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.
The Reds were full of heroes all over the pitch, while Barcelona delivered a calamitous display which will surely carry consequences.
Check out our full player ratings here.
Ter Stegen 4. Perhaps could have done better with the first two goals and rarely looked secure on a rare off night.
Roberto 5. Improved from a slow start to lift his team. Moved into midfield and one of few Barca players to emerge with any credit.
Pique 5. Made some interventions inside the box and must have felt like a one-man defence at times.
Lenglet 3. After a great season he was all at sea, never looking comfortable against Liverpool’s pace and movement.
Alba 3. Terrible errors led to the first two goals, and he just had a horror show all night. Worst game of his career?
Vidal 7. Helped settle his team from their poor start, but faded in the second half and was replaced.
Rakitic 4. Tried to impose calm in midfield but that too often became passive sloppiness. Replaced near the end.
Busquets 4. Lack of pace regularly exposed by Liverpool’s swarming attacks, and he looks a sadly spent force.
Coutinho 4. Some sharp early attacking moments but he was well off the pace and substituted after an hour.
Messi 5. Had plenty of chances to play the hero role, for once he couldn’t do it as Alisson repelled him.
Suarez 3. Lacked power with a decent chance early in the second half, and failed to trouble the home defence.
Semedo 4. Came on at right-back after an hour but didn’t improve things, vulnerable at the back and wayward in attack.
Arthur 4. Appeared after 75 minutes with the aim of giving control in midfield but failed to do so.
Malcom 4. Last throw of the dice from Valverde, couldn’t make anything of his few chances to pose danger.
Luis Suarez admits he owes a debt of gratitude to Liverpool for helping him become the player he is and believes a warm welcome awaits at Anfield for the service he put in for the club.
The Barcelona striker scored 82 goals in 133 matches over the duration of his three-and-a-half-year stay on Merseyside, where he was loved by Reds fans and generally detested by all opposition supporters.
Much of that was of his own making, having been banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and then 10 matches for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez bit the hand that used to feed him after scoring the opening goal in the Champions League semi-final first-leg 3-0 win at the Nou Camp last week but he believes the reception he will receive on his return will be positive.
He has vowed not to celebrate, unlike last week, out of respect should he score in front of the Kop.
“Obviously it is special after enjoying a number of good years here and I am grateful to Liverpool for my time here and how they received me as player,” said the Uruguay international.
“I will always be thankful for that and the heritage of the club. It is going to be very special to come back here this time wearing a different shirt but I have lovely memories of my time here and my career at Liverpool.
“It helped me in so many ways, it helped me become more technical. When I came from Ajax I did improve but having players with great experience allowed me to be even better.
“Being captain of Liverpool was one of the proudest moments of my career. It is something I won’t forget. Playing in the elite with Barcelona was because of Liverpool and what they made me.”
Suarez is convinced fans will remember his record at Liverpool and respect him accordingly.
“I was here for three-and-a-half years and the team had been four or five years without being in the Champions League. In the last year I was here we got in the Champions League,” added the 32-year-old, who revealed canteen staff at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground had given him presents for his three children.
“So 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.”
Suarez was, somewhat harshly, criticised for celebrating wildly when he scored the opening goal last week.
He will not be repeating those scenes should he find the net at Anfield.
“Celebrating the goal last week, people who know about football, who love this sport, know about the importance of this,” he said.
“I have all the respect in the world for the Liverpool fans. Because I scored and celebrated with my fans, I say sorry.
“Obviously it is clear that if I score a goal against Liverpool I won’t celebrate it in the same way.”
Despite a significant advantage, coach Ernesto Valverde insists they will not underestimate their opponents and will stick to their principles.
“If we start to think about the first result we had it will be an error. We have to play as if there was not a game before. We have to play as if it were a final and the scores were level,” he said.
“It is going to be difficult. We have to be aware of the atmosphere here. We know the fans are going to be behind their side from the start.
“Every team has their own style and it’s always important to bring the game to your side.
“If a team puts you under pressure and tries to get you to play the way they want to play, that can put us in an uncomfortable situation.
“We want to have the feeling that we are in control. There is no doubt they will attack us, no doubt about that. We have to stop the pressure and stop them attacking us.”
Provided by Press Association Sport