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Barcelona v Liverpool

‘Klopp & Liverpool won’t have Messi plan’ – Salah & Co should worry Barcelona, says Lawrenson

9:20 AM WAT 01/05/2019
Mohamed Salah Lionel Messi Liverpool Barcelona Champions League
The ex-Reds defender believes there is no need to single out a mercurial Argentine as Premier League title hopefuls pose enough threat of their own

Jurgen Klopp will not send Liverpool into action against Barcelona with a plan to stop Lionel Messi, says Mark Lawrenson, with Mohamed Salah and Co seeking to pose problems of their own.

The Reds will take to the field at Camp Nou on Wednesday evening seeking to put themselves in contention for a place in back-to-back Champions League finals.

A last-four showdown with Barca will offer a stern test of their European credentials, with a mercurial Argentine forward having already dashed the continental dreams of Manchester United this season.

Liverpool are, however, considered to be better placed to deal with the threat of the Liga title holders, with Lawrenson of the opinion that Klopp will seek to impose his own style on proceedings rather than worry about the quality of his opposition.

Quizzed on whether the Reds boss could single out Messi for special treatment, 1984 European Cup winner Lawrenson told Goal: “No, I think he’s going to play to his strengths as he would do in the Premier League.

“If you stick somebody on Messi, you are uprooting the way that they play and complicating matters. I think he’ll just look for the nearest player to Messi to try and stop him as best you can.

“The strength of Liverpool would arguably be the front three, two attacking full-backs, so why ask them to do something that they are not particularly good at, or not as good at?

“If Liverpool have got the ball, then Messi hasn’t got it.

“They are very much on the front foot Liverpool and Klopp is of such a mindset that why would he change it?

“He very rarely changes anything. He’s normally 4-3-3, he might occasionally go 4-3-1-2, that might be a possibility. But his strength is really going forward so why would you go to somewhere like Barcelona and not hit them with your strength? It doesn’t really make footballing sense.”

Pressed on what would represent a good result for Liverpool before returning to Anfield for the second leg, Lawrenson added: “An away goal would be great. I would even say a 2-1 defeat, because you only need one at home.

“The thing is, we’re talking about Messi and Barcelona, but they will be talking about Liverpool’s front three.

“As good a side as they are, they are not naive enough to think that they can just turn up and play. I think both teams will be looking at it and thinking they can win, which is respect from both of them.”

Liverpool are hoping to see their cause aided by the presence of Roberto Firmino, with the Brazilian forward having returned to training after sitting out a 5-0 Premier League win over Huddersfield.

On the importance of the 27-year-old being fit, Lawrenson said: “He is very much the conduit between the three of them.

“Not as spectacular as [Sadio] Mane and Salah, doesn’t score as many goals, but just as important to the team and the manager. The rest of the players understand his role as well and appreciate it.”

Mane and Salah have been providing the attacking spark for Liverpool over recent weeks.

The latter endured an uncharacteristic barren run earlier in the season, but has still netted 25 goals this season and was never of any concern to Lawrenson.

“Absolutely fine,” the former Reds defender said of the Egyptian forward.

“How many goals has he scored? He got 44 last year. We all said at the start of the year that if he gets to 15 he’ll have done brilliantly.

“It’s the world we live in isn’t it? Because he wasn’t scoring a goal every single week, people think there’s something wrong with him and he’s not quite the same. He’s still been outstanding.

“The bottom line with those three is the total of goals they score. That’s been phenomenal. Tell me another three who have scored as many goals.”

Asked if the selfish streak sometimes displayed by Salah should be of any concern, Lawrenson added: “That was more a case when he needed his 50th [Premier League goal for the club].

“There is always a little bit of that – I can score, I can score – but I think the other players appreciate how good he is. Also, he’s not just a goalscorer, he’s a very good player, as everyone knows.”

Salah has hit 21 goals in the English top flight for Liverpool this season, putting him one ahead of Mane and Sergio Aguero in the race for the Golden Boot, while a further four efforts have been recorded in European competition.

Mark Lawrenson is a Paddy Power ambassador, to read more go to news.paddypower.com