Liverpool will have a gargantuan task on their hand next week as Barcelona handed them a 3-0 loss in the UEFA Champions League first leg on Wednesday.
The hosts started the game on the front foot, with former Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho coming close early on. But, the Reds took control thanks to their high press, though they would go on to blink first, as Barcelona grabbed the lead in the 26th minute, when Luis Suarez pounced on a Jordi Alba cross.
Liverpool though, should have equalised 10 minutes later, when Sadio Mane inexplicably shot over the bar when put clean through on goal by Jordan Henderson. The first half thus, ended with Barcelona holding the slender advantage, but Liverpool looked to pull back to level terms post the break, and dominated the proceedings pretty much for the first half hour of the second period.
However, James Milner and Mohamed Salah were left frustrated by the brilliance of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Salah also smashed the woodwork when facing an open goal. Liverpool’s inability to score would come back to haunt them as Lionel Messi doubled his team’s advantage in the 75th minute, scoring from the rebound after Suarez had hit the crossbar.
Messi then rounded off the win with a beautifully curling free-kick that Alisson Becker had no reply for. Liverpool thus, surrendered a huge advantage to Barcelona, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men following a promising, yet disappointing night.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
An unfortunate evening for Alisson, who did not do much wrong on Wednesday, yet ended up conceding three goals. Could have perhaps done better to deny the space to Luis Suarez for the first goal, but he stood close to no chance with either of Messi’s efforts. Distributed the ball well, though.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
A surprise inclusion ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Gomez made his first start since recovering from a long-term injury, but did not look too troubled by Philippe Coutinho. However, he was caught on his heels in the build-up to the opening goal, when Alba crossed in from his side. Offered nothing going forward, which is where Liverpool missed Alexander-Arnold.
Joel Matip: 7/10
Back into the side in place of Dejan Lovren, Matip produced an accomplished performance against the wily Suarez. Did not shy away from making tackles in dangerous areas, and was precise with them. Was assured on the ball as well, and is one of the few who can hold his head up high despite the heavy defeat.
Virgil van Dijk: 5/10
Playing one of the biggest games of his Liverpool career thus far, van Dijk seemed to have been struck by the nerves of being up against Messi. At fault for the first two goals, first letting Suarez evade him before failing to be alert to the rebound from which Messi scored. Having set high standards for himself, this was a performance unexpected from van Dijk.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
Another player who can be proud of his efforts. Showed a lot of urgency and enterprise on his forward forays, having been a constant outlet on the left flank all throughout. At the back, the Scot was robust and smart, making a couple of important interventions. Needed others around him to be a level above where they were on the night.
Naby Keita: 6/10
A heartbreaking night for Keita, who looked dangerous early on before being forced off the pitch due to a groin injury. Klopp will hope it is nothing serious.
Fabinho started off strongly, keeping things tight in front of defence and letting very little past him in the central areas. But, once Messi started running riot, the Brazilian struggled to get a grip of things, which is when he needed to be more astute. Still, one of the better performers on the night.
James Milner: 6/10
Milner was a nippy customer for much of the game, getting into dangerous areas while posing a threat with most of his deliveries from set-pieces. Took aim at goal a couple of times and was denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen on both occasions, although he should have done better with his second effort.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5/10
Wijnaldum surprisingly started in the false nine role, with Roberto Firmino not fully fit. And, it was clear that the Dutchman was not up to the task at hand, as he was anonymous for much of his outing. Looked better when installed in midfield, but by then the game was already lost. A rare off day for him.
Mohamed Salah: 6/10
The most dangerous of Liverpool players on the night. Salah had the measure of Clement Lenglet, who endured one of his worst nights in a Barcelona shirt. But, while he got himself into threatening positions, his end product was not quite there, although he did bring out the best save of the night from ter Stegen. Needed to do a bit more.
Sadio Mane: 5.5/10
Mane saw a lot of the ball on Wednesday, but there was very little he did with it. Also resorted to the easy way out of dropping with the slightest of touches, which did not help his cause one bit. The worst miss of the game came from his boots as well, as he skied his effort from close range.
Jordan Henderson: 6/10
On for Keita much earlier than he would have anticipated. Henderson though, orchestrated play well, playing first-time passes that caused a lot of danger for Barcelona. Created the best chance of the night for Liverpool, only to see Mane take a horrible effort.
Roberto Firmino: N/A
Firmino was finally introduced with little over 10 minutes left. But, it was too little too late, and he should have been subbed in earlier.
Divock Origi: N/A
Origi had very little time and opportunity to make any impact.