Barcelona v Liverpool: Why Ousmane Dembele is a key weapon for the Catalans

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Ousmane Dembele

Two of the most consistent teams this season are set to lock horns on the biggest stage in Europe as Barcelona host Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final.

This two-legged tie will test the wits of bosses Ernesto Valverde and Jurgen Klopp.

With that in mind, we take a look at the tactics the Barcelona head coach will be looking to employ in this crucial fixture.

Click here to check out the Liverpool tactics 

CONTROL IN MIDFIELD 

Sergio Busquets has been the linchpin of Barcelona’s midfield for almost a decade now. However, the Spaniard has been unusually erroneous this season, the 30-year-old perhaps beginning to show signs of decline.

Klopp will no doubt have played the quarter-finals tapes several times over and noticed how vulnerable Busquets was during periods of high press from Manchester United’s midfield.

Valverde will know what to expect from a ‘Gegenpressing’ Reds and hence attempt to add more control in midfield, even though that could mean sacrificing some creativity.

Expect Arturo Vidal to start ahead of Arthur and provide Busquets cover by playing deeper than usual and doing the dirty work. It would not be surprising if the Basque coach fields a flat 4-4-2 with either of Philippe Coutinho or Ousmane Dembele having to drop into midfield and defend.

DEMBELE THRIVING ON THE WING 

One of the main traits of both Barcelona and Liverpool is their tendency to push both full-backs high up the pitch. When you consider the four players in those positions – Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto/Nelson Semedo and Andy Robertson plus Trent Alexander-Arnold – it’s Liverpool who look vulnerable defensively.

Alexander-Arnold is still not completely convincing with his positioning and so one of Liverpool’s midfielders will be burdened to cover the space left behind the right-back.

If there is one player from this Barcelona team Liverpool would prefer to steer clear in a one-on-one situations in space, it has to be Dembele.

The Frenchman provides the Catalan giants an explosive push they have missed ever since Lionel Messi adopted a more central role. Valverde will be looking to ensure that all counters flow through Dembele, who showed against Tottenham that he can be devastating in such a situation.

Most popular

Barcelona v Liverpool: Why Roberto Firmino is going to be vital for the Reds

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

While maintaining the pressure on Manchester City in the league, Liverpool shift their attention to Europe as they visit Camp Nou to face Barcelona with the hopes of taking something back to Anfield.

The consistency shown by both clubs has been commendable and the tie promises to be a cracker between equals.

Apart from key-battles on the pitch, Jurgen Klopp and Ernesto Valverde will be putting their wits to the test on the sidelines.

We take a look at the tactics Klopp could turn to in this blockbuster of a fixture.

Click here if you wish to see how Barca will navigate this tie 

FIRMINO TO PLAY A KEY ROLE 

Unlike a traditional No9, Roberto Firmino likes to play deep and provide supporting runs when Mohamed Salah takes the initiative. This feature of his game will be very useful against a team employing a high defensive line.

With the full-backs advancing and Sergio Busquets dropping, Barcelona will shift into a back three. Firmino’s movement can pull Busquets or one of the centre-backs forward, leaving the hosts susceptible to a quick transition on either of the wing.

Both Salah and Sadio Mane are potent on the counter and can exploit the space left by Barcelona’s full-backs. Firmino’s speed means that he can then join the attacks in their final phase to add more bodies in the box.

HENDERSON AND TAA TO PIN DOWN ALBA

Immobilising Jordi Alba has to be a key tactic for Liverpool, both from a defensive and attacking perspective. Jordan Henderson might have to drift wide to help Trent Alexander-Arnold suffocate the Barcelona left-back.

By keeping the Spaniard from getting into dangerous areas and exchanging passes with Lionel Messi, Liverpool will cross out one major threat that has troubled most defences this season.

Of all full-backs in the world, Alba – despite entering his 30’s – is one of the few who is capable of matching Salah’s pace and preventing his advances. With Henderson and Alexander-Arnold suffocating Alba to the touchline, Salah will have the freedom to wreak havoc from the half-space, outpacing Clement Lenglet and having a sight at goal.

Most popular

Ajax v Tottenham player focus as Donny van de Beek continues sensational form

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Ajax took a crucial step towards making it to the finals of the Champions League by securing a 1-0 win over Tottenham away from home.

Hakim Ziyech did brilliantly to set up Donny van de Beek for the only goal that was scored on the night.

We take a closer look at the 22-year-old’sperformance.

KEY-STATS

Goals: 1

Assists: 0

Shots: 3

Shots on target: 2

Pass (success rate): 33(70%)

Key-passes: 2

Dribbles completed: 2

Dispossessed: 2

30-SECOND REPORT

Van de Beek’s lone goal in the 16th minute separated the two teams at the end of 90 minutes and provided Ajax an advantage ahead of the home leg at Amsterdam.

The midfielder started right behind Dusan Tadic – almost as a second striker – and troubled Spurs with his pressing and intelligent off-the-ball movement.

The 22-year-old failed to find the perfect start to the game, skying his first shot miles above the crossbar. Eventually, he managed to put on his scoring boots.

GOT RIGHT

Finishing: Van de Beek already displayed against Juventus and Real Madrid that he can be decisive when things are going his way in the final third. Indeed, things went his way as he made the best of what was presented to him.

Ajax created a lot of chances in the opening stages of the game, but failed to bury as many as they should have. The introduction of Moussa Sissoko tipped the scale towards the hosts. Eventually it all came down to Van de Beek’s heroic moment when he wrong-footed Hugo Lloris to finish off Ziyech’s pass.

The youngster maintained composure and managed to score past the Spurs skipper with a clever finish.

Defensive actions: The 22-year-old’s pressing game forced quite a few mistakes at the Spurs end. Also, Van de Beek won all the tackles he attempted and hence played a crucial role in breaking down the Spurs attacks before they even began.

The youngster hence proved to be helpful to disrupt Spurs’ counter-attacks and help Ajax in the transition. With a clearance and interception each, it’s clear that he was reading the game incredibly well and adjusting accordingly.

Van de Beek has been successful in Europe this summer

Van de Beek has been successful in Europe this summer

VERDICT

After inspirational performances against Madrid and Juventus, Van de Beek displayed his mettle by repeating the feat against Spurs.

The Dutchman looked like trouble every time Ajax were transitioning or launching a counter-attack. His link-up with Ziyech also helped create some trouble on the right side of the pitch.

Van de Beek is in good form going into the second leg and possibly the finals and this could provide some boost as Ajax aim to end the season with the treble.

In a world where Matthijs de Ligt is linked with top clubs for an exorbitant fee and Frenkie de Jong has already secured a move to Barcelona, it’s surprising how not many are fighting for his signature.

RATING: 8/10

Most popular