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How Liverpool Exposed Messi And Suarez At Anfield In 2019

By Eoin Harrington
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Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has given a brilliant breakdown of the club's famous Champions League semi-final comeback against Barcelona from 2019 - and suggested that Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez's refusal to press played into Liverpool's hands.

3-0 down from the first leg, Liverpool returned to Anfield hoping for a miracle against the might of Barcelona. Incredibly, they would claim a 4-0 second leg win, and ultimately go on to win that season's Champions League.

Lijnders sat down with The Coaches' Voice to give a tactical masterclass based around the game. He gave some intriguing insight into Liverpool's "chasing" game. Particularly interesting was his suggestion that Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez ultimately contributed to Barcelona's downfall on the night with their lack of pressing.

Pep Lijnders breaks down tactics from iconic Champions League semi-final

After the first leg of the 2019 Champions League semi-finals, Liverpool looked defeated. Despite playing well at the Camp Nou, they came away from Barcelona 3-0 down, thanks in part to a stunning strike from Lionel Messi.


Messi scored two on that night for La Blaugrana, with the other Barca goal coming from former Liverpool man Luis Suarez.

The two started up front for the second leg a week later at Anfield, alongside another former Liverpool player in Philippe Coutinho. Breaking down the game for The Coaches' Voice, Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders revealed that Messi and Suarez played into Liverpool's hands that night.

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Lijnders revealed that Liverpool had done their research on Barcelona's attacking play, and found that Messi and Suarez were not too pushed about pressing the opposition. He said that the extra space afforded to Liverpool's centre backs, Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, allowed them extra influence over the game:

We know that Barca was not a high-pressing team with Suarez and Messi - these are not the kinds of players who will chase here, drop there. We knew - it's just not a good idea against Virgil to not put him under pressure.

Virgil with time can play big passes, like he did with the first goal. It's not a good idea when Joel has time, because he will come in. What they did in not pressing - and with Fabinho coming in behind them to free himself behind their strikers - worked really well [for Liverpool].

Yes, he was not a pressing monster at the time, but what he did with the ball was incredible. Big credit to Virgil, because if Messi faces you towards your goal, you have a problem. Our whole idea was cutting the pathways and don't let them face you. Fabinho was incredible with that.

People have to understand me right, I never saw something like that [Messi] in my lifetime, and I think we dealt with it really well.


Despite Lijnders' obvious respect for Messi, it is clear that the Argentinean's lack of endeavour off the ball was a contributing factor to Barcelona's ultimate demise. Liverpool's quick passing game from the heart of defence was crucial in catching Barca off guard, and the lack of pressing from Messi and Suarez afforded them more space to perfect this style of play.


Liverpool's style of play has been one of the most entertaining to watch in world football since Jurgen Klopp took over. It has regularly been described as an intense pressing game, but Lijnders was keen to clarify the intricacies of their tactics:

Our idea is to chase the opposition all over the pitch. I think 80% of the teams in modern football press - but pressing and chasing, for me, are completely different. We chase.

Our idea of pressing is not to force them away, our idea of pressing is not to force bad passes. Our idea of pressing is to steal the ball to attack, and create. In this game, that was massive, because we knew Barca is not a pressing team.

The idea when we put pressure is not to force them back and hold the position and protect behind - the idea when we go is all about the last two metres of the press. When we go, we go there to steal the ball.

The events of that 2019 Tuesday night at Anfield immediately went down in Champions League lore, with Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a late corner sealing a famous comeback for Liverpool.

The corner from TAA is the iconic moment of the night, and Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum understandably received the plaudits for scoring Liverpool's goals.

Lijnders, however, reserved special praise for captain Jordan Henderson. He said that the English midfielder played out of his skin in covering ground all over the pitch, and that his intensity was a "trendsetter for the whole game".

The midfield was certainly a key battleground in that semi-final, with Lijnders saying that the game presented a different dynamic to what Barcelona would have been used to in their domestic league.

Barca in La Liga will dominate the ball, they will dominate you here [in your own half], they are not used to being pinned back. That was a big part of our idea - the trick was to take 40% of the game away through this chasing attitude.

That night it felt like the whole pitch was our pressing zone. All our goals came from winning the ball - front footed mentality, stealing the ball, playing the first pass forwards, and attacking from there.

The atmosphere at Anfield on the night was among the best in the famous stadium's history, and Pep Lijnders also praised the crucial role Liverpool's fans played in the comeback.

It's amazing to get such a detailed insight into such a famous Champions League game, from a coach so heavily involved on the night.

With Jurgen Klopp and Lijnders set to stay at Liverpool until 2026, there is every chance another European crown will arrive at Anfield in the coming years.

SEE ALSO: Jurgen Klopp Laughing In Juan Foyth's Face Was The Highlight Of Liverpool's Semi-Final Win

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