‘The Messi test’: Liverpool must overcome Argentine to stand any chance of Champions League glory
Having kept pace with Manchester City at the business end of the English title race for months, Liverpool's focus switches on Wednesday away from their pursuit of Premier League glory towards the Nou Camp, a theater which has proven to be more like graveyard for many an English side over the years.
Lionel Messi, the man on whose turf Liverpool must perform, has overseen the exit of several of Europe's most well-regarded sides over this and several other seasons and once again, the tie will likely be decided by how much leeway the Argentinian magician can conjure.Also on rt.com Barcelona post epic Camp Nou VIDEO after Liverpool boss Klopp says stadium ‘isn’t football temple’
That is not to suggest this will be one-way traffic. Liverpool's three-pronged attack is as robust as any side in Europe with the pace of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, as well as the craftiness of Roberto Firmino, ideally suited to salvaging chances from the rationed time and space they will receive on the ball.
Virgil Van Dijk has had a memorable few days, too. He was recently crowned the 2018-19 English PFA Player of the Year, becoming just the third central defender to do so in Premier League history after John Terry and Paul McGrath, and if this season has been an exercise in excellence for the Dutchman, then perhaps Wednesday's encounter is his final exam.Also on rt.com ‘Firmino, Salah, Mane, they score and score and score’ – Jose Mourinho on Barca v Liverpool (VIDEO)
There are few instances in world football as panic-inducing for a defender as facing the prospect of the best player of his generation running down your throat, and how Van Dijk handles Lionel Messi will be an interesting indicator as to exactly what Liverpool got for their £75 million (€87 million).
Of course, Barcelona offer a much more multi-faceted approach that just Messi and his 10 friends. Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho could haunt their former club after scoring a combined 136 goals for The Reds during their time on Merseyside, and that is before even considering the talents of Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and Arthur.
Whoever advances to the final after the second leg at Anfield on May 7 will be playing for their sixth European title and after 180 minutes (or more) of football, it will be fascinating to see who among two of the most successfully developed squads in European football has the most impact.
Or it might just come down to a moment of magic from the dimuntive Argentine. Again.