Lionel Messi may still be the master, but there is so much more to this brilliant Barcelona team


The issue with focusing your energies on solely Lionel Messi, as Jurgen Klopp rightly recognized in his pre-match press convention, is that Barcelona have 10 different gamers. They aren’t freaks of nature. Not anomalies within the gene pool. They’re, to a person, mere human beings slightly than extraterrestrials. However reviews of their demise have been significantly exaggerated.

Messi received this sport and maybe this tie with two second-half targets to depart Liverpool getting ready to Champions League elimination on the semi-final stage, however he solely did so after these round him had given him the platform. This can be a sometimes-maligned Barcelona however it’s nonetheless Barcelona. Nonetheless a group which, underneath Ernesto Valverde, has solely misplaced 4 video games in league and European competitors over the previous two seasons.

Solely a type of defeats – that scarcely credible reverse in Rome in final yr’s quarter-finals – was in any respect vital. It’s a notable blot on Valverde’s copy guide however it’s the just one. Jurgen Klopp has only a few on his too, however the curious line-up he chosen for this defeat could go down as one in every of them except Liverpool can flip the deficit round.

Joe Gomez was at right-back, making his first begin since breaking his leg in December. Trent Alexander-Arnold was on the substitutes’ bench. The in-form captain, Jordan Henderson, was initially stored in reserve too. Georginio Wijnaldum performed as a false 9. All this, in arguably essentially the most vital sport of your season to this point. On the Camp Nou, no much less.

A few of these choices had been enforced. Others – significantly these down the left-hand facet – felt like a concession to the participant who Klopp described as the best he has ever personally witnessed. Messi was harried, kicked, pushed, barged and primarily crowded out at each alternative.

The in any other case wonderful Joel Matip was a contact lucky to not concede an early penalty when his try and smother the Argentinian. Matip was lashing on the ball, desperately attempting to beat it away, however kicked it up towards his hand. Bjorn Kuipers, the match referee, didn’t discover.

James Milner, who took explicit pleasure in bludgeoning Messi, out on the identical touchline the place he was nutmegged by him 5 years in the past. The ball was out of play after Andrew Roberton’s well-timed sort out. There was no hazard of a fast restart to provoke a counter. However the temptation to depart one in was too nice. Liverpool’s plan out of possession may due to this fact be boiled down to 2 phrases: suffocate Messi.

Maybe then, in a technique, this was a match-up between a person and a collective in any case, however that interpretation falls considerably flat when the 10 different gamers on this Barcelona group step in for his or her chief, denying you the house during which to play and forcing the opening themselves.

There was the defence, led by the spectacular Clement Lenglet and evergreen Gerard Pique, throwing their our bodies down to dam one other try at aim. There was the midfield made up completely over over-30s, not solely maintaining with the frantic tempo however dictating it. There was Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose interventions initially of the second half had been as essential as any aim.

After which there was Jordi Alba’s cross and Luis Suarez’s end, the 2 actions which produced Barcelona’s first of the evening, the one which killed Liverpool’s early momentum. The execution of each was beautiful, the timing extra so, exploiting Virgil van Dijk’s uncharacteristic lapse in focus to fillet Klopp’s defence. Messi performed no half. He had not wanted too.

Earlier than that, Liverpool had their possibilities. Mohamed Salah was embarking on lengthy, intricate dribbles which might be described as Messi-esque. Sadio Mané was discovering ample house in behind Sergi Roberto, lacking that remaining contact to make a possibility depend. However after Alba and Suarez mixed, that preliminary power and spark by no means returned.

Mo Salah’s affect on the match waned (Reuters)

From there on, a bruised however unbowed Messi took the sport away from Liverpool. It was the 75th minute when he prepared, contained in the penalty space, to react after Suarez’s effort had struck the crossbar and dribble over the goal-line. Six minutes later, he was curling a spectacular free-kick from 25-yards out out of Alisson’s attain and into the highest left-hand nook.

He’s nonetheless this facet’s genius, their match-winner, and the participant who any facet visiting on the Camp Nou should be sure to minimise, because the late present which can resolve this semi-final demonstrated. However scale back Barcelona to Messi and Messi alone at your peril.

Lionel Messi hails ‘spectacular’ Barcelona performance against Manchester United


Lionel Messi has described Barcelona’s efficiency in opposition to Manchester United as “spectacular”, after his two targets helped seal a formidable 3-Zero victory on the Camp Nou.

After Barcelona withstood some early stress from United, Messi ended any hopes of a comeback for the Premier League aspect because the hosts superior 4-Zero on combination.

Messi opened the scoring with an excellent solo effort within the 16th minute after he gained possession of the ball, ghosted previous Fred and Phil Jones, and curled a shot into the far nook.

The second got here simply 4 minutes later, though Messi was helped by an enormous error by David de Gea that point. The Argentina ahead solely managed a tame shot on purpose however the Spain goalkeeper let it slip beneath him and into the online.

Philippe Coutinho added a 3rd purpose with an outstanding curling strike from lengthy vary within the 61st to cap arguably the very best efficiency by the previous Liverpool participant since becoming a member of Barcelona simply over a yr in the past.

“It was spectacular,” Messi stated after the win. “That is what we’re. Within the first 5 minutes, we went in a bit of chilly and nervous – however from then on the targets got here and we put in a spectacular efficiency.”

Supervisor Ernesto Valverde added that his aspect have been now “assured” of reaching the ultimate in Madrid. Barcelona will play both Liverpool or Porto for a spot within the last.

“We’re very excited,” he stated. “It has been some time since we have been within the semi-finals – now we might like to get to the ultimate. We’re assured, however we all know that 5 dangerous minutes can depart you eradicated.

“[Messi] performed nice soccer and his targets modified the best way the sport was going. However I am not going to apologise to our rivals as a result of we have Messi and so they do not!”

Barcelona vs Manchester United: Outsmarting Barca’s unheralded defensive steel is United’s toughest task of all


OK, look. No person needs to examine Barcelona’s defending. Everyone knows that’s not what they’re for. That’s not what sells the tour packages and the summer time soccer camps. No person ever posted a selfie from the highest deck of the Nou Camp and gushed about having seen Nelson Semedo enjoying within the flesh. No person performs as Barcelona on Fifa as a result of they actually wish to take management of Clement Lenglet. We get that.

However forward of the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, maybe it’s value paying just a bit consideration to the world of the pitch that Manchester United will in all probability must breach at the least twice in the event that they wish to progress. You hardly ever hear about Barcelona as an elite defensive unit within the ilk of Actual Madrid or Juventus or Bayern Munich, for a lot the identical purpose that no one paid very a lot consideration to Michelle Williams’s harmonies in Future’s Little one. However even the most important superstars want a platform. And as Barcelona attain the enterprise finish of what may very well be one more treble-winning season, it’s their unheralded again line, as a lot as their celebrated entrance two, that’s the supply of their energy. 

A fast take a look at the numbers reveals the size of United’s job. Barcelona are unbeaten in 30 residence video games within the Champions League going again six years, scoring 93 objectives whereas – and right here’s the scary bit – conceding simply 15. They’ve conceded the fewest objectives of any crew on this season’s competitors. In the event that they didn’t have Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and a well-earned if barely grandiose popularity for hedonistic attacking perfection, we’d be exalting them as defensive maestros. 

However there’s greater than heritage at play right here. Barcelona’s solidity below supervisor Ernesto Valverde may be very a lot a latest phenomenon. Earlier within the season, they had been leaking objectives with such abandon that even the usually taciturn Lionel Messi was moved to criticism after an error-strewn draw with Athletic Bilbao in September. “We have to be stronger defensively,” he grumbled. “Final season we had been troublesome to attain in opposition to. Now groups rating in opposition to us from the slightest probability.”

A big a part of the rationale for the latest turnaround has been the return to type of Gerard Pique. Over latest weeks, he has been maybe Barcelona’s excellent performer, forging a successful partnership with Clement Lenglet. “They’re an important pairing, they’re the safety for us,” Sergio Busquets stated after they secured a significant if ugly clear sheet at Previous Trafford final Wednesday. And after a dominant show in opposition to his former membership within the first leg, during which he made no fewer than 9 clearances, you sense Pique once more holds the important thing to a recreation during which United can be pressured into the position of aggressors.

Watch again Pique’s efficiency at Previous Trafford and what’s hanging is how a lot of his work may very well be categorised as “old-school defending”. Maybe the reminiscence of his position in these three Champions League-winning sides below Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique has considerably colored our view of Pique, who for all his technical capacity and clean passing has at all times been simply as comfy going to floor as he’s staying on his toes, simply as adept at grappling within the air as he’s at calmly mopping up on the again. One factor is for sure: Romelu Lukaku might want to do his homework if he performs once more within the second leg, as a result of he bought nearly nothing out of Pique within the first.

Maybe one more reason why Pique’s evergreen excellence has considerably slipped below the radar is that lately he’s recognized for a lot else in addition to soccer. His enterprise pursuits now lengthen far and large, from males’s tennis to sun shades to hamburgers. He has made no secret of his need to hitch the Barcelona board after retirement, and even helped to dealer the membership’s sponsorship cope with Rakuten. In the meantime, his marriage to the pop star Shakira continues to maintain Spain’s tabloid gossip trade afloat. And so, encumbered with all his extracurricular baggage, it has been all too straightforward to suit Pique for the tailor-made fits of semi-retirement. To neglect that when he’s on his recreation, he stays, together with Sergio Ramos, Virgil van Dijk, Diego Godin and Giorgio Chiellini, within the very high bracket of worldwide centre-halves. 

Valverde is broadly thought to be Barcelona’s most pragmatic coach of latest instances, and so maybe it’s no accident that latest weeks have seen a renewed give attention to defensive solidity, a recognition that as a way to win the most important prizes, the stability between assault and defence have to be immaculate. “You at all times must bear in mind,” Marc-Andre ter Stegen stated on Monday. “We wish to exit and dominate like at all times, however when we now have to defend, we now have to do it. Like we did at Previous Trafford.”

Naturally, Barcelona stay favourites to win handsomely, not simply within the tie however on the night time. But when they’re to keep away from a nasty shock on the Nou Camp on Tuesday night time, then they’ll should be cautious of United’s velocity on the counter-attack, their vigour and perception, their capacity to alter the tempo of a recreation and burgle one thing out of nothing. In brief, they’ll have to outsmart Pique and his cohorts, and the proof of latest months means that it might be their hardest job of all. 

Manchester United vs Barcelona, Champions League LIVE online: Stream, score, goals and latest updates


Comply with the most recent updates reside from the Champions League quarter-final first leg between Manchester United and Barcelona at Previous Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s facet discover themselves within the last-eight of Europe in opposition to all odds after overturning a 2-Zero deficit in opposition to Paris Saint-Germain within the last-16, however face a fair greater activity in opposition to runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona in what’s a repeat of the 2011 Champions League last.

United can even be with out each Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera, whereas Solskjaer additionally has quite a few damage doubts forward of kick-off, in opposition to a Barca facet that’s set to function each Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Comply with the reside motion beneath.

32 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


The sport resumes however here is an replace on the Messi scenario.

30 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona 


Smalling runs by way of Messi, dispossessing him and busting his nostril. McTominay runs into the field with the ball and will get touched by Pique and goes to floor. No penalty judges the referee.


The physios come on to clear to blood from Messi’s nostril. 

27 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


As predicated Barcelona are dominating possession having 76% of it thus far. United get ahead with it now although as Dalot shoots into the area left from Semedo, he brings the ball again by giving it to Pogba who places a cross into Lukaku within the field however the cross is a contact too excessive and goes over Lukaku’s head. 

24 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


Dalot attracts Semedo away and makes some room for Rashford to chop inside with the ball. He takes it a contact nearer to the Barcelona field and fires a shot off simply sending too excessive.


Lenglet fires an extended ball ahead for Coutinho but it surely’s too lengthy and goes out of play.

21 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


Luke Shaw tussles with Messi and brings down the Barcelona playmaker, he is additionally put within the guide and consequently will miss the following leg on the Nou Camp.


United break on the counter and Younger and Rashford bomb ahead earlier than Younger’s cross is means too heavy. 


18 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


Busquets pulls down Pogba and will get put into the guide. United have one other free kick in a harmful place. Fred, and Pogba stand over the ball, Fred takes it and hits the wall. 

15 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona


Barcelona in management as they’ve been for many of the match thus far. Suarez  makes a mistake and United have a purpose kick.


12 minutes: Man Utd 0 – 1 Barcelona – Suarez


Busquets dinks a ball over the defence to Messi within the field. Messi’s first contact is poor and sends him to the left, he flicks it again throughout purpose and Suarez heads it into the online, getting a deflection off Luke Shaw’s physique.


It is a unhealthy begin for United.

12 minutes: Man Utd 0 – Zero Barcelona


Man Utd look harmful on the counter assault. Marcus Rashford positive fancies himself in opposition to Pique and Lenglet however Pique does for him on this event by giving to ball again to Ter Stegen. 


Suarez scores! However is dominated offside, right here comes VAR!

9 minutes: Man Utd 0 – Zero Barcelona


United have arrange with a again 4 with the defensive mid-fielders monitoring again to assist out.


Pogba sends a by way of ball previous Barcelona’s defence and Rashford will get in behind, Ter Stegen storms out of his purpose and beats Rashford to the ball however the dwelling facet have confirmed they will break down Barcelona. 

6 minutes: Man Utd 0 – Zero Barcelona


Rashford takes the free kick, he connects effectively with it and sends it throughout the purpose lacking to the left.


Ashley Younger dives in late on Coutinho and avoids a yellow card. The referee makes it clear that each side have gotten away with doubtful tackles they usually will not anymore. Barcelona in possession down the appropriate. 

Three minutes: Man Utd 0 – Zero Barcelona


Again-to-back corners for Barcelona, the second is performed brief and Barcelona probe the left wing looking for some area to ship the ball into the field, United defend effectively everybody bar Lukaku beinhd the ball they usually push Barcelona again.


Busquets slides in on McTominay and Utd have a free kick.


Man Utd 0 – Zero Barcelona


And we’re off, Barcelona begin the match, Previous Trafford is totally full and the environment is buzzing! 


Suarez tries to run round Smalling however the Manchester United defender clears the ball. 

There’s one other quarter-final match tonight between Ajax and Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo returns and you may observe the match motion beneath. 


We’re nearly able to get going at Previous Trafford because the gamers make their means onto the pitch.


So much has been stated concerning the problem that Man Utd face tonight however I’ve acquired a sense, a kind of you may’t actually clarify, however I reckon Man Utd will pull off one thing particular. 


It will all come right down to this man and his tactical ideas. Will we see the bib once more?





15 minutes to go, Barcelona are favourites with the bookies for victory however solely simply with odds of 13/5 for an away win.


Man Utd on the opposite are a slightly bold 29/10 on for a victory. If you happen to fancy a draw you may get evens odds.

Are you able to consider it?


The one Manchester United participant to attain at Previous Trafford within the Champions League this season is… Marouane Fellaini.




A 12 months in the past at the moment Barcelona had been knocked out of the Champions League by a spectacular show from Roma by which the 2 sides drew 4-4 (agg) and Roma went by way of on away targets. 


That is Barcelona’s 17th Champions League quarter-final look, a joint-record with Bayern Munich; they’ve certified for an 12th successive season, a contest document.


Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored 22 Champions League targets in 30 appearances in opposition to English groups – greater than every other participant within the historical past of the competitors.

To get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League is not any straightforward feat, however did United all the time have it in them? 


Not fairly studying for followers of Man Utd however may the Crimson Devils pull off one thing particular tonight? 

What time is kick-off and the way can I watch it?

The sport kicks off at 8pm at Previous Trafford.

It will likely be broadcast on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD. For these with out entry to a TV it can be reside streamed on-line by way of the BT Sport web site.

Predicted line-ups

Manchester United: De Gea, Younger, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku.

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal, Messi, Suarez, Coutinho.


Manchester United: 3/1

Draw: 13/5

Barcelona: Evens


Manchester United did the unthinkable as soon as within the final spherical, and Barca aren’t the vaunted group of some years earlier, but it surely’s nonetheless laborious to think about the Spanish champions in ready leaving Previous Trafford with out at the very least one away purpose.

They are often acquired at and there are targets available if United (Romelu Lukaku particularly) strap on their taking pictures boots – regardless of the brilliance of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen between the sticks – however Messi and Co. can be seeking to kill the tie this week forward of subsequent week’s second leg.

Count on Luis Suarez to get on the scoresheet, at the very least as soon as, with United maybe giving themselves an opportunity forward of the journey to the Nou Camp with one in reply.

Manchester United 1-Three Barcelona

Manchester United vs Barcelona: Will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s luck against European elite finally run out?


Twice already this season, a longtime member of European soccer’s elite has arrived at Outdated Trafford. Twice they’ve left victorious. Twice they taught their hosts a lesson in what’s required to compete at this rarefied stage. And but, it’s now the quarter-final stage of the Champions League and Manchester United are nonetheless standing.

The defeat to Juventus within the group levels of this competitors again in October uncovered the deficiencies of this United squad like few others earlier than it, deficiencies that Jose Mourinho had spent his summer season complaining about. It appeared to verify that his aspect had far to journey earlier than they may very well be thought of a contender at this stage once more.

A number of weeks later although, a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Turin, scoring twice after being outplayed for all of 86 minutes, turned group stage qualification from a risk to a likelihood. These three factors finally made the distinction when it got here to reaching within the last-16. Had been it a knock-out tie, United would have certified on away targets.

It was the identical story towards Paris Saint-Germain, solely extra extraordinary. For the primary time in 107 makes an attempt, a workforce progressed from a European Cup knockout tie after dropping 2-Zero at house within the first leg. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s aspect did so regardless of being outclassed for almost all in each video games and virtually pummelled into the pitch for the primary half in Paris.

Will this last-eight tie towards Barcelona observe the identical sample? Or will or not it’s the proverbial bucket of chilly water, poured over any pretensions this primary Champions League quarter-final in 5 years for United is a significant return to Europe’s prime desk? The latter, absolutely, is most definitely.

That is Barcelona, in spite of everything, manys’ second-favourites to win this competitors outright behind Manchester Metropolis. However not like Pep Guardiola’s aspect, they won’t should steadiness their European commitments with a demanding home title race. The Catalans all however wrapped up La Liga with their 2-Zero victory over a 10-man Atletico Madrid on the weekend.

And although there’s some benefit within the argument that this Barcelona aspect is extra susceptible now than up to now, they’ll nonetheless name upon the best participant of all-time. Lionel Messi cuts a very centered determine across the membership in the meanwhile, conscious that three Champions League titles is a meagre return from his prime years.

It’s a issue that makes the probabilities of a 3rd United upset of this Champions League marketing campaign that little bit extra distant. Their kind doesn’t assist both. Three defeats within the 4 has taken the shine off Solskjaer’s appointment and it is probably not a coincidence that they got here simply as he was at his apex, after that night time in Paris.

And even after a number of memorable European nights already this season, a number of members of United’s squad can have been left wanting extra. Romelu Lukaku’s agent final week recommended that his shopper’s future could lie away from Outdated Trafford, with the feedback rising simply as hopes of taking part in Champions League soccer subsequent season seem unsure.

A participant of high quality of David de Gea, who stays in negotiations with the membership over a brand new contract, will even anticipate to be taking part in at this stage for years to return. Questions on Paul Pogba’s future proceed to be requested, regardless of Solskjaer insisting at his pre-match press convention on Tuesday that Pogba would nonetheless be on the membership subsequent season.

Lionel Messi takes in Outdated Trafford (PA)

United could also be within the final eight of this season’s Champions League and eating again at that prime desk, however they’d not be if not for a Leonardo Bonucci personal objective again in November or a Presnel Kimpembe handball final month. These are the superb margins that usually resolve Champions League contests, however it would take one thing extra substantial to show they’re aggressive once more at this stage.

It will be no shock if, after Turin and Paris, these two legs towards Barcelona may very well be a case of third time unfortunate.

Barcelona news: Ernesto Valverde signs new contract at Nou Camp


Ernesto Valverde has signed a brand new contract at Barcelona to commit his future to the Nou Camp till 2020. 

There may be additionally the choice for an extra season on the deal to increase it till 2021. 

Valverde has received La Liga and the Copa del Rey in his debut season in cost, with the Blaugrana effectively set in each competitions once more this time period. 

Lyon await within the Champions League final 16, as Valverde bids to make amends for his or her collapse within the quarter-finals final season vs Roma. 

Barcelona had been additionally near clinching an unbeaten marketing campaign in La Liga, dropping late within the marketing campaign to Levante to scupper the historic achievement. 

Valverde has overseen 96 video games, profitable 65 of them for a win proportion of 68 per cent, in addition to scoring 233 objectives and conceding simply 78. 

Actual Valladolid are subsequent up in La Liga earlier than they journey to Lyon for the primary leg of their final 16 tie. 

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has prolonged his contract (AFP/Getty Photographs)

A six-point lead within the league ought to enable Valverde to prioritise Europe within the coming weeks, with the previous Athletic Bilbao was set converse to the media at 4pm. 


Keep up to date with all the latest news with expert comment and analysis from our award-winning writers