THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE semi-finals continue on Wednesday as Liverpool travel to Barcelona. Daniel McCulloch (@DMcCulloch1984) shares his betting thoughts.
Barcelona v Liverpool | Wednesday 1st May 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
Despite the fact that they have secured yet another La Liga title and are in the semi-finals of the Champions League, it does feel like the obituaries are being written for this generation of Barcelona greats (with the exception of the greatest of them all, Lionel Messi).
The mobility of the likes of Gerald Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez is being questioned by many so while Barcelona’s record this season is pretty convincing – they’ve lost just two games out of 35 in La Liga and are unbeaten in 10 Champions League encounters – there are certainly flaws in the current outfit.
Indeed, I can certainly see why many pundits are tipping Liverpool to reach the final.
Liverpool, in contrast to Barcelona, actually lost three times in the group stages of this competition and were defeated in each of their away games and only managed one shot on-target away (a penalty) across their two matches in Paris and Naples.
The Reds have been back to their scintillating best on their travels in the knockout stages – scoring three away to Bayern Munich and four against Porto – but overall I think they’ve been relatively cautious in their big away matches this season. In five encounters away to fellow members of the Big Six, they’ve managed just five goals so while I do feel that Liverpool at 7/2 to win at the Nou Camp makes plenty of appeal, it’s hard to justify it when a) the opposition have Messi in their ranks and b) Barcelona last lost at home in this competition in 2013.
The betting angles
Therefore, while my head feels that it’s wise to keep Liverpool onside, I will instead opt for a couple of goalscorer options once more.
Firstly, Messi at 19/20 to score at anytime with Winner makes some appeal. I saw Sky Sports state that he has not scored against Liverpool previously, without making acknowledgement of the fact that he has only faced them twice and both encounters were over 12 years ago.
The Argentine genius has 22 goals in 32 games against English opposition but I actually think this record does him a little bit of a disservice. He has only managed three goals in 10 encounters against Chelsea for example, but four of those games were more than 12 years ago.
Messi was an exceptional player back in 2007 but certainly not the phenomenon we see today. He has 46 goals in 45 games in all competitions this season, scored twice against Manchester United at the Nou Camp in the previous round and anytime you can get near evens on him finding the net its worth taking.
Elsewhere, with the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am also backing Sadio Mane to net at 13/5 with Betfair. The Senegalese has scored in 11 of his last 16 games in all competitions and has scored in four of his last five away matches in the knockout stages of this competition, including twice against Bayern in the Last 16.
Mane’s speed will certainly trouble Barca’s backline and in a game in which goals are expected, I think these are both solid plays.
Barcelona v Liverpool – Lionel Messi to score at anytime (19/20 Winner)
Barcelona v Liverpool – Sadio Mane to score at anytime (13/5 Betfair)