Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde had “no excuses” after his side’s catastrophic 4-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield. The Spanish giants lacked cohesion and duly struggled against a collective effort from Jurgen Klopp’s men, ultimately giving away their 3-0 lead in the first-leg.
Here is everything Valverde did wrong in the defeat to Liverpool yesterday evening.
Poor positioning in the final third
Barcelona’s attacking endeavours were minimised thanks to some relentless offensive pressure from Liverpool throughout the game. But, at times when they did go forward, poor positioning and lack of support from midfielders in the final third made it difficult for the visitors to create any opportunities.
Lionel Messi, in particular, was pressed by at least three or four bodies whenever he received the ball. The Argentine, often, struggled to find a passing option, partly due to the lack of support from the midfielders in Ivan Rakitic or even the attackers like Philipe Coutinho.
To that end, Valverde had the option to tweak the formation or even shift Messi into a different role, which could have disintegrated Liverpool’s pressing scheme. But, the Spaniard stood true to his trusted 4-3-3 shape as Barcelona continued to struggle under Liverpool’s high octane pressing.
No tactical response to Liverpool’s midfield dominance
While the Barcelona midfielders duly struggled to create any chances in the attacking half, they also failed to cope with Liverpool’s midfield trifecta of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and James Milner.
Sergio Busquets was overwhelmed by the Reds’ manic press in the middle. As for Rakitic and Vidal, their passing lanes were smartly cut off by the hosts. And this is when Valverde could have switched to a three at the back formation.
The new shape would have given them the numerical superiority in midfield, giving them much more flexibility during the possession phases. It also offers more passing options for the midfielders. But, no such changes ultimately led to Barcelona’s demise at the end.
Valverde failed to inject any fighting spirit
Unlike Liverpool, Barcelona manager Valverde did very little to energise his players after a dismal first-half performance. Instead, they started the game poorly, with Gerard Pique almost gifting Mane the second goal soon after the restart.
The visitors tried to defend their aggregate lead for the most period. And this further escalated the pressure on the players as they succumbed to Liverpool’s incredible determination and commitment.
Valverde, therefore, is culpable for yet another Champions League semi-final exit for Barcelona. The Spaniard should have been much more flexible in his tactics while instilling the wrong mentality upon his players. This allowed the Reds to make a fantastic comeback in the second half.
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