Liverpool put their Premier League title fight to one side on Wednesday as they prepare for the small matter of a European semi-final against Barcelona. With so much focus on the fight for honours on a domestic front, this game might have crept up on the Reds as they head to Spain for the first leg of the last-four encounter.
If they have been distracted by the Premier League then Liverpool will need to switch on quickly if they are to reach a second consecutive Champions League final. Barca head into the match having wrapped up the La Liga title at the weekend, their advantage over the rest of the field having been so large for so long that they have been able to keep Lionel Messi fresh for this tie.
Liverpool arrive at the Nou Camp having not lost in four previous visits but the Blaugrana’s recent form at home makes for grim reading for Reds supporters. Barca are unbeaten at home in their last 31 European matches, scoring three or more in seven of the last 10 Champions League games at the Nou Camp.
Given their incredible form on their own patch and with Liverpool having a produced a mixed bag on the road in Europe – losing all three away group stage matches before triumphing at Bayern Munich and Porto in the knockouts, a Barca win offers value.
Messi has never managed to score against Liverpool but could put that record straight on Wednesday, the Argentine having netted 13 in his last 11 appearances, including a brace against Manchester United in the last round of the Champions League.
Liverpool’s defence isn’t as tight as it was either, keeping just four clean sheets during their ongoing 10-match winning run.
Barcelona have won four of the last five matches at home to nil but the quality of the opposition has been questionable at times and the Reds can breach their backline.
Ernesto Valverde likes his full-backs to push high up the pitch and Liverpool’s pace on the counter means they should get chances to expose the Spaniards if they can steal the ball back.
With the Reds fancied to grab at least one precious away goal, who are the candidates to get their names on the scoresheet? Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have all got four goals in the Champions League this season so all three pose a threat.
Mane has scored 15 goals since the turn of the year and has netted in each of Liverpool’s away knockout matches so perhaps has the edge on the rest. He’s 9/4 to score anytime, as is Salah, who has rediscovered the scoring touch in recent weeks.
The Egyptian has five in his last six appearances for the Reds and gets the nod to be the hero for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
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