Champions League: Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool, 5 men who won the game for Barcelona
Barcelona welcomed Liverpool to the Nou Camp on Wednesday in midst of a celebratory mood. The Catalans had just secured the LaLiga title with three games to spare and there was definitely reasons to be jovial. Barcelona were also in the Copa del Rey final, so their desires for another treble was well on course. Even among the festivities, there were concerns when facing Liverpool, who had recently emerged as one of the best teams in Europe.
Liverpool had matched Manchester City in every step in the race to the Premier League title, but were still a point behind in second with 2 games to spare. As such, the Champions League was still extremely essential for Jurgen Klopp's side, as it represented a chance at securing a silverware this season.
Valverde knew the threat that Liverpool possessed and named his team accordingly. He started with Ter Stegen in goal, with Sergio Roberto, Pique, Lenglet and Alba as the back four. In the midfield, he opted for Vidal to partner Rakitic and Busquets. The Barcelona front three consisted of two former Liverpool players - Suarez and Coutinho, who started alongside Lionel Messi.
In an end to end first half, both teams had chances to open the scoring. However, it was Barcelona who took the lead through Suarez in the 26th minute. In the second half, Liverpool tried their best to score an equalizer, but Barcelona held on with all their might. Lionel Messi double the lead in the 75th minute, before scoring the third goal of the game in the 82nd minute through a beautiful free kick. The game ended 3-0 to Barcelona and the Catalans now have a great advantage going into the second leg.
Ernesto Valverde will be mighty pleased with the performance of his team against a relentless Liverpool side. However, he will be delighted with the efforts of these 5 men, who were brilliant on the night and won the game for the Catalans.
#5 Ivan Rakitic
The Croatian has been an integral part of the Barcelona midfield this season. Rakitic provides just the right combination of steel and poise in the middle which keeps the engine of the Catalan giants running. As such, it was only fitting that he was selected in the midfield against Liverpool.
Rakitic played a near flawless 90 minutes and quietly ensured that the Liverpool midfield never had any control on the game. The Croatian helped Busquets with the dirty work, but when he had the ball at his feet, he also tried to find his front men with long balls that split the away defense. He even had an early chance to score, but tried to thread a pass instead and was cut out.
In the dying moments of the game, Rakitic brilliantly denied Liverpool by clearing off the line helping his team secure a clean sheet.