Liverpool travel to Barcelona in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final clash. Tom Carnduff takes a look at the betting.
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Barcelona v Liverpool (2000 BST - BT Sport 2)
The second semi-final of the week sees Liverpool handed the hardest tie possible as they face LaLiga champions Barcelona.
Barca got past Manchester United with ease in their second-leg and will be hoping to claim another Premier League scalp as they aim for a sixth European success.
The Reds would usually be champions of England with their 91 points tally but they are likely to finish runners-up to Manchester City, who are yet to transfer their domestic success onto the continental stage.
They do still have the chance of a double though. That said, Barcelona have the motivation of a treble and the fact that a club of their stature have failed to reach the final over the past three seasons.
Liverpool did feature in Kiev last season but were beaten by Real Madrid. Jurgen Klopp could make it back-to-back finals and a good start is key. An away goal will be vital and if they get one, even in defeat, you'd fancy their chances of progression at Anfield.
The concern for Liverpool in Europe this season has been their efforts away from home. They rectified that slightly by beating Bayern Munich and Porto, although Barcelona provides a much tougher test.
Ernesto Valverde's men are also unbeaten throughout the course of their Champions League campaign and Spurs are the only side who managed to avoid defeat at Camp Nou, their other four games in front of their own supporters all ended in wins.
In terms of the league, Real Betis are the only side who have been able to win away at Barcelona. 14 of Barca's 18 home LaLiga games saw them come out on top, with the club enjoying a seven-game unbeaten run at home in all competitions.
It's set to be an exciting contest and Liverpool do look a big price considering the strength of their team. Barcelona will be hoping to build a lead to take to England with them, while Liverpool will be wanting the upper hand heading into the second-leg.
Prediction: Barcelona 1-1 Liverpool (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
There is a temptation to back goals given the attacking quality of both sides but Virgil van Dijk, who was recently crowned the PFA Player of the Year, will have the tough task of trying to keep Lionel Messi as quiet as possible. An away goal will be vital for the Reds' chances heading back to Anfield for the second leg and it's rare that teams have been able to keep them out this season.
Best bet: Ivan Rakitic to be shown a card at 9/2
The Barca midfielder will miss their next game in LaLiga due to suspension and he has been cautioned in this competition previously. Liverpool may well look to catch their opposition on the counter attack given the pace they possess going forward and that could draw fouls as the home side look to limit the number of away goals conceded.
At a price of 9/2, the value is there in backing Rakitic to be shown a card on Wednesday night. Dutch referee Björn Kuipers also has a bit of a reputation for showing cards when officiating matches in Europe. Each of the five Champions League games he has been in charge of during the 2018/19 campaign have seen at least three yellow cards.
A bet that looks good value considering the fact that only Suarez and Messi have boasted more shots for Barcelona in both the LaLiga and Champions League this season. Coutinho has posted ten shots on goal in his last two league games, six of those being against Levante despite only playing 45 minutes as he made way for Lionel Messi at half-time.
That means he will be rested and ready to go against Liverpool. 16/5 for two or more shots on target is worth a small play.
Goalscorer: Philippe Coutinho to score anytime at 14/5
Yes, we're backing a goal for Coutinho against his former club. His game time has been limited in LaLiga due to the impact of Ousmane Dembele but he has been the preferred option recently, including throughout the season in the Champions League.
Coutinho has scored in Barca's last two home European games and is equipped to continue that run here. With the focus being on keeping Messi and Suarez quiet, the Brazilian could find himself with the best opportunities to score. A general price is available at 14/5 on this one and it is worth considering.
Barcelona v Liverpool - Opta stats
- Barcelona have won more Champions League games against English sides (27) than any side has won against clubs from a particular nation in the competition’s history.
- Liverpool have never lost in four previous away meetings with Barcelona in all competitions (W2 D2) – against no other side do they have a better unbeaten away record in all European competition (also four vs Porto).
- Liverpool are the only English side to win away at Barcelona in European competition, beating them 1-0 in the 1975-76 UEFA Cup and 2-1 in the 2006-07 Champions League.
- Barcelona have only progressed from one of their four European Cup/Champions league semi-finals against English opposition, having been knocked out in 1974-75 by Leeds United, 2007-08 by Man Utd and 2011-12 by Chelsea. Their only such progression came in 2008-09 against Chelsea, before beating Man Utd in the final in Rome.
- This is Liverpool’s 11th appearance in the European Cup/Champions League semi-finals – they’ve progressed from eight of their previous 10, failing only in 1964-65 (vs Inter) and 2007-08 (vs Chelsea).
- Barcelona are unbeaten in 31 Champions League home games (W28 D3), the best ever such run in the competition. The Catalan giants have conceded just 15 goals in those 31 games, and never more than once in a match.
- Barcelona’s next goal in the Champions League will be their 500th strike in the competition; only Real Madrid (551) have scored more such goals than Ernesto Valverde’s men.
- Liverpool are looking to win three consecutive away games in the European Cup/Champions League since a run of five between September 1983-September 1984.
- Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored 24 goals in just 32 Champions League matches against English opposition, however the Argentine has failed to net in his two previous such appearances versus Liverpool.
- Only Steven Gerrard (21) has scored more European Cup/Champions League goals for Liverpool than their current trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino (14 each).