Champions League quarter-finals offered 2 quite straightforward clashes and 2 which went down to the wire. And the latter couple ended with some surprise winners.
That’s how we got semifinals which have no real favorites and promises to be very balanced but still enthusiastic.
The draw pitted two sides who aren’t shy when it comes to spending on the market. The other pair has been quite reserved and pragmatic when it comes to splashing the cash.
Barcelona vs Liverpool
The semifinal of the spenders, it could be called! Barcelona and Liverpool rarely pull back when it comes to reinforcements purchase.
The Catalan giants spent nearly 130 Mio € in the summer transfer window while their English counterpart invested little over 180 Mio €, one-third of it only on the goalkeeper, Alisson.
Surely, there are other teams who spend a lot and are not in the final stages of the competition. However, compared to other clubs left
Both had qualified quite routinely, winning home and away in the quarterfinals. So what can we expect from them?
Both teams have a defined strategy, clear identity and players capable of blowing away any tactics.
Liverpool never abandon the geggenpressing installed by Klopp ever since he joined the club. It served them well till now, even without new trophies in the cabinet, so there are no reasons not to proceed on the path set.
Barcelona on the other hand look to favor pragmatism and result since Valverde took over. Pressing high when needed but also capable to drop deep and tighten it at the back when the situation calls for it.
However, Barca still have unmatched ability to start the play from the back and patiently build offensive moves.
Liverpool’s best quality is high pressing and denying opposition time on the ball. It’ll be very interesting to see when these contradicting philosophies clash!
Champions League best goalscorer
Both teams have a stand-out talisman in attack on whom they rely to dig them out when in trouble, namely Messi and Salah. But both teams also have strong “back-up” solutions in Suarez and Coutinho on one side and Mane and Firmino on the other.
Leo is leading the Champions League scorers chart with 10 goals, while Liverpool’s trio managed 4 a piece.
With Dembele and Malcolm as alternatives, compared to Shaqiri, Origi and Sturridge, Barca has something more attack-wise.
Liverpool has distributed the goals evenly between the attackers. But as long as you have Messi, everything else is just a bonus.
Midfield area is also quite balanced but again leaning slightly in Spanish favor.
Liverpool’s trio composed of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum can out-run any opponent. However, Sergio, Rakitić and Arthur, impressive runners themselves, have an edge on the technical level.
Vidal can add some bite and intensity when required, meanwhile Klopp doesn’t have a highly skilled player to call upon. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana have a higher technical qualification, yet still not on Barca’s trio level.
Klopp, on the other hand has more players that can cover the central area (Keita, Fabinho) of the pitch but they’re all in a similar mould.
Quantity is on Liverpool’s side. But in terms of quality, Barcelona has the upper hand.
In defence both teams are somehow under-equipped.
Virgil might be the best center back in the world at the moment, but fellow central partners aren’t of the same caliber. Matip and Lovren are both good players, however, both prone to lapses of concentration. Champions League semifinal isn’t the place for such occurrences.
On the flanks first choice pair is OK, but just doesn’t set the world on fire. And replacements had next to no playing time, meaning their form is questionable.
Pique is leading the defense for years now. He’s also had his fair share of lapses, anyway, can be counted on when it matters most. Whoever stands next to him, Lenglet or Umtiti, can also be relied upon.
Similarly to Liverpool, Barcelona also has good starting full-backs but lacks reliable alternatives. Sergi might be seen as the weak link defensively, because he’s adapted to the right-back position, but offers an important outlet going forward.
Again, Barca seems to have better coverage also in this department, even without a clear understudy for Alba.
The only position Liverpool truly can match quality is the goalkeeper. Ter Stegen is widely regarded as the best on the planet. However, Alisson follows him closely.
Even if in last year’s Champions League edition Alisson, then at Roma, eventually prevailed.
Champions League home-away record
In previous rounds, the Reds played the first game at home and finished the job away meanwhile Barca on both occasions played first games as a visitor and finished the work at home.
After an abysmal away record in group stage (3 defeats and 1 goal scored, a penalty) , Liverpool won on both travels in the knock-out stage, scoring 8 and conceding 2 in the process.
Liverpool’s defence capitulated at least once on all away games (even twice in Belgrade) and Barcelona scored in all domestic fixtures. Therefore, a goal or two should be seen, most likely in Alisson’s net.
In Champions League matches till now, Barca had to pick the ball from the net only twice in 5 games. Additionally, both goals were innocuous in terms of progression.
In football anything is possible. Particularly in a semifinal, where every single moment can define the encounter and end somebody’s dream.
Despite the explosive, attention-grabbing football practised and just slightly inferior, I just can’t see Liverpool earning second Champions League final in a row.