In the first leg of this matchup, Liverpool prevailed 2-1 on the strength of Craig Bellamy's iron game in the Nou Camp. The second leg finds the defending champions, Barcelona, on the ropes having suffered a weekend loss to Seville relinquishing first place in La Liga and all sort of internal intrigue. Ronaldinho and Eto'o are not on good terms; players are upset with manager Frank Rijkard; and the team is not living up to the gold standard set by last year's squad. If Barca can corral all of this and focus it on Liverpool there should be a classic matchup.
Liverpool, for its part, have been in good form but Saturday's last minute loss to hated rivals Manchester United may affect the team psyche as well as its fitness. The English side put forth a full strength squad for Saturday's match and many of those participants will have to go again rather soon. Luckily, no injuries resulted from Saturday's game. The team will have to guard against overconfidence in the 2-1 aggregate lead it has and the letdown of the ManU game. The team knows this is its last chance for glory this campaign and should come out in full force.
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Barcelona: Valdes, Marquez, Oleguer, Puyol, Thuram, Deco, Iniesta, Xavi, Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Messi
Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Arbeloa, Carragher, Finnan, Riise, Alonso, Gerrard, Sissoko, Bellamy, Kuyt
I flipped over to ESPN2 about 3 minutes too early and got an eyeful of something hideous--a world's strongest man competitor in a banana hammock. I think there should be warnings about this sort of stuff.
They showed Riise's legs before kickoff and it looks like they are recovered from the karaoke incident.
3:00 - not much action yet but Liverpool must be hoping that the Sissoko of the first leg shows up and not the Sissoko of the ManU match.
4:00 - as soon as I post that Gerrard sends a long pass on to Kuyt but it's just a touch too long as Valdes comes out just in time to pick up the ball.
6:00 - The three back lineup is looking shaky at this point for Barca as Liverpool has had a couple of dispossessions in midfield that make the blaugrana scramble back on defense.
9:00 - Tommy Smythe encourages Bellamy to hit Riise with golf clubs before every match because they played well after the last incident. Nice. Just then Riise sends one just wide right of the goal as Barca's defense still looks out of sorts.
10:00 - The thing is, as long as Barca doesn't concede a goal the defense is fine because the offense is so potent it can score quickly and against the run of play.
14:00 - Riise is having a great game so far with two shots, one that hit the crossbar, a corner won and some good feeds.
18:00 - Arbeloa goes into the book with a hard tackle on Messi. On the freekick Reina punches the ball out but Eto'o whiffs on his shot attempt but Barca still had an opportunity until Reina left the goal mouth to track down a loose ball.
20:00 - Sissoko into the book. He'll miss the next CL match if there is one. Did you see his hair? It looked like Shane Battier's wrinkly head but with the lines shaved in rather than natural. The free kick made it through the Liverpool defence and Marquez flicked it wide left. He was offside too.
23:00 - Barbaro, I mean Ronaldinho, pleads for a call when it looks like he was at fault.
26:00 - I don't know how Liverpool isn't up 1-0 after 4 consecutive shots on goal in a 4 second time frame. Valdes made a good save on Bellamy's first attempt from the right flank. The rebound went to Kuyt who was saved by Valdes and then Riise had another crack deflected. Finally Valdes grabbed the ball.
28:00 - Thuram into the book.
33:00 - Valdes makes a horrific blunder giving up the ball in his own half and is lucky Sissoko had his 35 yard shot bounce off the crossbar. Valdes is either going to be the hero or the goat in this one.
Porto is up 1-0 on Chelsea with a 15' goal from Quaresma. Roma is up 1-0 on Lyon on a Totti goal at 22'.
35:00 - Ronaldinho left unmarked on a corner but sends his volley way over the net from outside the 18.
37:00 - Kuyt down on the ground after a head-to-head contact with Marquez. He'll be ok. Marquez on the other hand, never will be.
39:00 - Eto'o called offside after he got behind the 'Pool defense, but Barca had a nice build up. The layoff is hurting Eto'o's timing right now.
43:00 - Ronaldinho had a nice run up the middle of the pitch and dumped it off to Eto'o but again he messes it up as Carragher took the ball away easily.
45:00 - Dangerous corner for Barcelona but Liverpool manages to come away unscathed.
Liverpool dominated the first half and is set to advance if it remains nil-nil. Join me in the 2nd Half post.