Thus far unable to catch Pep Guardiola’s latest creation in the league, Liverpool took an almighty revenge on one he made earlier, and the history of this great club in European football may never be the same again.
They thought they had written the book on the matter of comebacks in the Champions League – concerning that story you may have heard from 14 years earlier in Istanbul, although this one, it has to be said, bears comparison. Three goals down to the Barcelona of late-era Lionel Messi, his genius declared in no uncertain terms in the first leg, and yet by 10pm the world’s greatest player was heading back down the tunnel defeated, a man with a wild look in his eye.
No team does this in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final without wondering if the hand of destiny is not ushering them down an alternative path to glory to the one they have chased all season. On Monday night, Manchester City edged the Premier League just a little further from Liverpool’s grasp which felt monumental - and then came Tuesday night when the response at Anfield was, quite frankly, stupendous.
How did this happen? Klopp reflected later, “I said to the boys before the game, ‘I don't think it's possible but because it's you we have a chance"'. But even that only went some way to explaining the impossible. How did they do it without Mohamed Salah, or Roberto Firmino or assorted others, plus Jordan Henderson on one leg for half the game, as well Andy Robertson carted off at half-time for an injury involving Luis Suarez? How did they do it against one of the best teams of this era or any other?
How did they do it with Divock Origi in attack? Ordinarily glad just to be a substitute on a night such as this, he was the two-goal match-winner. The best striker on the pitch on a night when he could not be sure that every opponent would know who he was without glancing at the back of his shirt. Robertson’s replacement, Georginio Wijnaldum, scored goals two and three in the second half and yet when the Scot went off at half-time it felt like just another blow that would make the task impossible.
Jamie Carragher, one of the men at the heart of the Liverpool comeback from three down against Milan in 2005, declared it Anfield’s greatest ever night and who are we to argue? Liverpool did it by assuming the role of the team in control even at three goals down and eventually even Barcelona fell thrall to that idea.
Klopp said that he had told his team to attack with everything at their disposal and defend with whatever came to hand. He asked them to be “cheeky” when they could and by a thousand audacious, confident acts they turned the tide in their favour.
They may not win the Premier League but in Madrid on June 1, they will contest the ninth European Cup final of their history, against Tottenham Hotspur or Ajax Amsterdam, their fourth of the Champions League era. The kings of the comeback are back again playing football on the edge and this time they will be favourites against whoever emerges triumphant in Amsterdam on Wednesday night.
Every club likes to think that when it matters they will turn their stadium into a decisive force, and there are many who put considerable store in the theory that no-one does it better than them. You spend the rest of your life arguing the relative merits, although you only had to be in Anfield on this night to know that the mood of the place, the certainty, that old whisky roar coupled with all the stuff that has gone before, can get into an opponent’s head – even a good one.
Hard to tell what affects Messi, a man who scarcely knows of a stadium that he has not bent to his will and a few more where the locals have applauded him off. But something rattled the little maestro early on. He tumbled on top of Robertson after Fabinho had slid in to curtail a twisting run and as the teams returned to their shape, the full-back shoved the Argentine’s head.
No exaggeration to say it was a grievance that Messi that carried throughout the game. He spent more time wagging a finger at his opponent than he usually dedicates to the missteps of mere mortals. It required Henderson to come running over in the end to shove Messi away from his team-mate although even the Liverpool captain seemed to be asking himself whether he was permitted to lay hands on the man in question.
It was worth the wait for this kind of game, from all the mediocrity this competition can throw up in its early stages to this attacking masterpiece in early May. It was quite something to hear Suarez being called a “cheat” by the Kop and then told in even more direct terms what they would have him do. You could argue that the simulation and the lobbying of the referee are among the least serious of the charges that could be laid against him, but then memories are short.
Liverpool scored the early goal they so badly needed. A mistake from Jordi Alba meant that possession was turned over deep in Barcelona territory on seven minutes and Sadio Mane was able to poke the ball into the path of Henderson’s surging run. He sidestepped Gerard Pique beautifully and Origi poked home the rebound.
By the end of the first half, Barcelona were back in this great attacking drama. Messi’s twisting, burrowing runs into the Liverpool half were the main incursion. There were a set of fine saves from Alisson, as the home team inevitably opened up, and then there were the tackles too.
Fabinho was booked for thundering into Suarez. James Milner went in on the same opponent. Henderson went down for a long period of treatment on his right knee after colliding with Alba. Sergio Busquets jumped into Fabinho for a high ball. Messi never quite got over Robertson. The full-back never came out for the second half, his calf caught accidentally by Suarez’s heel.
The collapse of Barcelona was a surprise to say the least, given how they had managed to get a hold on the game after Liverpool’s strong start. Klopp had moved Milner back to left-back, pushed Mane up alongside Origi and moved Xherdan Shaqiri to the left midfield position. There was another assist from the incomparable Trent Alexander-Arnold for Wijnaldum’s first.
Within two minutes he had scored a second, emerging unmarked to head in a Shaqiri’s cross. And then to the winner, created by a corner from Alexander-Arnold that deceived the Barcelona defence. The young Liverpudlian walked away as if to leave the ball to Shaqiri, dashed back and with the away defence asleep took his chance. Origi struck the cross first time, dispatching it into the top corner. It was that kind of night, one for the brave and the bold – and there was only one team that managed that.
Jose Mourinho: "This is about Jurgen"
"This is about him. This is a reflection of his personality, don't give up, his fighting spirit."— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 7, 2019
"Everything i think today is about Jurgen's mentality."
Jose Mourinho says Liverpool's incredible comeback tonight was down to their inspirational manager. ��#beINUCL#LIVBARpic.twitter.com/CzFrG05MjY
Robertson speaks, and is *loving it*:
We're going to the final, that's all that matters. I don't care about my injury right now. I've said it so many times this season, but my god, what a team. We believed – many people wrote us off, but in that changing room we believed that if we got off to a good start we could do it.
Ernesti Valverde emerges from the Barcelona dressing room of despair:
They have rolled us over. It is a terrible result for our fans and ourselves. Credit to Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp vs Ofcom
I said to the boys before the game that it’s impossible, but because it’s you we have a chance. I have watched in my life so many football games, but to play the best team in the world...look, winning is already difficult, but to win with a clean sheet...It’s 10.10pm and the children are probably in bed so I’m sorry about the language but can I say these boys are f------ mentality giants. It’s all about the players.
Genuinely, fair play.
"I said to the boys before the game it was impossible..."— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 7, 2019
"Winning is already difficult, but winning with a clean sheet? I don't know how we did it?!"
Jurgen Klopp is lost for words, who can blame him?
Rated, slated and just downright elated
James Ducker has filed his player ratings, and there are lots of high numbers....for Liverpool. For example:
It is hard to believe he is only 20 such is his rapid maturity. Set up Liverpool’s second but it was his sheer ingenuity for the fourth that resonated. 9/10
Paul Hayward writes from Anfield...
Anfield history is peppered with great European comebacks but Barcelona ignored the precedents, disregarded the threat, and paid a heavy price as Liverpool came after them with nostrils flaring.
“Liverpool - the cream of Europe,” boasted a banner on the Kop. It began the night as a note of defiance but gained credibility throughout a dramatic opening phase in which Liverpool glimpsed a miracle. They tried everything, from Andy Robertson grabbing Lionel Messi’s head and giving it a shove to mass crowd loathing of Luis Suarez, who wasted time and energy in the build-up promising not to celebrate if he scored in this second-leg. This needless attempt at humility bought him no love at all.
Feisty tackling, Liverpool pressure and a feud between Messi and Robertson: you could not ask for much more in such unpromising circumstances. Yet to begin with there was a feel of intruding on private grief, and of slightly patronising Liverpool fans by telling them they might be the greatest runners-up in modern football history.
Henderson, sounding absolutely knackered, speaks:
The belief in the changing room is incredible. We knew that we could pull something off. It's a special night at Anfield – right up there with the best. Everyone was unreal.
Alexander-Arnold on his quick-thinking corner:
It was just instinctive – one of those moments where you see the opportunity. Origi is a top player and it's one of them where everyone will remember this moment.
Pride predating the fall, Pt. 19,332,728
Yes, it's easy to laugh now, which is precisely why we're doing it.
Wijnaldum finds the words, somehow
It’s unbelievable. After the game in Spain we were confident that we could score four goals at home and win 4-0. I think people outside the club didn’t think we could do it but we have shown anything is possible. I was really angry with the manager and wanted to show him what I could do.
Some random pictures:
Full time: Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
It's over. Liverpool - without Salah, without Firmino, without a hope - have turned a 0-3 deficit into a Champions League final. Utterly ridiculous and magnificent, in equal measure.
90+4 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Fabinho intercepts. Messi has to foul him. Liverpool will have the ball, and - surely - the tie.
90+3 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Barcelona have Pique up front.
90+2 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Liverpool break! Mane goes wide, and eventually clips the ball over Ter Stegen, but Pique heads clear. Flag was up anyway.
90+1 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
FIVE ADDED MINUTES
90 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Shaqiri off, Sturridge on.
88 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Anfield cheers Alisson plucking a useless cross out of the sky like it's a fifth goal.
86 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Down goes Van Dijk after clashing heads with Lenglet at a set-piece. Liverpool now five minutes from the final. Absurd.
84 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Now Liverpool have a free kick in the corner. Before that, Xherdan Shaqiri will be replaced by Joe Gomez. Or will he? Origi is down on the far side and looks like he's coming off. In summary: no idea.
81 min - Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
Messi, despairing at the rabble behind him, is now trying to do it all alone. Liverpool are playing out of their skin.
GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Liverpool 4 (Origi, 79 min) Barcelona 0 (agg: 4-3)
What the hell. Liverpool earn a corner, which looks like being the usual routine, until Alexander-Arnold - I've never seen anything like this in my life - takes it quickly to find an unmarked Divock Origi, 12 yards out, who instinctively clips the ball into the far top corner! This is absolutely ridiculous, and Liverpool are 10 minutes from the final of the Champions League.
SIMPLY GENIUS ��— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 7, 2019
Trent Alexander-Arnold spots Barcelona napping and Divock Origi makes no mistake!!!
4-0 Liverpool ��
78 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Great ebb and flow to this one now.
76 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Nelson Semedo booked for pulling back Mane after having the ball stolen off him on the flank. Another Liverpool set-piece, which is played short for Alexander-Arnold to...completely overhit the cross.
75 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Barcelona sub: Arthur on, Vidal off. Didn't think they'd make that change sassoon.
72 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Liverpool have backed off a little, unsure just how gung-ho they're supposed to go, but Barcelona are yet to respond to the space in front of them.
69 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Chance!Liverpool switch off from the short corner, Messi ghosts into the box, chests the ball down and pings it to the near post - Alisson saves. Phew.
67 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
...but this time Messi hits the wall. Corner.
66 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Yellow card for Virgil van Dijk for tripping a top-gear Messi - he's back! - and now Barcelona have a free kick in a position not unlike a very recent one...
63 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Vidal handballs, and Liverpool are getting all the bounces of the ball right now. Free kick out on the right, which Alexander-Arnold swings in, but Rakitic heads away. Barcelona hanging on, and Lionel Messi has pretty much disappeared.
61 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Barcelona change: The anonymous Coutinho off, Nelson Semedo on.
59 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
Liverpool mare tearing at the shreds of this Barcelona defence now. If and when there's a time to take a breath, they're going to have to figure out where they go from here. As it stands, it's extra time...
58 min - Liverpool 3 Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
GOAL!!!!!!!! Liverpool 3 (Wijnaldum, 56 min) Barcelona 0 (agg: 3-3)
In comes the Shaqiri cross from the left, Georginio Wijnaldum rises and heads in at the near post! Simple as that. Barcelona are all over the absolute and utter shop.
GOAL! Liverpool 2 (Wijnaldum, 54 min) Barcelona 0 (agg: 2-3)
...and that's why! Alexander-Arnold races down the right, pings in a cross and it meets the run of Georginio Wijnaldum perfectly for the substitute to ram the ball under Ter Stegen!
53 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Ivan Rakitic is booked for a handball that stopped a promising Liverpool counter. Hosts aren't in panic mode yet...
51 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Chances! The ball bounces through for Mane, and his pace gives him a hell of a head-start. He takes the ball on his thigh, and there's a hint of a chance before Sergi Roberto scampers back to poke the ball away for a corner. From that, the ball falls to Van Dijk, who backheels straight at Ter Stegen from six yards!
49 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Matip slides a lovely pass down the right channel for Shaqiri, who cuts back and crosses just too high for Wijnaldum at the back post. Liverpool camped in the Barcelona half already, but Sergi Roberto relieves that pressure by going down easily under an Origi challenge.
47 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Liverpool straight on to the front foot, and immediately have a corner! Shaqiri outswings it, probably too much, and Van Dijk has to hook it back goalwards, but it doesn't fall kindly for a red shirt.
We go again.
The injured Robertson has been replaced at half time, and Wijnaldum will come on. Can only assume that means James Milner to left-back and the Liverpool gameplan pretty much unchanged.
Half time: Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Not a shabby first 45 minutes for Liverpool at all: I'd give it a 7/10. Shorn of two thirds of their near-telepathic front three, they're making do: now the primary threat is Mane through the middle, who they're trying to pick out with clipped balls over the Barcelona defence.
Divock Origi's early-doors tap-in has made this a cup tie again, no question about it, but Liverpool's concerted spells of proper pressure dried up before the half-hour mark. At the other end, the threat has been even less regular, though. Alisson thwarted Jordi Alba right before half-time, but hasn't had much else to do.
Overall, Klopp will have taken this, but a few Liverpool joints are creaking out there. Another 45 minutes of furious chasing - not to mention two goals - remain a huge ask.
45+1 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Yellow card for Sergio Busquets, who led with an arm - but didn't quite connect with it - on Fabinho in the air.
45+1 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Four added minutes to the first half.
42 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Opening! Shaqiri takes charge of the ball in midfield, spots the run of Mane and clips a superb pass into his path...only for Gerard Pique to get a toe on it! Moments later, Robertson lets fly from 30 yards and Arturo Vidal deflects it wide for a corner!
40 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
And down goes Robertson, finally, clutching his lower right leg. Inevitably, it was an off-the-ball clash with Suarez that caused the damage. He trots off, only to come charging back on again.
Has Luis Suárez kicked out at Andy Robertson here?— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 7, 2019
The Scot goes down after a coming together with the Barcelona striker. pic.twitter.com/0TbHfRmZ1i
38 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Mane twists and turns on the left, getting to the byline and clipping a cross that Coutinho can only clear to the edge of the box, but Shaqiri then bends the ball straight into the gloves of Ter Stegen.
And - uh-oh - now Robertson is limping for Liverpool!
35 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Henderson actually moving OK now and he leads a Liverpool counter that ends with Mane sprawled on the turf just outside the box - again, the referee waves play on!
33 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Henderson's night is done, it seems. Georginio Wijnaldum is getting some instructions on the bench, despite the Liverpool captain having a go at running his injury off.
32 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
A short delay after Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba collide in mid-air - painfully but not uncomically - but we're soon good to go. It's been a while since Liverpool last worried Ter Stegen, though.
And now Jordan Henderson is down and in some pain, it seems, after falling awkwardly into a tackle on Lenglet.
29 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Ivan Rakitic, Suarez and Messi all combine in and around the Liverpool box, before Robertson has to turn a dangerous-looking cross behind for a corner, which Barcelona take short before Suarez drifts offside. Anfield roars its approval for that.
26 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Luis Suarez can forget about "not celebrating" a goal if he gets one. The solitary sex gestures and the booing are telling him what Anfield thinks of him.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 7, 2019
25 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Chance! Sadio Mane races into the box on the left, but has little obvious target for a cross. The ball pings back to Robertson to hit it...and Ter Stegen has to parry away! Barcelona leap out on the counter, and Van Dijk has to give away a tactical foul on halfway. I think he escaped a booking, somehow, despite Suarez giving it the full Imaginary Yellow routine.
22 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
The first lull worthy of the name in this game is interrupted by some more pouring forward of red shirts, and Andy Robertson pulls the ball back for Henderson to poke goalwards with the outside of the boot...but straight at Ter Stegen.
19 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Chance! Messi leads a Barcelona charge, moving through the gears and the Liverpool midfield, before feeding Philippe Coutinho to his right - his sidefooted finish is palmed away by Alisson! Moments later, from a Barcelona corner, Messi fires a snapshot just wide. The visitors getting some regular glimpses of goal now...
17 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Chance! Alba gets in behind the Liverpool defence, with time to consider his options but, just as he lays the ball square to Messi, the flag goes up and Van Dijk nicks the ball away anyhow.
14 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
The Liverpool press continues in earnest, but Barcelona finally spring out with Lionel Messi, who swaps passes with Jordi Alba before clipping a left-foot shot goalwards! Alisson tips over comfortably.
12 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Yellow card for Fabinho, who goes in late on Luis Suarez, but the Liverpool man is incensed! He storms over to the grounded Suarez and gives him a verbal volley. Suarez just smirks back.
10 min - Liverpool 1 Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
Hoh! An errant backpass pits Origi and Ter Stegen together in a 40-60 footrace to the ball, 40 yards from goal, but the striker unfathomably pulls out of it! Moments later, Mane goes down in the box under a clumsy challenge from Sergio Roberto, but referee Cuneyt Cakir says no!
GOAL! Liverpool 1 (Origi, 7 min) Barcelona 0 (agg: 1-3)
...very promising! Jordi Alba skims a header backwards, Shaqiri pounces on the ball, feeds Henderson, Ter Stegen saves...and Divock Origi tucks home the loose ball!
What a start for Liverpool!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 7, 2019
Divock Origi gets them off to a flier and Anfield is rocking �� pic.twitter.com/mRKCZaKWPL
6 min - Liverpool 0 Barcelona 0 (agg: 0-3)
Mane daggers at Barcelona from the left again, and earns another corner. Up come Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk, into a packed six-yard box, but Trent Alexander-Arnold's delivery is cleared at the near post. Promising start from the hosts...
4 min - Liverpool 0 Barcelona 0 (agg: 0-3)
Liverpool have, of course, started at a furious pace, and Anfield are doing their bit by booing and whistling at every Barcelona touch. Divock Origi charges at Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to lead the press.
1 min - Liverpool 0 Barcelona 0 (agg: 0-3)
Chance! Half-chance! Sadio Mane finds himself in acres on the left, cuts the ball back for Xherdan Shaqiri to shoot, but he scuffs it...but the ball might fall for Jordan Henderson...until a Barcelona toe puts the ball behind!
Barcelona, all in hazchem yellow, get us off and under way at Anfield.
Teams are out at Anfield...
They've sung their song, Uefa are playing theirs, handshakes are imminent, and so is kick-off.
Salah's sartorial support
Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino is wearing a hoodie with "TRY AND NICK A GOAL EARLY DOORS, TEST TER STEGEN WITH A FEW SET-PIECES, JUST GET IT IN THE MIXER" on the front
Lionel Messi: one-trick pony
Few players would warrant an "All of their free-kicks in the Champions League" montage, but this is where we've got to with the Indescribable One.
5️⃣ goals from a wand of a left foot...— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 7, 2019
A true master of the art ��
All of Lionel Messi's free-kicks in the Champions League �� pic.twitter.com/aMxoKLMco1
No Salah. No Firmino. No hope? Not quite.
How can Liverpool cope without two of their rampant front three? Either way, JJ Bull has some answers...
Salah’s absence is devastating but Firmino’s is even trickier to manage because it has a direct effect on how everyone else in the team plays. Firmino’s role as a sort of nine-and-a-half - neither an attacking midfielder or striker - is unique to his skillset and Liverpool do not have another player capable of doing it.
The players decide the tactical setup. Klopp can coach another player to mimic Firmino’s positioning and movement but different footballers read the game in different ways - Sturridge has always played off the shoulder of the last man and has an innate talent for arriving in goalscoring positions at the right times, but goalscorers need to be selfish and take shots early to hit the numbers.
Mane and Salah attack central positions as more of a striker partnership than two inside-forwards cutting inside at the same time. The entire team’s shape is usually very narrow, supplemented by width from the attacking full-backs, which brings Mane and Salah together as a two. Firmino’s starting position from slightly deeper allows him to time runs into the box unmarked and finish up any rebounds from deflections or blocks.
Taxi for Hayward
Anfield cab rides always different. Shared this one with a Dane who spent £3,000 on a ticket for the Wolves game and a Mexican who's on a long Messi tour after buying tickets to watch him eight times in a row.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 7, 2019
' I think there will be more applause than whistles'
"Luis Suarez finally served the divorce papers", write Chris Bascombe after the first leg, in which the former Liverpool pantomime villain neglected to mutedly celebrate his opening goal. Ahead of Suarez's Anfield return, our man in Liverpool reports that the would-be goalscorer expects a warm welcome...
In truth, it was the striker’s conduct trying to get Liverpool players in trouble with the referee that most riled Anfield fans and it remains to be seen what reaction he receives from The Kop, who adored him during his three-year spell on Merseyside after he joined from Ajax in 2011.
He attempted to appease any displeasure ahead of the reunion.
“Celebrating the goal last week, people who know about football - who love this sport - know about the importance of this,” said Suarez.
“I have all the respect in the world for the Liverpool fans. Because I scored and celebrated with my fans I say sorry, but the Liverpool fans would applaud me. I am very thankful to Liverpool to the fans and the club and obviously it is clear that if I score a goal against Liverpool I won't celebrate it in the same way. I didn’t celebrate in Holland when I scored.
“I think people know the work I did here. I think there will be more applause than whistles. There may be quite a few who are not happy, but I think there will be more who are happy and grateful.
“You see the people in the kitchen are waiting to give me a present for my children so you see the love that is still there and the warmth that is still there for me. I have a son who was born here and this was the first stadium he went to.
“I was here for three-and-a-half years and the team had been four or five years without being in the Champions League.
Obscure & Retro Corner
Back to 2001 just one more time, if we may. Having earned a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp in the first leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final, Liverpool brought Barcelona back to Anfield and scraped a 1-0 win (Gary McAllister converting a penalty past a young Pepe Reina, no less).
But things might have been a lot different if this moment of brutal Rivaldo opportunism had come off. Not that Barry Davies was getting excited...
Liverpool vs Barcelona, 2001: Barry Davies plays this 42-yard effort from Rivaldo a *little* too cool, for me pic.twitter.com/ha0CQX8z2H— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) May 7, 2019
Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri get the nod up front for Liverpool, in the Firmino and Salah roles respectively, while 19-year-old prospect Rhian Brewster is on the bench:
Barcelonahave no such selection worries.
On that slightly surreal night 18 years ago, ex-girlfriend Lisa had emerged as the 4/5 odds-on favourite to be revealed as Phil's shooter. Tonight, the odds are rather longer for Liverpool to outgun Barcelona on aggregate, as Ross Clarke explains:
Liverpool are 18/1 to turn around a three-goal deficit and qualify for the Champions League final at Anfield tonight.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were unlucky to leave the Nou Camp with such a margin to overcome but Barcelona’s recent Champions League exploits away from home in the knockout stages suggests all may not be lost for Liverpool.
It will, of course, take only one away goal for Barcelona to virtually seal the tie but they have shipped a remarkable number of goals on their travels in the latter stages of this competition in recent years.
Forgetting the 2-0 win against an average Manchester United side who really had no business being in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition, Barcelona have not won another away game in the latter rounds of the Champions League since February 2016, when they beat an Arsenal team containing Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.
Football 0 Eastenders 1
Remember 2001? Weird times. So weird, in fact, that Uefa agreed to move the kick-off time for Liverpool vs Barcelona by 10 minutes...so it wouldn't clash with finding out who shot Phil Mitchell. Yes, seriously:
Some effortless link-play from Lineker here on the night the BBC inexplicably managed to *persuade UEFA to delay the kick-off of Barcelona vs Liverpool by 10 minutes* so EastEnders viewers could find out who shot Phil Mitchellpic.twitter.com/ItlWYmlRDi— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) April 18, 2019
BBC Sport spokesman Mike Hales said at the time: "We asked both sides nicely and they agreed to start later because of EastEnders.
"It is a well-known programme so the Spanish realise it was important for the BBC."
No such potential delays on BT Sport tonight, unless Rio Ferdinand's pre-match punditry takes a dramatic twist.
'If not, then fail in the most beautiful way'
Every team has their limit.
Liverpool's it seems, is to amass up to 97 (ninety-seven) Premier League points...and still not win the title. To go to the Nou Camp with pretty much everything they've got...and lose 3-0. To hang their Champions League hopes on Anfield's mess-with-your-head atmosphere...and then lose their best player to concussion 72 hours earlier.
Jurgen Klopp - outwardly, at least - seems to handle pure defeat better than most managers. His reaction to Lionel Messi's other-worldly free kick last Wednesday night was a gracious, awe-struck half-smile-half-stare.
Ahead of tonight's second leg - in which, to clarify, Liverpool will need to score at least three times without giving an inch at the other end - he did not bother thumping the Anfield tub.
"They are halfway through. That's the truth, the absolute truth. I don't sit at home and tell my missus wait for me at home, we will have a party after the game because we'll win it."
Perhaps the blow of Salah's head injury at St James' Park - and, conversely, the boost of still being in with a shout of the title on Sunday - has tipped Klopp into this philosophical mood. "We believe in the chance, we believe in the opportunity, not in the result," was the extent of his optimism. "We are in a good shape, so we should try it."
We could try and tee this game up with some stranger-things-have-happened material but, let's face it, nobody has the energy for that. Maybe Liverpool - without Firmino, without Salah - will score early. Maybe they'll squeeze another by half time. Maybe Lionel Messi won't get a kick. Until he does, and then Liverpool will need five. And then Mrs Klopp really will be switching the TV off.
Still, might be fun. Team news on the way in a bit!