Keep an eye on Barcelona’s tactics at Anfield and don’t presume they can’t defend
It’s been interesting to see the way Barca have managed their Champions League away fixtures this season because not all their matches have proved to be end-to-end goal feasts.
They won 1-0 at Old Trafford, drew 0-0 in Lyon and 1-1 at Inter Milan during their run to the semi-finals, and the first of those two performances were carefully managed, tactical first-leg performances played out in the knowledge that they were certain to score in the home leg.
This time it’s different, of course, because they have played at home first and there will be an exhausting and frantic atmosphere at Anfield to contend with. Liverpool will attack and have nothing to lose at 3-0 down.
But Barca have the ability to defend as well as attack, so Liverpool know they have a big test ahead. The prospect of Barca playing on the break is a frightening one, as Spurs found out in the group stage when they were beaten 4-2 at Wembley.
And as Lionel Messi proved in the Nou Camp he’s capable of anything no matter how quiet you keep him for 80 minutes.
Look out for Virgil van Dijk - he will have a point to prove
Liverpool’s PFA Player of the Year has earned plenty of press this week and having been built up so much there was always going to be a big test awaiting him in the Nou Camp; and so it proved.
There have been few questions asked of the former Southampton man this campaign but Luis Suarez’s opener was one such occasion. Should the Dutchman have spotted Suarez’s run onto Jorda Alba’s pass and cut him off?
Some pundits claimed he should. Now he will have to step up a gear for the return at Anfield and you’d expect him to do exactly that.
Not that van Dijk’s performance was all bad. But he wasn’t able to keep out Lionel Messi, either, after the ball came back off the bar and Liverpool’s defensive giant failed to react. Expect a big reaction on Tuesday.
Beware that Luis Suarez may have opened the cork on his Champions League bottle - and won’t be afraid to celebrate a goal at Anfield
The former Liverpool favourite had only scored one goal in 20 Champions League games before this match - a drought going all the way back to April 2018 against Roma - but the fear for the Kop must be that having got one in the Nou Camp, a beautifully-deft finish after running between Matip and van Dijk in the first half, that there could be more to come at Anfield. Suarez, after all, scored 82 goals in England during his spell with with the club and knows exactly what the Anfield experience is all about.
There was absolutely no question that he would celebrate it, either, given his personality. Plenty of players would have kept their celebrations under wraps against a former team, but Suarez showed what it meant to him - and didn’t mind trying to get Liverpool players booked, either. He’d do the same at Anfield, no doubt.
Liverpool need Roberto Firmino
Liverpool can take hope from the fact they will be strengthened by the return of Roberto Firmino, left on the bench here for safety after recovering from injury. And he was missed.
If there was a major weakness to Liverpool’s performance, beyond dealing with Messi of course, it was their final ball, something the Brazilian can put right. He’ll be needed to finish those hair chances too.
The honest and hard-working Georginio Wijnaldum struggled to fill his boots. It would be nice to have Naby Keita back too. He had started six of the previous seven games and scored three goals during that period after finally finding his feet in England.
But he lasted only 23 minutes in Barcelona before leaving the pitch with a groin injury and must be a doubt for next Tuesday.
Liverpool fans can prepare a welcome for Philippe Coutinho - with no feelings of regret despite this result
Coutinho’s return to Anfield in a Champions League semi-final, second leg will be an emotional one, after all he spent five years with the club and was a talisman for the Kop at a vital time in their history.
But after facing him in the Nou Camp, Liverpool supporters can also reflect that their team have moved on an awful lot since the pain of his 150m Euro departure to Barca in January 2018.
That money was well spent and has been used to build the title-chasing team of today, paying for both Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. Looking at Coutinho’s form since, and his difficulties endearing himself to the home crowd in Barcelona, there’s every reason to think that Liverpool got the good end of the deal.
So, Liverpool fans who cheered his goal against Manchester United in the last round can welcome him back ‘home’ with not a single tinge of ‘what might have been’ - especially as he was substituted in the second half at the Nou Camp having made little impact.