Barcelona coach, Ernesto Valverde, has warned his players to cut off the supply line to Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in their Champions League semi-final today if they harbour hopes of making it to the final.
According to Valverde, his Barcelona players must be ready to meet the psychological demands posed by Liverpool’s playing style in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Camp Nou days after claiming their fourth La Liga title in five seasons.
Liverpool have been on a resurgence under Jurgen Klopp, with the attack-minded approach seeing the Reds surge into last season’s Champions League final, where they fell at the last hurdle against Real Madrid and seem even more relentless this season.
Valverde, who acknowledges Liverpool’s capacity to overwhelm opponents with wave after wave of attacking runs, said at a pre-match news conference: “Liverpool are a team with lots of good forwards. They have only lost one game [in the Premier League] this season against City, that shows how good they are.”
“The idea is to win and to stop them from scoring an away goal. Liverpool are a team who latch on to mistakes, so it is important to stop those.
“They are a team who try to overrun a team in 15-minute periods, so we need to avoid that.
“It’s very psychological the way they play. We saw that against Chelsea the other week [a 2-0 Premier League win at Anfield].
“In the first 15 minutes of each half they try to smother you, push you and throw everything they can at you.”
In readiness for today’s tie, Brazil striker, Firmino, trained on Tuesday after sitting out last Friday’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
And going further, Valverde stated: “Those are three players who play at a really fast pace but what is just as important as them is how the ball gets to them,” he said of Liverpool’s forwards.
“We need to win the midfield battle so Liverpool’s midfielders cannot operate and get the ball through to those forwards who can cause so much danger.”
Barca are back in the Champions League semi-final for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2015, having fallen to Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Roma in three consecutive quarter-finals.