Reds face balancing act against Barca - GulfToday

Reds face balancing act against Barca

Barcelona

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi attend a training session on Monday. Reuters

Liverpool emerged victorious from a bruising battle against Newcastle to remain in the hunt for the Premier League title, but may have sustained too many wounds to summon a Champions League semi-final comeback against Barcelona on Tuesday.

A late double from Lionel Messi in the Camp Nou on Wednesday has left Jurgen Klopp’s men with a mountain to climb to overturn a 3-0 first leg defeat if they are to reach a second consecutive Champions League final. Liverpool have overcome such deficits before in the Champions League, most famously in the 2005 final against AC Milan.

But hopes of another famous European comeback at fortress Anfield were dealt a blow when Mohamed Salah was stretchered off with a head knock as Liverpool edged out Newcastle 3-2 on Saturday to move two points ahead of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

Salah watched a thrilling end to the match at St. James’ Park in the dressing room as his replacement Divock Origi headed home fellow substitute Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick four minutes from time.

Origi, who also scored a 96th-minute winner to beat Everton in the Merseyside derby in December, Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge have made important contributions in a supporting role to a club record points tally for Liverpool this season.

“We are always ready to get on the pitch and make a difference,” said Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson.

“The lads who have been left at home and lads who are on the bench and haven’t come on, they are buzzing for us. There’s no egos in this squad and that’s why we are where we are today and long may it continue.”

However, with Roberto Firmino already ruled out due to a groin injury, few would give Liverpool any hope of overhauling a three-goal deficit without two of their prolific front three should Salah not start.

Klopp therefore has a difficult balancing act deciding whether it is worth emptying the tank of his injury-hit squad once more on Tuesday or to save their legs for Wolves’ visit to Anfield on the final day of the Premier League season.

“We are now qualified for the league final, which is brilliant,” said Klopp at taking the title race to the final game of the season.

Despite a sensational season, Liverpool’s chances of winning either trophy are fading.

To have any hope of a first league title in 29 years, Klopp’s men must hope that Manchester City’s relentless run of 12 straight league wins comes to an end either at home to Leicester in their game in hand on Monday, or at Brighton come Sunday.

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez returns to Anfield on Tuesday hoping to dump Liverpool out of the Champions League semi-finals, but remains eternally grateful to the Reds for helping him win a move to the Catalan giants.

Suarez shone on the field during a turbulent three-and-a-half years at Liverpool.

His role in leading Liverpool to the brink of a long-awaited Premier League title in 2013/2014 saw Barca splash out a then club record fee.

That faith has been rewarded as Suarez has enjoyed great success in Spain, winning four La Liga titles, the Champions League in 2014/15 and four Spanish Cups. And he believes his time at Liverpool was the springboard to making him one of the world’s best strikers.

“Liverpool gave me a lot to make me better. My time there made me more professional, make me improve technically, many things,” he said on Monday.

“To be captain of Liverpool was something unique in my career. We were fighting for the Premier League and you are left with the sensation we were just one step away.”

Agencies

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