Liverpool managed to pull off an incredible comeback at Anfield last night when they came back from a 3-0 deficit from the first leg against Barcelona to secure a 4-3 aggregate victory in the tie. The Reds have now booked a place in the UEFA Champions League final at Madrid where they will face either Tottenham or AFC Ajax next month.
The Merseyside giants went with a 4-3-3 formation with Jurgen Klopp trying to cope with the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino who were both injured for this European encounter. Liverpool decided to go with a strong back four and pair them up with a hardworking midfield three of James Milner, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. Both Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri joined Sadio Mane as part of the Reds frontline.
The Catalans lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Ernesto Valverde opting to deploy Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi up top. Barca went with a creative but physical midfield, but it is hard to justify why Arturo Vidal was used on the right flank. Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique resumed their centre-back partnership last night while the German keeper, Marc Ander ter Stegen was responsible for keeping things stable at the back.
Here are three tactical reasons why the Reds were able to humiliate Barcelona and pull off a miracle comeback at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Liverpool’s Defensive Triangle Snuffed Out The Threat Of The Barcelona Forwards
Klopp took a considerable risk and opted for a defensive triangle between Fabinho, Van Dijk and Matip that trapped the intelligent movements of Messi and Suarez. Liverpool’s tendency to press high up the pitch put even more pressure on the Barca duo as they failed to create too many openings going forward.
Fabinho got cautioned early in the first half, so he did remarkably well to avoid getting another yellow card. However, the Brazilian didn’t compromise with his performance on the night as he stuck to Messi like glue to snuff out any threats while facing his own goal.
Liverpool’s Versatility Against Barcelona’s Inability
The Reds were forced to go into this game with a depleted starting XI when compared to Barcelona’s. However, the fact that Klopp’s midfielders are versatile helped them cope with what Barca threw at them in the second half. James Milner played as a midfield playmaker in the first half but had to operate as a left-back to fill in for the injured, Robertson. To the surprise of many, Milner excelled in that position and put in some dangerous crosses from the left flank.
Furthermore, Henderson was also given the license to attack in the first half, but when Wijnaldum came on, he shifted back to play as a deep-lying holding midfielder. Both Robertson and Alexander-Arnold also switched flanks at times in the first half just so that they can find different angles to whip in crosses into the box.
However, Barca’s inability to keep calm under pressure paved the way for the Reds to make a fairytale comeback in the second half. The Catalan defenders completed switched off in the lead up to Liverpool’s decisive fourth goal of the game which can be categorised as a ‘schoolboy error’ from the visitors.
Liverpool’s Variety In Attack Won The Night Vs Barcelona’s Monotonous Approach To The Game
Jurgen Klopp hinted in his pre-match press conference that he would allow his players to attack in a variety of ways and cause havoc in the Barca half. So it wasn’t a surprise to see them execute their manager’s plans to the T last night.
The Reds didn’t have enough creativity in midfield, so they allowed Barca to dictate play at times before pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball back. Both Liverpool full-backs acted as the team’s primary playmakers on the night as they put in some dangerous crosses and long balls into the Catalans penalty box. The Merseyside outfit even managed to keep possession and curve open Valverde’s backline a few times, but they couldn’t capitalise on those chances.
In contrast, the La Liga champions only had one answer going forward, and it was to feed the ball to Lionel Messi while some of the Barca forwards tried to link up and play a few give and goes with the Argentine superstar. However, Liverpool’s defensive shape completed neutralised the threat of the Barca attacks.
All in all, it was a memorable comeback from the Premier League heavyweights as they managed to pull themselves back from the dead and book a trip to the Wanda Metropolitano for the Champions League final.