It's a game that speaks for itself. No pre game hype is necessary for this one, as Liverpool take on the Spanish giants in the semi final of the champions league. It's mind boggling that this encounter hasn't been on the edge of every supporters lips for the past few weeks, but that's just a testament to how far this club has come in the past few years. It seems like a life time ago I was around me dads house to watch Liverpool take on Hoffenheim in a qualification match, sitting on the couch in a bundle of nerves, wondering if we were good enough to take the next step. That was only the beginning of last season, we now find ourselves in a position to make it to a second European cup final in as many years. Our progress has been steady since Klopp has come in, but at the same time it has been a meteoric rise. A rise which, in my opinion, has firmly placed us within that top bracket of European heavyweights. It's hard to look around these days and pick a team that you would say Liverpool would be underdogs against. Some may argue that this Barcelona team is one, I am not a part of that some. I don't fear this Barca side.
A lot has been made in the pre game build up of Lionel Messi, how good he is and what a season he is having. There's no denying that Messi is probably the best footballer to have ever played the game, he's done it for so long at the very top that you can't really debate that claim. However he is only human, and one player has never beaten a team of 11 players. Certainly not our team of 11 players. Barca obviously have threats from all over the park, some of those threats include familiar faces. But so do Liverpool. This game won't be won or lost by how good Liverpool defend Messi, it will be decided by how good Liverpool defend as a complete unit, and not just defend, but how we control the game when we do have possession. How effective we can be on the break, how clinical we will be when we have our chances, because we will have chances. I haven't seen Barcelona play this season, so I don't really know what their coach is like, how the team is set up or what their starting 11 will be. However Barca have an identity, and it doesn't matter who is the gaffer, they demand a certain style of football. That certain style of football plays right into the hands of this Liverpool side. A prime example of this is Man City under the guidance of a certain Barca legend Pep Guardiola. Last year his side was regarded as the best in Europe, they played the free flowing tiki taka football of his former Barcelona sides, they tried to play that way against the reds and were battered 5-1 on aggregate. This year he completely changed his style and approach against Liverpool, because he knew the Barca way played into our strengths. So the question is, will Valverde modify his tactics, or will their arrogance be their demise? I think he would be foolish not to, but there may be a sense of over confidence, which could actually stem from our former heroes.
What will be the reaction from these fallen saints, players who were idolised by the Kop and every red around the world. They both left in unpleasant ways, forcing their way out of the club once their "dream" club came knocking, using us as a stepping stone. Believing that Liverpool are an inferior club to Barcelona. I may have a biased point of view, but Liverpool football club is no stepping stone, we're a club that should be the peak of every players career. I believe that Suarez and Coutinho probably look at us and think, "they're a smaller club that are just doing well at the moment, they're no Barca". If that is the case, I can't wait to prove them wrong. Those players will probably say, "We've played at Anfield before, we know what it's like". Well you have never experienced a semi final in the champions league at Anfield, you didn't have the balls to stay and fight for this club to get there, but these lads did. These lads have. Don't get me wrong Luis and Phil done amazing things for our club whilst they donned the red shirt, I don't hold anything against them, but for the next two games they're our opponents, our enemies, turn coats, and I think they're in for a rude awakening.
Now I've rattled on enough about Barcelona, This game is all about the reds. Since my last article Liverpool have picked up another 3 points in the premier league with a resounding and expected 5 nil victory against Huddersfield. Not only that but 4 of our lads were named in the PFA team of the year, and big Virg was named as PFA player of the year. Normally I would have wrote individual articles on the subjects, but I was sidetracked on Monday by a certain battle in game of thrones, don't worry no spoilers here if you haven't already seen it. The Huddersfield clash was really just another example of how good this Liverpool side is. Before the game we spoke about it being a foregone conclusion, and all we had to do was show up with the right attitude and there would be no surprises. As expected thats exactly what our lads done. We got to see some more impressive performances from key players around the pitch. Keita playing another outstanding game, Gini looking like he's back in that form we seen early on in the season, Mo bagging a brace, and mane joining in on the fun as well. But most importantly seeing my main man Ox back on the pitch. Klopp really does have a selection head ache now, which is brilliant heading in to these final games. Completely different to what we saw last year, where we had to play the same midfield 3 for about 5 games straight.
So what team will Klopp pick for this one? It's obviously important for us to get an away goal to build a solid foundation to take back to Anfield, and the more the merrier. So how does Klopp envision that will happen against Barca in this tie, will it be from us having control in the game and breaking them down, or will it be from a fast paced counter. Which ever way he decides to play will determine his midfield selection in my opinion. Keita has been brilliant as of late, and Fab is probably the first name on the team sheet for me. I think this midfield duo, with the addition of Hendo or gini is probably better suited to a style where we have more possession of the ball, controlling the pace. Keita to drive with the ball at the defence and Fabinho to break up anything that comes their way in the form of a counter. The trio of Hendo, Gini and Millie, in my opinion, are better suited to a game where we look to counter. They have an endless abundance of energy, and are industrious, they work hard to repossess the ball, and are quick to spring the counter. We saw so many examples of this last season. It's such a tough one, but I think he will go with the later. The front three and back four pick themselves, and obviously Ali will be in goal.
MY starting 11 prediction : Ali, Trent, Matip, Virg, Robbo, Hendo, Gini, Millie, Mo, Bobby, Mane
Score prediction: Scored draw 2-2
Whats your starting 11 and score predictions? leave yours in the comment section below. C'mon you redmen!