Liverpool Opinion: Alisson was the unsung hero in the Reds’ stunning 4-0 victory over Barcelona at Anfield
Liverpool stunned Barcelona 4-0 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals at Anfield on Tuesday night, as braces from Georginio Wijnaldum and Divock Origi propelled the Reds to their second successive final of the competition with a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.
It was always going to be a daunting task for Jurgen Klopp’s side to overturn a 3-0 deficit against the La Liga champions, made even more difficult by the absence of Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah up front.
The Reds, however, managed to defy the odds and put up a remarkable performance against Ernesto Valverde’s side at home, which was reminiscent of Rafael Benitez’s side’s dramatic comeback in the 2004-05 Champions League finals against AC Milan.
Liverpool needed an early goal to put Barcelona on the backfoot and they managed to get one back through Divock’s Origi’s opener just 7 minutes into the game. A horrible piece of defending from Jordi Alba allowed Henderson to get inside the box and call Ter Stegen into action before Origi tapped in the rebound to make it 1-0, sparking a ray of hope amongst the raucous Anfield crowd.
Barcelona adopted a defensive approach and looked far from their best but they did create plenty of chances in the first half. Alisson kept out Lionel’s Messi’s powerful near post strike before denying the magician once again to keep the tie alive.
Philippe Coutinho was the next to test Alisson but the Brazilian was equal to the task and kept his international teammate at bay with another sharp save. Jordi Alba had a golden chance to draw level in first-half injury time but Alisson once again saved Liverpool’s demise by coming off his line to block the Spaniard’s goal-bound attempt.
Liverpool were forced into making a tactical change in the second half, with Andrew Roberton’s injury prompting Klopp to shift James Milner to right-back, while Georginio Wijnaldum came off the bench to play Milner’s role in the midfield trio. That change titled the tie in Liverpool’s favour, as Wijnaldum scored a brace in a space of two minutes to draw the Reds level on aggregate with Barcelona.
Trent Alexander Arnold came up with an inch-perfect delivery from the right to set up the Dutchman, who caught the opposition’s defence off-guard with an intelligent late run.
Xherdan Shaqiri was the provider for Wijnaldum’s second and Liverpool’s third on the night, as the Swiss international delivered another delicious ball into the area for the Dutchman to head home from close range.
Liverpool were in no mood to take the tie into extra-time and they continued to play a high defensive line. Messi threaded a wonderful through ball for Luis Suarez, who ran clear through on goal, only to be denied by another fine save from Alisson.
Liverpool’s No.1 between the sticks was once again in the firing line when Ivan Rakitic’s sumptuous lobbed pass found Messi’s run behind the backline but the Brazilian put his body on the line to stop Barcelona from getting the crucial away goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold justified his inclusion once again and showcased wonderful awareness and high footballing intelligence to set up Origi’s winner with an unorthodox delivery from a corner kick.
Liverpool capped off a fine display at home and completed arguably one of their best ever comebacks in their footballing history. It was a very compact team performance from the Reds that spoke volumes of their character and resilience but the fans have every reason to be divided in their opinion when it comes to the star player of the night.
While some might say that Wijnaldum and Origi were the men who mattered the most, others might be tempted to recall the kind of positive impact that Alexander-Arnold had down the right flank. However, not many would recognise how important a role Alisson played in goal for the Reds on a dramatic night at Anfield.
As a result of Liverpool’s extravagant pressing and high defensive line, Alisson was constantly in the firing line and he made a number of key saves to deny Messi, Coutinho, Suarez and Alba.
The Reds would probably have conceded 4 or 5 on the night had it not been for Alisson’s heroics in goal. The Brazilian was a picture of reliability at the back for Liverpool and it was his presence that allowed the centre-backs and the full-backs to press higher up the pitch.
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Winning the Premier League might not be in Liverpool’s hands any longer but few would argue that Jurgen Klopp’s side will be the outright favourites in the Champions League finals irrespective of whether they face Ajax or Tottenham Hotspur.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Man City: Preview, Team News, Prediction and more
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Man City: Preview, Team News, Predicted XI and Score Prediction
With Liverpool’s 3-1 triumph over Newcastle United stretching the gap to five points at the top of the table in the Premier League after five rounds of fixtures, Pep Guardiola’s men now turn their attention to the UEFA Champions League.
The reigning English champions are all set to kick start their European campaign with a trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk, an opposition they should be quite familiar with after being drawn together with the Ukrainian heavyweights for the third time in a row.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time in the competition that two teams have been drawn together in the same group for three successive years since Ajax and Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Despite their dominance on the domestic front over the past decade, Man City have failed to conquer the UEFA Champions League and the Cityzens will be hoping to make a strong statement at the biggest stage of it all this time around, having crashed out of the competition in the quarter-finals against Tottenham Hotspur last year.
Drawn along with Shakhtar, Dinamo Zagreb and newcomers Atalanta in Group C, progression to the knockout stages is not expected to be a big problem for City but Pep Guardiola will be hoping for his side to return to winning ways on Matchday 1 after a shock defeat against Norwich this weekend.
To that end, the record books speak very much in favour of the English champions, with City having won three out of their last four European meetings with Shakhtar Donetsk, scoring a total of 12 goals and conceding only twice in those fixtures.
City are the outright favourites to come away with all three points on Matchday 1, although playing in front of a raucous home crowd in a hostile atmosphere in Ukraine could prove to be a challenge for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Aymeric Laporte’s injury continues to be a major headache for Pep Guardiola and it remains to be seen if the manager opts for a makeshift backline after the defensive debacle against Norwich at the weekend.
Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane are both ruled out for the clash and the travelling fans might get to see Guardiola rotating his squad and handing an opportunity to Phil Foden in place of veteran David Silva, who started in the Premier League on Saturday.
Fernandinho hasn’t had too much to do this season but the Brazilian is likely to return to the eleven to face his former club on Wednesday if the manager switches back to his preferred 4-3-3 system.
Summer recruit Joao Cancelo has only played a single minute in the Premier League but he might get a chance to impress Guardiola in the Champions League.
Ederson Moraes, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Man City
Despite this being an away game for the Cityzens, their immense quality and depth must help them get through this fixture without much trouble.
[Image] Predicted 4-3-3 Liverpool XI to face Napoli – can the Reds begin their Champions League defence with a win
Predicted Liverpool XI to face Napoli in the UEFA Champions League
Liverpool preserved their perfect record in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday, with those three points taking the Reds five points clear of Man City at the top of the standings.
Jurgen Klopp is now set to turn his focus to the UEFA Champions League and the reigning European champions will kick start their campaign with a trip to Napoli on Tuesday night.
Liverpool lost 1-0 away at Napoli in the group stages of the competition last year when they were drawn alongside the Serie A heavyweights, and the Reds will be alive to the possibility of a tough test once again this time around, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side currently in a decent run of form in the Serie A.
Divock Origi twisted his ankle against Newcastle on Saturday and he is likely to be unavailable for the midweek clash, while Alisson Becker (calf), Naby Keita (groin) and Nathaniel Clyne (knee) are all ruled out.
The Spaniard has filled in Alisson’s boots quite well between the sticks and he is likely to continue in that role on Tuesday.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)
The youngster was outsmarted by Jetro Willems on Saturday and he will need to watch his feet against a potent Napoli attack.
Virgil van Dijk (CB)
The Dutchman is an undisputed starter for Liverpool, week in week out, and there are hardly any doubts regarding his selection in the eleven.
Joel Matip (CB)
The Cameroonian international has done a decent job for the Reds at the heart of the defence and he will be expected to continue his good work.
Andrew Robertson (LB)
The Scotsman was at the top of his game in the Premier League this weekend and Liverpool will need him to deliver the goods once again on Tuesday.
The former Monaco man has established himself as one of the mainstays of Liverpool’s midfield, with his ability to break up the play and composure to hold things together indispensable to the Reds.
James Milner (RAM)
The former England international has started only once in the Premier League this term but Klopp is likely to rotate his team on Tuesday and his experience could come in handy on the European stage.
Jordan Henderson (LAM)
Wijnaldum started against Newcastle in the previous outing, so the Englishman could be amongst the starters against the Italian giants.
Sadio Mane (RW)
The Senegalese international is currently in red-hot form after bagging a brace in the Premier League and Liverpool will bank on him to fire on all cylinders against Napoli.
Mo Salah (RW)
The Egyptian wizard is an undisputed starter for Liverpool and he will be keen to start his European campaign on a high.
Roberto Firmino (ST)
The Brazilian came up with a few moments of wizardry to guide the Reds to victory in the previous outing and he continues to be one of the key components of their forward line.
[Image] Predicted 4-2-3-1 Tottenham XI to face Olympiacos – can Spurs start UCL campaign with a win?
Predicted Spurs XI to face Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League
Mauricio Pochettino now turns his attention to the UEFA Champions League, with last year’s finalists set to kick start their European campaign this time around with a trip to Greece to face Olympiacos on Matchday 1.
The Lilywhites find themselves drawn alongside Red Star Belgrade, Bayern Munich and Olympiacos in Group B and Pochettino will know that three points on Matchday 1 could go a long way towards ensuring qualification to the last 16 from what looks like a tricky group on paper.
Olympiacos booked their berth in the group stages of the competition with a victory over FC Krasnodar in the playoffs and they will be looking to outwit Spurs in front of a raucous home crowd on Wednesday.
Pochettino will be without the services of his compatriots Giovani Lo Celso (groin) and Juan Foyth (ankle), while Kyle Walker-Peters and Davinson Sanchez are on the comeback trail from their spells on the sidelines.
With a difficult trip away to Leicester City coming up on Saturday, the manager might rotate his squad and opt for a few fresh faces to start against Olympiacos.
Hugo Lloris (GK)
The Frenchman has been a figure of reliability between the sticks for Spurs this season and there are hardly any questions over his role in goal.
Serge Aurier (RB)
The Ivorian put in a solid all-round performance on his return to the playing eleven against Crystal Palace this weekend and he certainly deserves another start.
Toby Alderweireld (CB)
The Belgian hardly had anything to do in the comprehensive 4-0 victory over Palace but he has to be at the top of his game to cope with a potent Olympiacos attack.
Jan Vertonghen (CB)
Sanchez was not even in the matchday squad for the Premier League game against Palace and the veteran might continue alongside his compatriot at the heart of the defence.
Ben Davies (LB)
The Welshman is yet to start a Premier League game this term but Pochettino might want to give Danny Rose a bit of a breather for the midweek clash.
Tanguy Ndombele (CDM)
The club-record signing came on as a substitute in the Premier League on Saturday but he is likely to be in line for a starting role in the Champions League.
Moussa Sissoko (CDM)
The Frenchman has established himself as one of the mainstays of Tottenham’s midfield over the past twelve months and his work rate and well-rounded attributes are indispensable to the team.
Heung-min Son (LW)
He returned to form with a brace against Palace and Spurs will need him to make a big impact once again on Wednesday.
Dele Alli (RW)
The Englishman didn’t come off the bench in the Premier League victory over Palace but he is likely to be amongst the starters for this one.
Christian Eriksen (CAM)
Spurs will once again rely on their influential playmaker to pull the strings from a No.10 role and he has so often proven himself to be the difference-maker for the Lilywhites.
Harry Kane (ST)
Spurs will need their indispensable weapon in the final third to fire on all cylinders if they are to come away with a positive result from the trip to Greece.
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