The horrible performance will surely come with serious consequences, starting with the fate of manager Ernesto Valverde – which kicks off our talking points from the action.
Can Valverde survive?
Will Barca manager Valverde still be in post at the beginning of next season? It must be highly unlikely. After putting themselves into a commanding position with a 3-0 first leg lead, his team completely fell apart to suffer a humiliating 4-0 loss and the manager is bound to receive a roasting.
Of course, the players are due their fair share of criticism after committing a series of terrible individual errors and failing to collectively rouse themselves. And Liverpool’s magnificent performance cannot be underestimated – the Reds won this tie as much as the Blaugrana lost it.
But this was the second year in a row that Barca have suffered second leg collapses after gaining three-goal leads, and the old adage that you should never make the same mistake twice will be held firmly against the manager.
Valverde particularly stands accused of failing to turn things around when he had the chance during the half-time interval: his team were shambolic at the start of the second half, conceding twice in the first ten minutes.
And in this kind of situation, the buck stops with the manager.
No rescue act from Messi
After his sensational performance in the first leg last week, Lionel Messi had plenty of chances to sentence the tie in the rematch at Anfield. For once, though, the Argentine star was off the mark with his finishing despite regularly threatening the Liverpool goal.
Messi’s first forward thrust came in the opening minute when he darted through to the edge of the area before being dispossessed. His first chance came shortly after Liverpool’s opener, with a snapshot from just inside the box that Alisson did well to turn over the crossbar.
Another chance soon came when Jordi Alba laid the ball into Messi’s path in a great position on the edge of the box, but he took too long switching the ball onto his left foot and was dispossessed.
Still in the first half, Messi then drilled a couple of low long-range shots just wide, before nearly teeing up an equaliser with a great through ball to Alba who was denied by Alisson’s good stop.
The second half started with Messi releasing a perfect pass for Suarez which the Uruguayan failed to convert, before he sent a long-range free-kick into the wall and then had an angled drive saved. In the latter stages he was anonymous, and this will go down as one of the worst nights of his career.
Where were the options?
Liverpool had a pair of established internationals, Divick Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri, on hand to replace their injured starters Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah, and later introduced Daniel Sturridge – another experienced striker – from the bench.
That shows they have something all top-quality teams surely need: strength in depth in the goalscoring positions.
Barcelona, meanwhile, had…nobody. Their substitutions were full-back Nelson Semedo, ball-playing midfielder Arthur and winger Malcom, who have combined for a grand total of five goals in all competitions.
The only other centre forward in the squad, Kevin Prince Boateng, wasn’t even named on the bench after making no impact whatsoever following his bizarre signing in January – and he’s not even a real centre forward anyway.
For Barca, all season it has been a case of Messi and Suarez or bust. On this occasion, it was bust. And surely by now the club’s hierarchy have learned that putting all the goalscoring weight on the shoulders of two players – no matter how great they are – is a bad idea.
Barca must surely recruit at least two high-class forwards in the summer, and the club’s squad management department, headed by Eric Abidal, must share a portion of blame for this fiasco.
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