Barcelona will host Liverpool in the first leg of the semi-finals at the Camp Nou stadium on Wednesday. Both the European giants have won the competition on five occasions and will look to increase their tally this season.
The Catalan giants were recently crowned as champions of La Liga with their victory over Levante and they are also in the finals of the Copa Del Rey tournament. With their run in Champions League, the Lionel-Messi led side are aiming for a treble this season after previously winning the three major trophies in 2015.
Liverpool last lifted the coveted European trophy in 2005 after famously defeating AC Milan. Since then, the Kops have failed to make a mark with any major trophy and they will be striving to change that in the current season. Placed second — one point behind rivals Manchester City — in the League, they are also contending for the England’s Premier League title.
Here are five players to watch out for in the 1st leg of semifinals between Liverpool and Barcelona:
1) Lionel Messi: The five-time Balon’Dor winner will dominate all the headlines. The striker’s masterclass was too much for the Manchester United defense to handle as he scored two and assisted one to guide his side to the last four of the competition.
The Argentine international also scored the only goal against Levante which sealed the La Liga trophy for Barcelona last week. Now, all his focus lies on bringing the Champions League trophy back to Camp Nou.
2) Mohammed Salah: The Egyptian won the Premier League player of the year and the golden boot (Top scorer) award in last year’s campaign. This season as well, he is in contention to retain the Golden Boot again this season. Barca defenders are well aware that they will be facing one of the best forwards in the world.
3) Luis Suarez: The Former Liverpool man has fired in all cylinders ever since joining Barcelona is 2015. He has already won three La Liga titles including the treble in season 2015. After Messi, he is the second highest scorer for Barcelona and after his exploits in the Premier League with Liverpool, no club will know better that the Uruguayan must be contained strategically to avoid him from finding the back of the net.
4) Virgil Van Dijk: The world’s most expensive defender in football history has justified his hefty price with top performances throughout the season. He recently won the Premier League’s Player of the Season title becoming the first defender since Chelsea’s John Terry to win the award. The Dutchman is one of the key reasons for Liverpool’s top form in the league this campaign.
5) Sadio Mane: The Senegalese winger is good on and off the ball. He can create chances, he can score and he can win balls for his team when required. An all-around footballer, and a very difficult one for defenders to contain. Mane is also in contention for Premier League’s golden boot alongside his teammate Mo Salah.
Lionel Messi vs Van Dijk: Striker vs defender, La Liga’s MVP vs Premier league’s MVP, World’s best forward vs World’s best defender – this battle does not get any better.
Rakitic vs Fabinho: Croatian international Rakitic is a midfield maestro and Fabinho is a defending midfielder. The latter must figure out a strategy to contain the intricate passing abilities of the former which could potentially open up Liverpool’s defence for the hosts.
Recent Form (all competitions) :
Liverpool – WWWWWW
Possible line-ups –
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho
Out: Rafinha (knee)
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Out: Lallana (muscular)
Doubtful: Firmino (groin)