John Gibbons: Liverpool’s season on the edge after Messi’s magic

A campaign that promised so much for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool could see them finish trophyless once again following their Barcelona beatdown.

Jurgen Klopp


Barcelona seemed quieter yesterday. Back to normal I guess. Ordinary tourists rather than football fans filled the squares, bars and restaurants. Maybe the scousers are just quieter. On Wednesday we sang songs about Virgil Van Djik and heading to another final in Madrid. Thursday morning, we were left with hangovers and confusion. How did we lose that game three nil? This wasn’t supposed to happen…

I wonder how Jurgen Klopp reflects on the game. His team will have done most of what he asked, what he hoped to see. They pressed well and had more possession and more shots, but no goals. Will he put the result down to a mixture of bad luck and an extraordinary player on the opposite side or wish he’d done anything differently?

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 01: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool watches his team train ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 01, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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He made a big call at right back, dropping Trent Alexander Arnold and picking the more assured Joe Gomez. Gomez did fine, but he saw a lot of the ball and didn’t do a huge amount with it. Maybe Klopp woke up this morning wondering if Trent, who has been his man all season and played Ronaldo et al so well in the Champions League final last year, might have added to his impressive assist number last night and created a Liverpool goal.

He made a big call in midfield too. Picking Naby Keita instead of a forward to replace Roberto Firmino and effectively playing four central midfielders in an attempt control the game. Keita played well and looked a threat, but when he got injured in the first half, Klopp chose to bring on Jordan Henderson and seemed to push Gini Wijnaldum into a number ten position he has rarely played for Liverpool.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 01: Lionel Messi of Barcelona scores a free-kick to make it 3-0 during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 01, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The game was still 0-0 at that point. Maybe, had Luis Suarez scored two minutes before the substitution rather than two minutes after, he might have made a different call and brought on someone more naturally inclined to support Mane and Salah in attack. Maybe he could have got longer out of Firmino, or something out of Shaqiri or Origi?


All we know is that Liverpool face a mountain to climb if they are to progress to the Champions League Final now. A season that promised so much is now in the balance and other teams have a much firmer grip on their destiny than Liverpool, who are now hoping for fortune, miracles, prayers.

The first thing they can do is beat Newcastle on Saturday. That they can control. It wont be straight forward, with bodies and minds fatigued from Barcalona, but it’s a chance to go back to the top of the league and then see what happens. It feels very soon. Especially as I’m still in Spain. But by the weekend I’m sure we’ll all be ready. Players to play and supporters to cheer. All trying to do their best to get Liverpool over the line.

Surely Rafa won’t break our hearts on Saturday. Surely…

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What do you think?