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Lightning does strike twice for Barcelona

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Barca were well beaten by Liverpool on the night

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

There’s no dressing this one up.

Barca were pathetic on the night against a Liverpool side without two of their best forwards. Devoid of ideas for long periods, the visitors only fleetingly looked like scoring.

The inquest has already begun as to who should carry the can for what can only be described as one of Barcelona’s most crippling defeats of the Messi era.

Worse than Roma? Easy to say yes in the immediate aftermath, but let’s not forget this match came 24 hours after Liverpool had watched Manchester City almost certainly achieve the win that will see them retain their Premier League title.

And yet, Jurgen Klopp still managed to motivate his players to a sufficient enough extent to overhaul Ernesto Valverde’s men.

After Ousmane Dembele’s late miss in the first leg, suspicions amongst cules centred around whether it would come back to haunt us… which it did in spectacular fashion.

And let’s be honest, if the Reds had needed five on the night, with the belief and spirit that they showed, in stark contrast to Barcelona, meant that they more than likely would’ve got them.

Lightning does evidently strike twice and question marks may well be asked concerning Valverde’s position now.

There was no bravery in his selection, and tactically he offered very little.

As has happened on occasions before, one has to question why nothing was changed until Liverpool were back in the tie at 3-3 and Barcelona were, for all intents and purposes, chasing the game and singing to Liverpool’s tune rather than setting the standard themselves.

But to pin it all on him isn’t fair either.

Jordi Alba was culpable throughout the 90 minutes, and the less said about Philippe Coutinho - again - the better. Tackles were mistimed or not made at all, possession - at the core of our style of play - was ceded far, far too often.

Messi tried his hardest, but shorn of any real support, it’s hard to be overly critical of a captain in a defeat which will hurt him every bit as much as any of the finals he’s lost for Argentina.

In Arturo Vidal, Barcelona did at least have one player who was willing to go to war for the cause, and his disappointment at being hooked again by Valverde was evident. He at least showed the character and desire one expects of players who pull on the shirt.

In the aftermath, the most galling thing for all Blaugranes is that everything was all set up perfectly for Barça.

League title secured, complete rest during the weekend prior to the match whilst their opponents would play an exhausting 90 minutes at St. James’ Park against Newcastle, three goals ahead in a tie against a side shorn of three definite starters… treble talk wasn’t without foundation, however premature that seems now.

Did complacency play a part again? It’s hard to argue against it, and all of a sudden, the Copa Del Rey final takes on particular significance.

However, in Valencia, a club celebrating their centenary, they’ll find an XI just as motivated as Liverpool were.