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Barcelona-Liverpool Tactical Preview (UEFA Champions League Semis, 1st stage)



FC Barcelona must be at its best to get past Liverpool in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League, while entering the two favorites to win the match all the way.

Barça entered the competition after being confronted with English opposition. The Catalans easily sent Manchester United into the quarterfinals, but they will have a much harder time competing with Liverpool.

The Reds are not only a more talented, more cohesive and more consistent unit, but they are arguably a much harder stylistic fit for Barça.

The hectic pressure and pace of Liverpool could be a huge matchup problem for the Catalans if they are not at their absolute sharpest as they move the ball from defense to midfield.

Fitness and form

Both teams come in absolute top form in the competition. Barça comes from a routine victory that she has made La Liga champions. Although that may give rise to concerns about a hangover, there is also a huge moral boost.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are neck and neck with Manchester City in the Premier League and dismantled Huddersfield on Friday.

Liverpool has an extra day of rest and has played one game less since the previous round in the Champions League, although Ernesto has rotated more than usual to try to keep his team fresh during that period.

After recovering Thomas Vermaelen from an injury, Barcelona & # 39; s only miss Rafinha. That has been the case for a while, so it will not change Valverde's plans.

Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, and less crucial, Adam Lallana are listed as injury doubts for the Reds. But I can imagine that they will all play when they have to, especially the first two.

Barcelona is undefeated in 22 games and won 13 of the last 15. Liverpool is undefeated in 19 games and won the last 10 in a row. It is a real clash of the titans.

Team selection

The majority of Barcelona & # 39; s starting XI actually picks itself up and the three players missing the starting line-up almost always come on the pitch as substitutes.

Marc-André ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez seem to be closed, with a choice between two in every other place in the line-up.

First, should it be Nélson Semedo or Sergi Roberto starting with the right back? Semedo has the pace to get Barça to match better with Liverpool, but Roberto has more creativity and can help games with his passing.

Should we then see Arturo Vidal or Arthur in midfield? Arthur helps control the flow of the game with his metronomic passes, but Vidal offers an X factor and a player who can conveniently kill counters with his energy and tackles.

And finally, the question worth hundreds of millions: Philippe Coutinho or Ousmane Dembélé? Coutinho takes some form after he struggles through a very difficult period and wants to prove to his former team that he has made the right choice to leave. In the meantime, Dembélé should finally be completely sharp again after his injury.

The strength of Coutinho is that he is more careful with the ball, because he is naturally an attacking midfielder and can help to play tight combinations. Dembélé has that pace that Barcelona must match better with Liverpool. He can stretch defenses. He is also a risk taker, sometimes he makes what seems like a foolish mistake, but at other times he can make things happen out of nothing. Absolutely another X factor.

Perhaps there is an extra possibility for Valverde: playing with an extra midfielder. He has shown that he is willing to do it to stop other teams that face unique challenges, such as Real Betis. In that case we might see Vidal and Arthur together, while they offer a lead. Another option is to play Semedo and Roberto together.

It's the same for Liverpool, the majority of the team chooses itself. Alisson is the # 1 keeper, while Andy Robertson is unquestionable on the left back. Virgil van Dijk is perhaps their best player and his partner is probably Joel Matip.

With right back we can expect Trent Alexander-Arnold, unless Klopp wants to be more conservative and Joe Gomez wants to play there. The three in midfield could be Naby Keïta, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. Georginio Wijnaldum is an option in midfield, especially if Fabinho is not 100% or he can replace Keïta. James Milner is another player who could play a role.

The first three are certainly Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino (if fit) and Sadio Mané.

Firmino rested in Huddersfield's 5-0 scourge with a muscular problem, but it is almost certain that he will play against Barcelona.

matchups

The midfield of Barcelona, ​​especially with Arthur, will be a bit more technical than that of Liverpool. With Messi from the front line, Barça will try to dictate the pace of the game. However, Liverpool is a team that keeps the ball very well. They are not primarily a counterattack. Even in their games against Manchester City, Liverpool won this ball in one of the two games. Both times it was close. They obviously obviously rely on fast transitions and the speed of their forward line. But they are not a team that renounces ownership, sits deep and hopes to break – not even against cities like City.

ESPN reports that Valverde is watching those City games closely. One was a 2-1 win for City, and the other was a 0-0 tie that could have ended in a win for the men of Pep Guardiola, though it was not for a penalty miss by Riyad Mahrez.

Lenglet has talked about obsessively observing video, and reports say that Valverde and his staff scout Liverpool with great intensity.

Despite the fact that City got the best of Liverpool during the two games, they were very close and needed good luck to secure the results.

For Barcelona it makes a big difference how they start both halves, when Liverpool presses the strongest. They will want to be patient and not make mistakes when playing from the back.

This is not the Liverpool of last season, they are a little more considered and measured a little more. They are more comfortable in building play through ownership and take fewer risks in attacks. In short, they are more mature and more patient.

Both teams use their wing defender to create opportunities, which means that there is a risk for both teams on both sides. You can imagine that Robertson or Alexander-Arnold notch an assist as much as you can imagine that the space they leave behind is exploited by Barcelona. Or Alba or Roberto receive assistance. Or Salah and Mané who drive forward while Barça & # 39; s wing defenders are caught.

Other players will have to help. For example, the two Liverpool wingers must go back to protect the flanks, or they will use one of their midfielders on both sides to protect the flank – in particular, they must defend Alba & # 39; s flank.

For Barcelona, ​​Messi probably doesn't offer much defensive support, so the right-sided midfielder (probably Rakitić) will have to compensate and act as both an extra winger and an extra wing defender when needed.

One important battle is Van Dijk vs, Messi. By consensus we are talking about the best defending player in the world against the best attacker in the world. We could talk about their virtues all day long, but perhaps we should also acknowledge that both depend heavily on their supporting molds to help them achieve the maximum impact.

However, I would like to emphasize another fight, and that is Firmino versus Busquets. Firmino is one of the best fake nines out there, and he's great in his return to close the opponent's deepest midfielder. He can also help Liverpool in their battle for midfield. Busquets was a bit off the air in the first game against United, but he was back at his best in the return. Let's look at what shape it is.

Speaking of United, the blueprint for Barcelona & # 39; s success vs.. Liverpool might be in that tie. Barça scored three at home and kept it extremely tight in the receding leg, held the ball and allowed the Red Devils absolutely no chances. On the other hand, Liverpool sees the opening of the second stage, in which United Barça was busy and bothered, as a blueprint. They will try to operate the highline.

ESPN says their sources have told them that Valverde is willing to hit the ball long if necessary. This strategy has mixed success because Barcelona is relatively small between the front and central midfield lines. One thing I wonder is if they will try to play long passes from goal kicks. If so, one thing to keep in mind is that you can't stand sidelined for a goal kick. Placing your forward, very, very high can stretch the defense a bit. Long-term strike to the center of the park – but no longer – can be riskier because Liverpool can easily turn that into an attack.

Set pieces will be important, and Liverpool is pretty good at them. But Barcelona has the best free kick taker in the world and two major threats in the air – Piqué and Lenglet – so it cuts both ways.


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