Liverpool face mission impossible as they seek to overturn a 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg deficit on Tuesday against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona without forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
The absence of two of their most potent weapons leaves Jurgen Klopp’s side at a huge disadvantage in a match that was already a massive challenge — but defender Trent Alexander-Arnold says it will be a night for someone else to rise to the occasion.
“Obviously we’ve got two of our main goalscorers out, but it also presents an opportunity for some of the other lads to come in, make a name for themselves and make themselves heroes,” said Alexander-Arnol
“If we do overturn the deficit tomorrow then whoever scores, their name will always be remembered because I am sure it will be one of those really special nights.”
Liverpool look like ending the season empty-handed after Manchester City’s nervy 1-0 win over Leicester on Monday put Pep Guardiola’s men in the driving seat to regain their Premier League title on Sunday.
Klopp hopes to have Salah back for the final league match against Wolves on Sunday, providing the Egyptian recovers from the concussion he suffered in a collision with Newcastle ‘keeper Martin Dubravka in the 3-2 win on Saturday that kept alive their chances of a first league title for 29 years.
“It’s a concussion so that means he would not even be allowed to play (on Tuesday),” Klopp said on Monday.
“He feels OK but it is not good enough from a medical point of view that is all. He’s desperate (to play) but we cannot do it.”
It is the second year running that Salah has suffered the cruellest of luck in the Champions League — in last season’s final he had to leave the field with an injured shoulder after he was wrestled to the ground by Sergio Ramos. Real Madrid went on to win 3-1.
Klopp was realistic about his side’s chances of progressing to a second consecutive final, but with the memory of Liverpool’s remarkable comeback in the 2005 final against AC Milan fresh in their fans’ minds, the German refuses to give up hope.
“Together with our supporters it was a long season and there is at least a little chance to make it even longer,” Klopp added.
“Two of the world’s best strikers are not available tomorrow night and we have to score four goals against Barcelona to go through after 90 minutes.
“It doesn’t make life easier, but as long as we have 11 players on the pitch, we will try it.”
– Anfield an extra man –
Luis Suarez scored the opening goal against his former club in last week’s first leg at the Camp Nou, but ahead of his return to Anfield, the Uruguayan warned his current teammates that Liverpool will get a huge lift from playing on home soil.
“To play at Anfield is like playing with an extra man for what the fans transmit to the Liverpool players,” said Suarez.
And Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes the attack will be the best form of defence — if the Catalans get an away goal, Liverpool will need to score five.
“What we have to do is score,” said Valverde.
Suarez will be joined by Messi and Philippe Coutinho on his return to Liverpool after a £142 million ($186 million) move to Barca last year.
But the often-injured Ousmane Dembele is missing due to a hamstring problem and Valverde believes the Frenchman will be missed just as much as Salah and Firmino.
“We don’t want any player to be injured. It would have been extraordinary to see them all on the field. They are all important,” he said.
“Dembele’s absence is a problem. Against a team that concedes space (in behind) it is always important to have player like Ousmane.”