Competition/Round: 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, Semifinal, 1st Leg
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Rafinha, Jean-Clair Todibo, Thomas Vermaelen, Jeison Murillo, Kevin-Prince Boateng (out)
Liverpool Outs & Doubts: Adam Lallana (out), Roberto Firmino (doubt)
Date/Time: Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 9pm CET, 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
How to watch on TV: TNT (USA), BT Sport 2 (UK), SuperSport 3 (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
Following a victory over Levante at the weekend to officially crown them as back-to-back champions of Spain, Barcelona return to action for the biggest game of the season: the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Liverpool. Why is this the biggest game of the season if there’s still a second leg to play? Because this one is at home, and if Barça don’t get a good result at Camp Nou they’ll have to find a way to win at Anfield, where the Reds have been pretty much untouchable this season.
Personally speaking, I could not be more terrified of this Liverpool team. I am a person who generally respects the opponent ahead of Barça games anyway, but man, Liverpool are just a different monster. Virgil Van Dijk is a one-man defensive unit who destroys attacking players week in and week out, and even though Mohamed Salah always gets all the headlines, it’s Sadio Mané who freaks me out and could have a monster two games if Sergi Roberto (expected to start both games) isn’t at his best.
This team is fantastic, and it wouldn’t be a shock or a huge disappointment if they went to the Final and knocked out Barça in normal conditions, with both games being really close and decided on details. Barça have been borderline incredible in almost every European game they’ve played this season, and hopefully they’ve saved their absolute best two games for this semifinal. It’ll be tough, it’ll be nervous, it’ll be close, and Liverpool deserve every bit of respect. English media thinks they’re Pep Guardiola’s Barça, obviously, but it’s a danger to look at their bias and start to underestimate Liverpool.
Get ready for a war. A fun war, with two great teams and the best player of all time fighting in it, but a war nonetheless. Let the games begin.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
This will be really, really, really hard, but the team looks focused and motivated: 2-0 Barça, a monster defensive performance and a Messi Special.