Barcelona take a three goal lead to Anfield this Tuesday night as they face Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League semi final tie.
Ernesto Valverde’s men were defeated 2-0 at Celta Vigo over the weekend, though the result is somewhat meaningless from their point of view?, the Catalans having already wrapped up their eighth La Liga crown in 11 years. They go into this match with a sizeable advantage courtesy of a Lionel Messi brace and a goal from Luis Suarez against his former side.
The Reds kept their title aspirations alive with a gutsy 3-2 victory away to Newcastle United on Saturday night, with Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi getting on the scoresheet in a crucial victory.
Here’s the side Valverde could field to finish the job on Merseyside.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – When ?Liverpool were hammering on the door in Catalonia, ?Barça
Sergi Roberto (RB) – Defensive diligence is the name of the game for Valverde; keep the likes of Sadio Mane quiet and they will reach the final. With that being the case, the reliable Roberto may get the nod ahead of the fleet-footed Nelson Semedo.
Gerard Pique (CB) – La Liga has been privileged to have one of the finest centre-backs in world football grace its pitches. Oozing class and cutting an imposing figure, Pique has matured into an accomplished defender since leaving ?Manchester United.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – Pique may be one of the best in the business, but his partner Lenglet is developing into an equally adept player in this Blaugrana backline, earning a place in Valverde’s XI ahead of World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 17 assists this campaign tells you everything you need to know about this rapid, brilliantly-effective full-back. He has a superb end product and must be an absolute joy for the forwards to play with, such is his crossing ability.
Sergio Busquets (CDM) – An understated playmaker, Busquets has spent much of his career with Barcelona in the shadows of masterful duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Now, however, Valverde has put him centre stage, offering the Spaniard the chance to orchestrate from deep.
Ivan Rakitic (RCM) – The Croatian has had a successful time at the Camp Nou after switching from Sevilla in 2014, winning the ?Champions League in his first year at the club. he is now an integral part of the possession-based brand of football
Arturo Vidal (LCM) – Valverde will need a warrior for what promises to be a thrilling battle between two heavyweights of the game and Vidal is that fighter. The Reds play at an exhaustingly high tempo pace, particularly in the middle of the park. Vidal will be tasked with bringing the energy to his side’s midfield, incessantly hounding the opponents.
Lionel Messi (RW) – If you haven’t seen ?Messi’s exquisite second goal in the first leg, go watch it now. Sublime, marvellous, a thing of beauty – there are an infinite number of ways to describe what was a flawless free-kick from the flawless footballer.
Philippe Coutinho (LW) – The Brazilian has had an underwhelming season, netting just five times and grabbing two assists in 33 league appearances. He will be hoping he can rediscover his form of yesteryear against his former teammates.
Luis Suarez (ST) – A minor injury has threatened to prevent the Uruguayan from making his Anfield return, but his daring attitude is likely to see him overcome a slight niggle. Could Suarez come back to haunt the team he so nearly won the ?Premier League with in 2014?