herald

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Damage has been done and can't be repaired without A-list stars

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge. Photo: Reuters

If Jurgen Klopp had the luxury of picking a full strength team for tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona, I would give them a fighting chance of turning around the 3-0 deficit that was cruelly inflicted on Liverpool at the Nou Camp last week.

The trouble is, the side who will go into battle in front of what will be a raucous Anfield will be a long way short of Liverpool's best so, for that reason, their chances of mounting one of the great comebacks in Champions League history look forlorn.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino will be absent for a night that could have been very special in front of a crowd that creates a better atmosphere than any other on occasions like this but not even the incredible home support will be enough this time.

I would fancy this magnificent Liverpool team to score three or four goals against any opposition, with the front three of Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane hard to stop when they click into top gear.

Yet we have seen time and again that the back-up players Klopp has at his disposal lack the A-list quality required when an assignment is as tough as this, so it is hard to see how the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge will plug the gaps that will be in the team this evening.

Inspire

Being 3-0 behind at half-time - which is effectively how we can look at this tie against Barca - should inspire Liverpool, as we all remember what happened when they were in that position in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan.

That game in Istanbul was lost, it was impossible for Liverpool to recover - and yet they found a way to get back into the tie and win the trophy in glorious fashion.

From the evidence of the first leg of this season's semi-final in Barcelona last week, Klopp's side are more than a match for their opponents in this tie and I would suggest they may be a step or two ahead of them, man for man.

Of course, Barcelona have one man in their team who has been better than anyone else in world football for as long as most of us can remember, with Lionel Messi's majestic performance in the first leg taking the game away from Liverpool as they missed a succession of chances.

It could have been so different - if Sadio Mane and a few more of Klopp's players had been more clinical at the Nou Camp, this tie could have tipped in Liverpool's favour.

Yet the final outcome leaves the home team needing snookers tonight and it is hard to see the Reds getting them.

It was hard to know what to think as the final whistle sounded on the first leg of the semi-final as Liverpool had turned in a great performance, created chances to score two or three away goals and yet they finished up with nothing.

Chance

Even a 3-1 defeat would have given them a chance to come back as an away goal would have made the task a little more realistic, but I can see Barcelona scoring at least once tonight and that will then mean Liverpool need to get five.

With Salah on top form, Firmino linking it all together and Mane finishing his chances, Liverpool would have fancied their chances of beating Barcelona over two legs, but the damage done in Spain last week will prove to be too serious to repair.

Despite that, I have nothing but praise for a Liverpool team which has ensured the Premier League title race will continue until the final weekend of the season with another battling victory against Newcastle on Saturday night.

Just when it seemed as if the relentless battle with for the title with Manchester City was coming to an end, Klopp's clearly jaded side came up with another goal to keep the story running until next Sunday and anyone who suggests this season has been a failure if Liverpool do not win a trophy is talking nonsense.

Heart

This is a truly great Liverpool team which has shown class, heart, guts and passion over ten long months and they clearly deserve to win something at the end of it all.

It looks increasingly likely that they will not get the silverware they deserve, but they have been a credit to the club and the famous badge on their jerseys this season.

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