a day which will offer us 90 minutes of exceptional top tier football.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – APRIL 30: Lionel Messi of Barcelona warms up during a FC Barcelona training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match against Liverpool. On April 30, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

The first leg of semi-finals will be played at the home of Barcelona, Camp Nou, where they will hope to satisfy their fans and get themselves ahead of the Reds, before the 2nd leg at Anfield Stadium. While the motivation is there. Barcelona still need to find the right strategy to defeat Klopp and his men, as enjoying the home ground advantage won’t be enough to win here, and Ernesto Valverde knows it.

Squad-wise, both teams have exceptional players. Messi and Suarez duo can be game-changing, however, same can be said for Mane, Firmino and Salah trio. We could go and list the crucial players in each part of the field for each team, and we would get the same result. Both teams seem to be equally matched, which can only add to the quality of the football we will be watching.

While both teams seem to have equal chances to walk away from the match as the winners, the pressure is on the “Blaugrana” to perform up to par and win. We all know how strong Liverpool are at Anfield, and if Barcelona fails to grab a lead in the first leg, they could potentially end their Champions League campaign prematurely. In fact, even winning by 1 goal might prove to not be enough for Barcelona to get themselves into the finals.

Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – APRIL 30: Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona attends an FC Barcelona press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match against Liverpool. On April 30, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Then there is also one more thing for Barcelona to consider. Liverpool are not the same team as last year. They have matured as a team and are not as aggressive as they used to be. While they can still be deadly up front, Liverpool seem to have found a way to pace themselves instead of playing with high pressure, which can backfire more times than not. Then there is also the fact that Liverpool will be happy with a draw here.

While it’s Barcelona who are under pressure to win, Liverpool have problems of their own. As it stands now, Liverpool have Lallana, Fabinho and most importantly Firmino listed as doubtful. It was reported that Firmino started training with the team, but there is still a chance he will miss the first leg against Barcelona. That alone can be a huge blow for the Reds, and most importantly for their midfield, where Fabinho is just exceptional.

Will the finals before the finals live up to the hype is also a question that could leave fans disappointed. While we have two exceptional teams, who can score goals, there are also two exceptional defences on both sides, and with the importance of the match ahead of us, I do not expect either of the teams to risk too much. Still, we cannot ignore the fact that Liverpool scored 29 goals, while Barcelona managed to produce 21 in their last 10 fixtures.

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