Barcelona v Liverpool preview: all you need to know

Two of the world's most potent strike forces go head to head in a mouth-watering semi-final first leg.

Liverpool's Sadio Mané speaks in Barcelona
Liverpool's Sadio Mané speaks in Barcelona ©AFP/Getty Images
  • Teams unbeaten in all competitions since January
  • Messi has hit 46 goals in 45 matches this season
  • Liverpool aiming to reach second successive final
  • Reds sweating on fitness of Firmino and Lallana
  • Klopp: "Of the players I've seen, Messi is No1"

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UEFA.com reporters' views

Graham Hunter, Barcelona: We all know football is a team game. Barça constantly remind us that football is a team game. Indeed, when the rest of Lionel Messi's team-mates have been a little flat at this time of the year during the last three seasons, the Blaugrana have been eliminated by Atlético, Juve and Roma.

Watch all Messi's goals against English clubs
Watch all Messi's goals against English clubs

Why has the idea that Messi needs to weave his magic or Liverpool are favourites been echoing around this city for days? Because the Spanish champions are a little off the boil, and their opponents look scalding hot. Barça will need to be faultless, and Messi superb, if their wonderful home record is to be suitably preserved for an advantage to be taken to Anfield.

Matthew Howarth, Liverpool: Defeats in Naples, Belgrade and Paris left the Reds on the brink of group stage elimination back in November, but Jürgen Klopp's side have been ruthless away from Anfield during the knockouts. Liverpool have shown they belong among Europe's elite and will not fear the prospect of the star-studded Spanish champions, who can expect a much sterner test of their tournament credentials than Manchester United provided in the previous round.

Roberto Firmino faces a late fitness test
Roberto Firmino faces a late fitness test©Getty Images

Possible line-ups

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suárez, Coutinho
Out
: Rafinha (knee)

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Out: Lallana (muscular)
Doubtful: Firmino (groin)

Key battle

Key man? Sergio Busquets
Key man? Sergio Busquets©Getty Images

How to stifle Busquets: In a contest as epic as this, there will be key battles all over the pitch, right across at least 180 minutes. Most analysts will fixate on Messi v Virgil van Dijk, others on the rampaging of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson matched against the high positional play of Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto.

However, Liverpool will be crystal clear that when Sergio Busquets functions well, Barcelona flow. They also know that the brilliant Catalan has to be pressed, harassed and robbed of the ball for the Reds to flourish. How they do that, who does that and which midfield battalion comes out on top will go a very long way to determining who's playing in the final on 1 June.

Where to watch

Fans can find their local UEFA Champions League broadcast partner(s) here.

Form guide

Previous Champions League meetings
Previous Champions League meetings

Liverpool
Last game: Liverpool 5-0 Huddersfield Town (26/04)
Form: WWWWWWWWWD

Barcelona
Last game: Barcelona 1-0 Levante (27/04)
Form: WWWWDWWDWW

Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona coach

Valverde is eager to 'de-dramatise' things
Valverde is eager to 'de-dramatise' things©Getty Images

Our intention is to win, but we know the value of stopping them from scoring too. We have to play two good matches. They latch onto mistakes and can overrun you in 15 minutes – we need to stop them doing that. The first 15 minutes of each half are important, that's when they try to push you, smother you and throw everything they can at you.

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager

A draw would not be the worst result in the world. So many people have come to play Barcelona with a plan and then got a proper knock. We saw the game against Real Sociedad [last weekend], they did well; Levante did well [on Saturday], but Barcelona won. Messi said before the season he wants to bring back this cup and that sounds like a threat to all of us!

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