What a mouth-watering clash we have in this blockbuster Champions League Semi-Final between two of Europe’s heavyweights. Jurgen Klopp’s men visit the Camp Nou full of confidence after dispatching Bayern and Porto in their last knockout matches. Will this task prove a bit too much as they head to the home of the mercurial Messi?
Following their demolition of Manchester United in the last round, in my eyes Barcelona have been made the rightful tournament favourites. This semi-final in my eyes looks fit to be a final and I expect whichever team comes out on top over the tie to go onto winning the competition.
Barcelona have all but won their domestic title, with a nine point lead and only nine points available for Atletico to catch them. Liverpool on the other hand are very much in a heated title race with Man City and don’t have the luxury of resting players like Barca do. With the added rest time and less pressure being forced upon them in the league, I’m expecting Barcelona to come into this match fresh and raring to go.
Barcelona, who as I had previously have the luxury of resting players, will welcome their talisman Messi back into the starting lineup. With the Argentine only featuring for 40 minutes on the weekend. They’ll also welcome back deep-lying midfield rock Sergio Busquets after the experienced Spaniard was rested at the weekend.
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is very likely to lead the line for the hosts, but the other member of the attacking trio is up for grabs. With another former Liverpool player Phillipe Coutinho going up against Ousmane Dembele for the final position of the front three.
Ernesto Valverde will also need to decide what his game plan is in midfield, whether he starts with the powerhouse Arturo Vidal or the creative flair of Ivan Rakitic. The only other change expected is academy product Sergi Roberto replacing Nelson Semedo at right back.
Barcelona have been blessed recently to have a very short absentee list, with only Rafinha, who’s been on the sideleines since November with a knee ligament injury.
Jurgen Klopp on the other hand, does have to scratch his head a fair bit, with both Brazilians Roberto Firmino and Fabinho having doubts hanging over their heads. If both are fit, you’d assume that they would both slot straight into the starting XI. Klopp has played down the doubts over both players, expecting them to both be fit to face the Catalan outfit.
Klopp will have a few headaches over his starting XI, with the likes of Joe Gomez, James Milner and Joel Matip putting their hat in the ring for a recall back to the starting lineup.
Barcelona’s dominance at home in the Champions League is undisputed, with their last loss coming almost six years ago. They also remain the only unbeaten team in the competition this season. You can get Barcelona to Win (1.90) and I fully expect them to take a lead on their travels to Anfield for the second leg.
We all know the capabilities of both teams attacks and I’m expecting goals to be at the forefront of the agenda. You can get both teams to score (1.61), with Liverpool hunting for an away goal and Barca being so dominant at home, I expect that to land. You can even go one step further and combine the selections (Barcelona Win & BTTS @ 3.50).
On a goalscoring front, I think the value lies with Luis Suarez (2.10) & Sadio Mane (3.10), with the latter being in superb form in front of goal. I’m also tempted by the Lionel Messi brace (4.00).
If you’re looking for a cards bet, I’d recommend either Sergio Busquets (2.87) or Andrew Robertson (4.00), with the discipline records resetting at the Semi-final stage, a clean slate may point towards a fair few cards.
Barcelona to Win & BTTS @ 3.50
Sadio Mane to Score Anytime @ 3.10
Sergio Busquets to be Carded @ 2.87