Champions League Semi-Final Tips: Premier League conquest to fall short?

Lionel Messi
Can Liverpool keep this man down?
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Liverpool and Tottenham are on the brink of elimination. Can one of them produce a stirring comeback from first leg defeat? James Horncastle finds out.

Now Liverpool risk ending an incredible season empty-handed.

Not for overturning

Liverpool v Barcelona
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

The Champions League has borne witness to some astonishing turnarounds in recent years. Barcelona know this better than anyone. They overturned a 4-0 first leg defeat to PSG in 2017 and then got a taste of their own medicine a year later when Roma came back from a 4-1 loss at the Camp Nou to eliminate them.

Edin Dzeko's away goal proved crucial and it must be of some regret that Liverpool somehow failed to score last week. They have fired blanks only seven times this season. Four of those occasions came in the Champions League. Now Liverpool risk ending an incredible season empty-handed.

Barcelona made 11 changes in Saturday's defeat to Celta Vigo. Ernesto Valverde could afford to give his key players a rest after wrapping up the title last month. Jürgen Klopp does not have the same luxury. Liverpool had to fight until the end to beat Newcastle at the weekend and may have lost Mohamed Salah in the process. If he were to miss Tuesday's game - along with Roberto Firmino - then the already slim chances of Liverpool reaching the final would diminish further.

Amazing things tend to happen at Anfield. Becoming only the third team to come back from a first leg semi-final defeat of three or more goals would approximate what the Reds did in Istanbul when they achieved that feat in just five second half minutes. Liverpool are unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions at home and have lost at Anfield only once this season. Alisson has kept nine clean sheets in his last 11 appearances there.

They were the better side for 80 minutes in Spain. The Exchange prices them at 2.285/4 to win on the night. But Barca are better value @ 3.1511/5. And given Lionel Messi's record against the Premier League's Big Six not to mention those wins at Wembley and Old Trafford this season, it's not hard to make the case for another Catalan away win.

Messi finger 1280.JPG

Ten Hag's side may torment Tottenham

Ajax v Tottenham
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Only one of the last 17 clubs that lost the first leg of a Champions League semi-final have gone on to reach the final. It was a long time ago too, coming in 1996, when Ajax successfully reversed a 1-0 defeat against Panathinaikos in Amsterdam with a 3-0 win in Athens.

The stakes are high for Spurs. Saturday's defeat to Bournemouth and the losses of Juan Foyth and Heung-Min Son to suspension risked compromising their ability to qualify for next season's Champions League only for Arsenal and Manchester United to falter and bring an end to the chase.

Injuries, bans, a shallow squad and the fatigue that accumulates over the course of a post-World Cup season are, however, still catching up with Spurs. They have lost five of their last six games in all competitions and their away form must be a concern.

Playing with nine men for 45 minutes is hardly ideal preparation for a second leg against a team as fresh, agile and confident as Ajax. Erik Ten Hag's side won the Dutch Cup final on Sunday with a swagger indicative of the supreme confidence running through this team at the moment.

Son will be back after missing last week's game with a ban and should provide Spurs with a sharper cutting edge up front. Pochettino's side didn't fire off their first shot until the 26th minute last week.

The midfield must also do a better job at picking up Donny van der Beek, the 22-year-old midfielder who hasn't generated the same hype as Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, but played a huge role in the first leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and tormented Juve home and away.

Ajax will have a day less to prepare because of their involvement in the Dutch Cup final. But Ten Hag's side have more tread on their tires than Spurs; a reflection of their youth and Holland's non-participation in Russia last summer. Take them to win on the night @ 2.26/5.

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