No Salah, no Firmino, no hope? Liverpool ready for Mission Impossible against Barcelona

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Jurgen Klopp is targeting a "perfect" performance at Anfield on Tuesday night but Reds will have to do it without two of their famous front three

Even Tom Cruise wouldn’t fancy this one.

Liverpool will attempt Mission Impossible once more on Tuesday night, as they bid to reach a second successive Champions League final.

Their task could not be simpler. All they have to do is score at least three goals while simultaneously keeping Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and the rest of the Barcelona all-stars quiet. 

All they have to do, pretty much, is play the perfect game.

Even for a club with such a rich history of comebacks against the odds, this would be something special. Last week’s 3-0 defeat at Camp Nou leaves Jurgen Klopp’s men walking a tightrope with no safety net. And against the world’s greatest player, too.

They must attempt the impossible without two of their own stars, too. Mohamed Salah, their most decisive player, and Roberto Firmino, arguably their most important, will both miss the game.

Good luck, Jurgen.

“It doesn’t make life easier,” said Klopp, making a bid for understatement of the year at his pre-match press conference on Monday. “Two of the world’s best strikers are out and we need to score four goals to go through in 90 minutes.

“But as long as we have 11 players on the pitch, we will try.”

Jurgen Klopp quote 2019

Klopp admitted he has “a lot of decisions to make” ahead of Tuesday’s game, most of them surrounding the composition of his attack. 

Sadio Mane, the last of his famous front three, will start of course, but questions remain as to who will be alongside him. Divock Origi, who grabbed the dramatic late winner at Newcastle on Saturday, is likely to play, while Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge, who has started the last two league games, will hope for the nod.

Gini Wijnaldum, surprisingly, filled in for Firmino at Camp Nou, with mixed results. The Dutchman’s intelligence and defensive skills are valuable in an advanced role, but Liverpool need goals and conviction in the final third, and relying on a midfielder who has netted just three times all season would be a brave call indeed. As would thrusting Rhian Brewster, the 19-year-old striker, into action for his senior debut. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another option, though hasn’t started a competitive match since the semi-final first leg against Roma last April. His first-team action this season totals just 17 minutes, though his speed and positivity could be a more than useful weapon from the bench.

“It presents an opportunity for others to make themselves heroes,” said Trent Alexander-Arnold, who shared media duties with Klopp on Monday. “If we overturn the deficit, whoever scores, their name will always be remembered.”

His manager was, unsurprisingly, sanguine about his team’s chances. He spoke of “celebrating” Liverpool’s season, of “a football party” amid “a sensational atmosphere” at Anfield. He knows the size of the job.

“If we can do it, wonderful,” Klopp said. “If not, then fail in the most beautiful way.”

Jurgen Klopp Barcelona PS

He will hope his team can be as positive and as creative as they were in Spain, when big chances were squandered by Mane, Salah and James Milner. Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the Barcelona goalkeeper, made two eye-catching saves in the second half, before Messi’s seven-minute brace took the tie away from Liverpool. 

It was a brutal reminder of what can happen when you run into the world’s best. Often, they don’t even need to be the world’s best to beat you. 

“You have to be perfect to beat them,” Klopp added. “So we should try that!” 

Barcelona will bring no complacency to Merseyside. Not after what happened in last season’s quarter-final with Roma, when they surrendered a 4-1 first-leg lead to crash out in Italy.

“Yes, but Roma had an away goal,” Klopp pointed out when reminded of this fact. “That’s a big difference.”

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Nonetheless, it promises to be another memorable European night under the Anfield lights. The Premier League dream is still alive and so, just, are their Champions League hopes. This will be a chance, Klopp says, to appreciate the efforts of this remarkable team. 

“It will be rocking,” he said.

And if Liverpool get the first goal, they’ll hear the roars back in Catalunya, for sure.

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