Champions League: Barca banking on Messi magic against Liverpool

Barcelona will aim to have one foot in the final after a gap of four years when it clashes against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first-leg at Camp Nou.

Champions League: Barca banking on Messi magic against Liverpool

It was ten years ago Alex Ferguson dubbed them the best team he had ever faced but those left from Barcelona's iconic generation still have work to do.

Three remain and when Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique line up against Liverpool on Wednesday in the first-leg semifinal at Camp Nou, they may wonder if this could be Barcelona's best chance at a sixth Champions League crown.

The Catalan club will look up to Lionel Messi against a high-pressing Liverpool defensive setup to keep its dream of a third treble alive. The talismanic Argentine is leading Europe's Golden Boot race with 46 goals in 45 games and was at his mercurial best against Manchester United in the quarterfinals.

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Having secured a eighth La Liga title in 11 years with a 1-0 win against Levante, the Spanish giant will aim to take a step towards the final by beating Jurgen Klopp's Reds.

Ahead of Wednesday's first leg against Messi's Barca, Liverpool fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have emerged as essential contributors to Liverpool's bid for Champions League glory. Neither of them have Lionel Messi's star power, but the buccaneering Liverpool defenders could play just as vital a role as the Barcelona captain.

With 24 assists between them in all competitions, England right-back Alexander-Arnold and Scotland left-back Robertson are pivotal figures in Jurgen Klopp's game-plan.

Lionel Messi has been in terrific form scoring 46 goals in 45 goals for Barcelona across all competitions.   -  Getty Images

 

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Virgil van Dijk has hogged the spotlight among Liverpool's defenders with a superb campaign that earned the Dutch centre-back the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year award. The 27-year old will be tasked with checking former Reds striker Luis Suarez's runs alongside the extremely difficult job of containing Lionel Messi.

The attacking trident of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have once again played a big role in the Reds' fortunes scoring a combined 65 goals across competitions as they remain in hunt for a league and Champions League double. Mane, in particularly, has risen to the big occasion scoring twice against Bayern Munich in the round of 16 second-leg and will be key against Barca at Camp Nou.

Previous Encounters

The clubs have met for the first time in 1975/76 UEFA Cup semifinal which Liverpool won 2-1 on aggregate.

The most recent clash between the clubs was in the Champions League second group stage in 2006/07 where Liverpool prevailed 3-1 on aggregate despite losing second leg 0-1 at Anfield.

Head-to-Head: Total - 8 | Barcelona - 2 | Liverpool - 3 | Drawn - 3

Top Scorers

Barcelona - Lionel Messi - 10

Liverpool - Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino - 4

Match will start at 12:30 am, IST, Thursday