2:45pm. Available in the US on espn2.
Liverpool leads 2-1 on aggregate.
Barca is currently 2nd in La Liga
Champions League Group Stage results:
Liverpool: 2-3 Galatasaray (a); 2-0 PSV (h); 3-0 Bordeaux (h); 1-0 Bordeaux (a); 3-2 Gala (h); 0-0 PSV (a)
Barca: 2-0 Werder Bremen (h); 2-0 Levski Sofia (a); 2-2 Chelsea (h); 0-1 Chelsea (a); 1-1 Bremen (a); 5-0 Levski (h)
Goal scorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Crouch 5; Garcia 3; Bellamy, Fowler, Gerrard 2; Gonzalez, Riise 1
Barca: Deco, Gudjohnsen, Guily, Iniesta, Ronaldinho 2; Eto’o, Messi, Puyol 1
Liverpool: European Cup/Champions League 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976, 2001; UEFA Super Cup 1977, 2001, 2005
Barca: European Cup/Champions League 1992, 2006; Cup Winners Cup 1979, 1982, 1989, 1997; UEFA Super Cup 1992, 1997
Referee: Herbert Fandel (GER)
It’s seemingly easier to pick Barca’s line-up than Liverpool’s, as their line-up and formation is fairly set in stone when fit. I’d imagine it will look something like:
Oleguer Thuram Puyol Zambrotta
Deco Edmilson Xavi
Messi Eto’o Ronaldinho
My complete guess of a lineup:
Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio
Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso, Riise
In contrast, I’ve got little clue how Liverpool’s going to look. One thought is that there’s no reason to deviate from the squad that won at Camp Nou. Another is that Liverpool will play with a 5-man midfield and a lone striker in an attempt to better keep possession. However, I just can’t see Liverpool deviating from the 4-4-2 or maintaining the exact same squad. What worked last time won’t necessarily work at Anfield, with changes in Barca’s squad and a completely different atmosphere and motif for the game, but this formation is how Liverpool’s been the most successful this season. Yes, even with Gerrard on the right…
I’m also of two minds as to which forwards to play, as usual. Bellamy was the best player on the pitch in the last match, Kuyt is an ever-present, and Crouch, who had postponed surgery on his broken nose to be available for this game and the United debacle, is the leading scorer in Europe and would seemingly give Liverpool more opportunity to maintain possession. Because of Crouchy’s height and ability to hold up the ball, I’ve gone for him over Kuyt. Kuyt hasn’t sat out a game since the Carling Cup match against Arsenal, and even though I didn’t think he had a poor game against United (his first touch was actually better than it had been in recent matches), he’s the one I’m leaving out.
Both Aurelio and Arbeloa (included over Finnan) make my squad because of their familiarity and success playing Barcelona. No more, no less. And it's just a hunch. Finnan has started every first-team game I can think of, and it would be odd to see him dropped now, but Arbeloa arrived with fanfare for defending Ronaldinho, and not only does Aurelio offer another (much needed) option for free kicks, he’s also more than familiar with Barca’s attack.
As has been said since the final whistle last leg, this tie is far from over. Barca has the ability to score goals in buckets, no matter who they’re playing. And Eto’o will add another dimension to Barca’s attack that Liverpool must be ready for, full fitness or not. His movement with Ronaldinho and Messi offers so much more than Saviola or Gudjohnsen, not to mention he’s quicker and defends from the front better.
It’s been good to see both the team and fans both keyed up for and stoic about this game; the atmosphere at Anfield will really be a 12th man. I detest this cliché, but it’s true, it has influenced teams before, and it will here. And heads must be kept out of the clouds, as Benitez seemingly has done so far, because at 2-1, the tie is far from won.
Roll on Barca.