Last week we witnessed greatness. A below-par Barcelona side was bailed out and carried by their master, Lionel Messi. At 1-0, Liverpool was well in the game, looking like the most likely to score. Then, in stepped Argentina’s greatest ever player. A tap-in from the Argentinean was followed up with a magnificent 30-yard free kick that left Alisson scrambling.
Now the Reds face the insurmountable challenge of toppling the Spanish giants with four goals. But legend has it that Liverpool has a history of pulling off three-goal comebacks. Time for another one?
What chance does Liverpool have of progressing to the UEFA Champions League final?
Anfield the Fortress
It’s no secret that Anfield is one of the most respected and feared arenas in the sporting world. When the 42,000+ fans start yelling at the top of their lungs, there’s no team around that don’t second-guess themselves in such situations.
On many an occasion, the kop has roared Liverpool to wins and famous comebacks. The Reds are currently unbeaten in 40 games at Anfield, which is one of the best home records across Europe. Such form will give them confidence in welcoming the Catalonians to Merseyside.
Roberto Firmino started the first leg on the bench, forcing Jürgen Klopp to deploy as a Gino Wijnaldum as an ineffective false nine. Firmino’s role in this Liverpool team cannot be undervalued, he is the link between Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Liverpool’s energetic midfield.
Unfortunately, the Brazilian will be out tonight with a muscular injury, meaning Klopp will have to deploy Daniel Sturridge in that role. Effectively, playing a forward instead of Wijnaldum in that role will be an improvement and help present a cohesive attack.
Under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have been shown themselves to be a free-scoring team, however, their biggest test to date will be trying to open up a Barcelona side filled with experience. A trio of Mane, Firmino and Salah would have been backed to do so, but without two of that trio, the job has become much more difficult. Now, fringe players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana will have to have the game of their lives to cater for the loss of Salah and Firmino.
Passion x Resilience
There may be some of you reading this and laughing at the prospect of passion being a deciding factor, but there’s nothing like Liverpool passion. Jürgen Klopp has transformed the Reds from headless passion merchants into relentless pressing machines. Klopp’s men are ready at any given chance to give 100% on the pitch, fully committing themselves to the philosophy of the German.
However, recently they’ve added another element to their game. An element that has seen them transform from a good team into title contenders. They’ve added grit to their style of play, thus allowing them to grind out games when not everything’s going their way.
Against Newcastle on the weekend, the Reds ground out a 3-2 away win in a match that they didn’t look like winning. If Liverpool can take their attacking flair mixed with resilience into tonight’s game, a comeback is possible.
A full-strength Liverpool side would have a 40% chance of overturning a three-goal deficit against any side, however, a Reds side without both Salah AND Firmino vs. Barcelona? 5%.