Weblog: The football punter

Reds must cope without Salah and Firmino

Champions League semi-final second leg - Barca lead 3-0

TV: BT Sport 2, 8pm Tuesday

Being 3-0 down halfway through a Champions League tie is nothing new to Liverpool and they will have to feed off the spirit of Istanbul if they are to launch another extraordinary European revival.

That Champions League final success over Milan, coming back from the dead in 2005, highlights why you should never give up although the difficulty of the task ahead is reflected by odds of 16-1 about Liverpool overturning the 3-0 deficit against Barcelona in their semi-final second leg at Anfield.

It would be tough enough with a fully-fit squad but Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are both injured and Jurgen Klopp must be half-tempted to have one eye on Sunday, which is D-day in terms of the destination of the Premier League title.

The upset, therefore, is easily passed over, but Liverpool could get off to a flyer even if Virgil van Dijk is not risked either to go along with the key injuries in the forward department.

It may be worth backing Liverpool to get their noses in front early before being pegged back as the atmosphere is likely to go flat if Barca get on the scoresheet.

Anfield has been a fortress for Liverpool this season with 20 wins, three draws and the only defeat coming with a much-changed side against Chelsea in the EFL Cup, while they are also 21 matches unbeaten at home in European competition.

Nine of those victories this season have been by at least three goals and they have led at the break in five of their last six at Anfield although, just as crucially, Liverpool have six clean sheets in eight at home.

Unfortunately, the opponents are Barcelona rather than Burnley or Huddersfield and Salah and Firmino's absences take away much of Liverpool's attacking threat, lumping even more burden on Sadio Mane.

The Reds created chances last week and were the better side for chunks of the game, being denied by excellent goalkeeping and wayward finishing before Lionel Messi probably took the tie away from the Merseysiders with a second-half double.

Messi's brace moved him to 12 goals in this season's competition and he is at his most dangerous when opponents leave space for him to dribble – a likely scenario at Anfield given the first-leg score.

Don't be surprised if Barca are a little edgy early – they may have suffered only one defeat in their last 22 Champions League matches but it came in calamitous circumstances when the Catalans lost a 4-1 first-leg advantage in Rome last year.

The score that night? 3-0. Liverpool would certainly settle for a repeat of that before sealing the deal on penalties, just like in Istanbul.

Liverpool-draw double result
Liverpool-Barcelona double result

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Napoli v Liverpool

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  • Liverpool have lost six of their last eight Champions League away games
Expert verdict
Liverpool begin their Champions League title defence with a return to the scene of one of the four away defeats they suffered on their way to winning last season’s competition. The Reds were beaten 1-0 at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last October and, as the Partenopei have lost three times in their last 19 home fixtures in the competition, their run of six defeats in eight UCL away games is a concern. However, they rarely fail to deliver in the final third, netting in all but four of their last 42 competitive matches.