Hello to everyone! This is Karolina Shkolnaya with the Beautiful Game!
Here’s my prediction for the first semi-final leg of the Champions League match-up between Barcelona-Liverpool.
The fun begins! This is a match everyone has been waiting for all competition long.
But times change, as do the teams themselves, and their lineups. Past history between these clubs will have no bearing on this result, so let’s analyze this match looking at the current state of affairs.
In my opinion, Barcelona is the favorite for this contest. Although this Liverpool team is phenomenal, you cannot ignore the fact that for three seasons in a row Barça has failed to reach the Champions League final. For a club used to playing at such a high level, this is a real sore point and will make them especially hungry for a win. This will certainly be so at the Camp Nou, where the Catalans are almost automatic favorites against any opponent, and where Lionel Messi plays with an unbeatable fury.
So far this season, the biggest clubs in European football have already experienced this for themselves, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Atletico, Lyon, Inter. At almost all these confrontations Barcelona won with ease, scoring at least two goals per game (and five goals against both Real and Lyon).
Of course, this is no fairy tale, and Barcelona also has some problems with its line-up. Not every player will meet their expectations or play their absolute best, but they also have something that no other team has. This is of course the wizard Messi, who sometimes, just by himself, can decide the outcome of any match, and there is no reason for him not to so in a game against Liverpool. What’s more, the Blaugranas are now fully focused on the Champions League. They are already in the Copa Del Rey final, and they have already won La Liga.
Barcelona is well aware that playing Liverpool at Enfield is will not be easy, and even for the Catalans this game will be an extremely tense one. They want to do everything possible to be ready for that, so their goal now is to make things as comfortable as possible during the first leg at home. So far this Champions League, Barcelona is the only team that has not lost a single match. They are also unbeaten for 28 matches in all competitions. I think this game will be no exception. After all, all players are in great shape. No one is missing from the first team, and, apart from the injured Vermaelen and Rafigny, every player is available. Barcelona can approach this first game with its optimal line-up.
For Liverpool, it’s been a long time since they were in the fantastic shape they are this season. It has been a real delight to their fans, and football fans everywhere who remember their glory days both domestically and in Europe. Jurgen Klopp has created a strong team, staffed by high-class players who act like one powerful, winning mechanism in all areas of the game. They have a remarkably reliable defense and a fantastic attack – virtually any player on the pitch can score. Last year, the Merseysiders didn’t quite have enough to win the Champions League final. This season the club will be unlikely to back down from its goal.
Liverpool managed to get out of a very strong group, beating teams such as PSG and Napoli, and then comfortably (and for many unexpectedly), knocked Bayern out by outplaying them in all respects. This was followed by the match with Porto – this was a lucky draw for Liverpool, and they overcame the Portuguese club without too much effort, clearly dominating play in both legs and showing superior class.
There is one important distraction for Liverpool to be aware of. It is extremely important for the club to win its domestic league championship for the first time in 25 years. This will be a strain for the Merseysiders, since it is very difficult to maintain concentration and play at full strength against one of the best European clubs in the Champions League, and still be fully focused on first place in the Premier League. There are also fears that the Liverpool’s Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino may miss the first leg against Barcelona due to muscle problems. This is a serious loss for Liverpool’s attack. Yes, Liverpool, unlike Barcelona, is less dependent on specific players. Without Messi, the Catalans could easily surrender. An opponent only needs to close things down and move play away from their penalty area, but so far no one has managed to do that.
Of course, this matchup is really worthy of the Champions League final and the contest will feel like one. As is often the case in a first leg, Liverpool is unlikely to open up very quickly, and Barcelona will play its natural game, while trying to restrain counter-attacks.
But since these are two very attacking clubs, with great offensive capabilities and world-class players, the goal count may be higher than anyone expects. My prediction: Barcelona will not lose, and total goals scored will be three or less.