Liverpool are set to welcome Barcelona to Anfield in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals. The visitors are in control of the tie after a 3-0 win in the first leg at Camp Nou.
Now, Liverpool are known for incredible comebacks and will not surrender until the second leg is done. Hence, Jurgen Klopp’s men will look to give their best shot and make the impossible happen.
The visitors are close to full strength with Ousmane Dembele the only potential doubt. Meanwhile, the home side are set to miss 2 out of their famed front 3 in Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, who are nursing a muscle and a head injury respectively.
Thus, the Reds have a massive task on their hands. However, this does provide a few others with the opportunity to step up.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the five key players who will decide the contest.
1. Lionel Messi
Arguably the greatest player of all time, Messi will be the key player in every match he plays. After a relatively quiet first half in the first leg, he turned the tie on its head with two goals, including a sumptuous free-kick to put Ernesto Valverde’s side in control.
Thus, the Argentine will once again be instrumental in Barcelona’s attacking play and will be looking to score that crucial away goal to kill Liverpool’s hopes as they would require five goals without reply in that case.
2. Sadio Mane
The only fit member of Klopp’s preferred front three, Mane will shoulder the burden of taking Liverpool through. The Senegalese troubled Barcelona’s defence for most of the match in the first leg and will feel confident of scoring this time around.
Further, Mane has scored in every knockout round for Liverpool and will look to keep that streak going irrespective of the team’s result. Thus, the wide attacker will be vital if Liverpool have any hopes of winning the tie.
3. Luis Suarez
It is the return of the mercurial Uruguayan after joining the Blaugrana from Liverpool back in 2014. No longer at his peak, Suarez still showed his immense goal-scoring ability with a brilliant striker’s goal to put Barcelona in front in the first leg.
Now, he knows better about playing at Anfield better than most of Valverde’s squad, and the gaffer will expect him to quieten the ferocious crowd. Given Suarez’s competitive nature, it is going to be a feisty affair, and he will not hesitate to give his all to help his team secure a place in the final.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold
The young Liverpool right-back picked up a couple of assists over the weekend and will be pumped for the tie. The local lad made way for Joe Gomez in the first leg and is expected to get the nod at Anfield.
The 20-year old has already equaled the Premier League record for most assists by a defender and has another game left to etch his name into history. The Englishman has a wand of a foot and will be crucial for Liverpool’s hopes with his passing range and delivery.
5. Divock Origi
In the absence of Firmino and Salah, the Belgian is expected to get the nod. The striker was initially scheduled to leave in the previous transfer windows but has clawed his way back into the first-team squad. He scored the winner against Newcastle over the weekend and will look to add another goal or two to keep the form going.
The 24-year old will provide pace, physicality, height and directness to the attack and has the potential to hurt Barcelona. Further, a top drawer performance could fetch him a more extended stay at the club or a good move in the summer, both win-win situations. Hence, Origi has enough reasons to play a crucial part in the match’s outcome.
Thus, these are the five key players who are going to play a big part in the match and will very likely decide the tie.