Advantage Liverpool

February 22 2007

John Arne Riise celebrates his goal against Barcelona in last night's Champions League gameBarcelona 1-2 Liverpool. It sticks in the throat a bit, but I thought Liverpool were excellent last night.

The absence of a real, defence-stretching frontman in the Barca team meant they were forced to field a more compact team than they would prefer to, and Benitez robbed Deco, Messi and Ronaldinho of the space on which they thrive by packing the midfield with Sissoko, Alonso and Gerrard. It enabled Liverpool to play a classic counter-attacking game, and even though Barcelona just shaded possession, there wasn’t much between the teams in terms of shots on goal.

The lack of space in front of the Liverpool back four frustrated Barca’s attackers, and the persistent harrying of the Barca defence by Bellamy and Kuyt meant that the Catalans were frequently hurried out of their usual passing game. As a consequence Barca began to look ragged, but Liverpool retained commendable caution by sitting back and trying to pick them off on the break.

Before the game I thought the Liverpool team looked a little unbalanced with a left midfielder (Riise) and a centre forward (Bellamy) on the left, and two right-backs (Arbeloa and Finnan) on the right, but Riise and Bellamy did a great job of shackling Messi, and both Liverpool’s goals came from attacks down the right.

Frank Rijkaard’s post-match comments will not inspire much confidence in the Barca faithful: “We must always be positive, but we have to be realistic. It will be difficult to make a comeback.”

Hardly Churchillian, but it demonstrates the unyielding pragmatism of many European clubs. The never-say-die attitude synonymous with British football is something that a lot of Spanish and Italian teams just do not understand, but it’s looking stronger than ever in this season’s Champions League.


2 Responses to “Advantage Liverpool”

  1. Rhys Says:

    All British final you think this year? Good as chance as any with Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea all having the advantage, with Arsenal not out of it yet.

  2. Tom Williams Says:

    I think there’s a stronger chance of an all-British Champions League final this year than ever before.

    With Barcelona on the verge of elimination and Real Madrid wobbling, Valencia are the only big threat from Spain. Their 2-2 draw against Inter Milan suggests they have the quality to make the final, but it would be a surprise.

    That result leaves Inter’s hopes of qualification in the balance, and while AC Milan can never be discounted, the Italian challenge does not look particularly strong.

    Bayern Munich are having a troubled season, and even if PSV overcome Arsenal, I really can’t see them going all the way.

    The British clubs, by comparison, are looking stronger than ever before, and all have lots of recent European experience. I wouldn’t overlook Lyon though. They must be bored of winning Le Championnat at a canter every season, and with a great home record and players like Juninho, Malouda and Fred, they could be this season’s surprise package.

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