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

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 02:03 01/05/2019
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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.

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