Barcelona and Liverpool collide in the first leg of an intriguing Champions League semi-final at the Camp Nou on Wednesday (8pm, live on BT Sport).
In contrast to the other final four encounter between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool were two of the pre-season favourites to lift the trophy. Having made it this far, they remain the bookies’ favoured candidates, with Barca slightly shorter.
Barcelona have already overcome one Premier League side to make it this far. In their quarter-final, they comfortably defeated Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate, winning 1-0 away and 3-0 at home. It was an eighth triumph in their last nine two-legged ties against English opposition.
If they are to prevail for a ninth time in 10, they will need to make the most of their home advantage in the first leg. Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 31 Champions League fixtures at the Camp Nou. They have won 21, and lost just two, of their 34 European matches at home to English sides. They have lost just one of their last 87 home matches in all competitions.
Ernesto Valverde’s side secured the Spanish league title with a 1-0 win at home to Levante on Saturday. They have a Copa del Rey final against Valencia to come at the end of May as they seek to achieve a second consecutive domestic double. Valverde’s approach is a little pragmatic for some tastes, but his side’s record in domestic competition is almost without fault.
It is in Europe where they perhaps have more to prove. Barcelona won the Champions League trophy four times in a 10-year period between 2006 and 2015. However their campaign has ended at the quarter-final stage in each of the last three seasons. That is a period in which their Spanish rivals Real Madrid have lifted the trophy three times in a row. Last season, they gave up a three-goal first-leg advantage to go out on away goals to Roma.
Barca have what is comfortably the best goal difference of any of the four remaining teams, having scored 23 and conceded just six, including just one over the course of their four knockout matches to date. If they are to progress to the final, they will have to beat one of the best teams in Europe. It is one against whom they have lost all three of their previous two-legged European ties, including a pair of UEFA Cup semi-finals.
After making it through to last season’s final, where they lost out to Madrid, Liverpool have again reached the latter stages. For a while, their progression from a tough group also featuring Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli seemed in jeopardy, but they eventually came through. Subsequent triumphs over Bayern Munich and Porto have taken them to the final four.
Liverpool’s pursuit of Premier League glory is still alive, although they remain reliant on Manchester City dropping points in the final two rounds of matches to claim a first league title in nearly three decades. That despite themselves setting a relentless pace, accumulating more points per match than they ever have before and losing just once all season.
Even if they end it without a trophy to show for their efforts, this has still been a spectacular campaign. Last summer’s signings have given Jurgen Klopp a squad capable of competing at the top of their game in league and Champions League alike. Their performances in both competitions reflect that. They have allied the attacking potency they displayed last season to a much firmer defensive unit this time around.
That solidity will undoubtedly receive a stern test on Wednesday up against Lionel Messi. He was rested from the start of each of Barcelona’s last two league matches. Then there is former Reds’ striker Luis Suarez. Barcelona have scored eight times in their two home matches in the knockout rounds to date, even if the likelihood is that this encounter will be a more cautious affair given that Liverpool are the best side they have faced so far.
Our Preview’s Barca vs Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-1 on home soil last October, but their other three matches against them and Atletico Madrid, their two closest domestic challengers, this season all featured just two goals.
The most recent was a 2-0 home win over Atletico at the beginning of April. They approach these kinds of encounters in a methodical manner and a tight win in a match of few goals is a highly feasible outcome.
- Bet on Barcelona to win in a match featuring under 2.5 goals @ 4/1 with Bet365.