Reds will 'attack as a team'

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah can count on his defensive teammates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to bomb forward against Barcelona in hope of chipping in with assists and goals.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah can count on his defensive teammates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to bomb forward against Barcelona in hope of chipping in with assists and goals.PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool full-backs vow to create goals as Klopp dismisses Nou Camp as 'just a stadium'

LONDON • Neither Trent Alexander-Arnold nor Andrew Robertson has Lionel Messi's star power, but the buccaneering Liverpool full-backs could play just as vital a role as the Barcelona captain in the first leg of their Champions League semi-finals today.

While Virgil van Dijk has hogged the spotlight after being named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, his defensive teammates have also emerged as key contributors to a campaign that could end with the double - their first Premier League title ever and a sixth Champions League/European Cup.

The duo have 24 assists between them in all competitions, and they will be pivotal figures in Jurgen Klopp's game plan at the Nou Camp.

Robertson's 11 assists have equalled the league record for a defender and Alexander-Arnold is not far behind, with nine, making them as big of a threat as their "Fab Three" of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

The pair's friendly rivalry is also spurring them to greater heights.

Ahead of their trip to Barcelona, Scotland captain Robertson said: "I always try and go forward. Sometimes my passes don't find people. But I do try and create. If I get two assists, I expect Trent to get three.

"We all need to chip in with goals and assists. It's not just the front three. It's not just the defence that keeps clean sheets, either. It's a team game."

MORE THAN MESSI

We need to defend in packs, but the problem is that it's not just him. If you keep him quiet, then you've got (Philippe) Coutinho, who we all know well, you've got (Luis) Suarez and people like that who can cause you problems, so it's not about keeping one man quiet, it's about keeping the whole team quiet, and that'll be the hardest thing for us.

ANDREW ROBERTSON, Liverpool left-back, on the prospect of nullifying Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

But Robertson is aware that the ultimate test awaits in Barcelona, where the hosts are unbeaten in 31 Champions League games and - led by talisman Messi - have already scored more than 130 goals in all competitions this term.

The Argentina forward can also boast of an unparalleled record against English clubs, his 24 strikes in 32 Champions League matches is more than any other player. But he has not scored against Liverpool, having played against the Reds twice in the round of 16 in 2007.

Klopp, however, has imbued his players with confidence, with the German telling broadcaster Dazn that the cavernous Nou Camp "is just a stadium" and "not a temple of football".

And Robertson is taking his manager's cue, insisting that while Liverpool will "have our hands full defensively", they will still "attack as a team".

He said: "If me and Trent have time to go forward, we will do it. It's not going to stop us. We know that we can create goals and chances, so why change that?

"But look, we will learn from the game and move from that and see how it pans out. It's a challenge we all look forward to."

Pundits also believe that the Reds will have little fear of Barcelona's ground, despite the hosts yesterday hitting back at Klopp's comments with a Twitter video that declared it to be "our fortress".

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy told the Daily Mail his old team "were better equipped to deal with Lionel Messi than Manchester United were at the Nou Camp".

Also, ex-Reds striker Michael Owen told the Metro that the Spanish champions "will struggle to cope with the pace and power of Mane and Salah midweek".

Regardless of what happens, Klopp best summed up the two-legged tie, promising to be "a fantastic game for all football supporters".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


BARCELONA V LIVERPOOL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'Reds will 'attack as a team''. Print Edition | Subscribe