It is still quite difficult to comprehend how Barcelona aren’t preparing to play in yet another Champions League final. The Catalan giants traveled to Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool with a three-goal advantage after the first leg. No one gave the Reds a prayer of bringing back that deficit and keeping alive hopes of an all-English final with Tottenham.
But hours before the second leg, Oddschecker’s Champions League final market had Barça priced as short as -240 to win the competition overall. In fact, so confident were the sportsbooks of their appearance in the final, which would have felt like a home game for Barça in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium of Madrid. Nevertheless, no one had accounted for one of the greatest Champions League comebacks of all time. Let’s consider a few of the reasons why Ernesto Valverde’s men were able to turn over quite so easily.
The Anfield Cauldron is Intoxicating
There are few better football stadia on the planet for a European night game than Anfield. There is so much history on the pitch and in the stands, and the Reds’ faithful roared their team to success every step of the way. No doubt the early goal gave the home crowd hope, but it was that early second-half flurry of goal action that saw Anfield reach fever-pitch levels. It’s almost as if Liverpool is unbeatable at home these days, harking back to their glory days of the 1970s and 1980s.
Barça Were Too Wary of Last Year’s Defeat to Roma
The now-under-fire Barça supremo Ernesto Valverde said that his side likely had last year’s similarly shocking Champions League exit to Roma on their minds as Liverpool turned up the heat. Last year, Barça let a three-goal lead slip after a 4-1 first leg victory to Roma, who promptly won the second leg 3-0 to advance on away goals. For it to happen two years running is no coincidence and indicates mental frailty that hasn’t been in the Barça makeup for many years.
Slack Defending from Set Pieces
The fourth and final goal was typical of Barça’s defending at Anfield. The team all too easily switched off, allowing the short set play, with Liverpool’s streetwise midfielders crafting the opportunity for Divock Origi to take. Valverde admitted to The Telegraph that Liverpool “surprised them” with the fourth goal and that “presumably my players weren’t looking.” Damning words from a coach whose neck could be well and truly on the chopping block by the end of the season.