Sports Mole selects its strongest possible combined XI from the squads of Liverpool and Barcelona ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Anfield.
Anfield will be primed and ready for what the home fans hope will be another famous European night this Tuesday when Liverpool look to overturn a big first-leg deficit in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.
Barca take a commanding 3-0 lead to Merseyside courtesy of Lionel Messi‘s heroics at the Camp Nou last week, and know that a place in their first final since 2015 awaits them should they avoid an almighty collapse.
However, the Spanish giants did let a three-goal first-leg lead slip en route to exiting the competition last season, and Liverpool are no strangers to a rousing European comeback either.
The Reds will have to do it without two of their star players, though, after both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled out of the contest due to injury.
Here, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from the two squads using only those available on Tuesday.
As was the case in our combined XI for the first leg, one of the toughest decisions comes in goal with two of the world’s best competing for the gloves. Marc-Andre ter Stegen made some important saves to deny Liverpool an away goal at the Camp Nou whereas Alisson Becker was beaten three times, but the Brazilian has shown enough during his debut season at Liverpool to pip Ter Stegen to a place in this team.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was a surprise exclusion from the Liverpool team last week but is almost certain to come back into the side with the Reds needing goals, and he was on top form at the weekend with two more assists in the win over Newcastle, reaffirming why he is chosen above Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo.
Alexander-Arnold was joined by Andrew Robertson in our selection last week, but Jordi Alba‘s performance at the Camp Nou – complete with a fine assist for the opener – is enough for him to usurp the Scot in another battle between two of the best in the world in their positions.
Virgil van Dijk and Gerard Pique can realistically lay claim to being the two best central defenders around at the moment, and the unflappable pair are relatively easy choices ahead of the likes of Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti.
The wealth of attacking talent in both squads forced us into a 4-2-3-1 formation last week, but the absence of Salah in particular switches it back to a 4-3-3, where Barcelona provide two of the midfielders.
Sergio Busquets remains the standard by which all other holding midfielders are judged in world football and could well be Barcelona’s most important player at Anfield against a Liverpool side that has no choice but to attack, while alongside him Ivan Rakitic is chosen ahead of Arturo Vidal and Arthur – the latter of whom was a surprise omission from the starting lineup in the first leg.
Midfield is a fiercely-contested area of this team with the likes of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner also in with a shout, but Georginio Wijnaldum has been Liverpool’s most consistent midfielder throughout the campaign and narrowly gets the nod ahead of his teammates and his Barca counterparts.
Injuries to Salah and Firmino make it an easy decision in the front three, although Lionel Messi is always a guaranteed pick regardless of who else is in the running. The Argentine brought up 600 goals for Barcelona with his stunning free kick in the first leg, single-handedly taking the tie away from Liverpool late on.
Luis Suarez may be in for a more hostile reception than originally expected on his return to Anfield after his enthusiastic celebration of his opening goal in the first leg, but such antics – not to mention the quality it took to put his finish past Alisson – are exactly the reason he was so adored on Merseyside before his exit.
Philippe Coutinho is another who will be returning to his former stomping ground on Tuesday, but he misses out on a place in this team to Sadio Mane, who is the only member of Liverpool’s usual front three fit to lead the charge.
Combined XI: Barcelona vs. Liverpool