Liverpool vs Barcelona: How Far Are These Two Apart?
With the football season in Europe drawing to a close in Berlin last weekend, the summer provides a chance to reflect at the year gone by; a truly strenuous exercise for Liverpool fans.
The same could not be said for recently crowned champions of Europe and treble winners Barcelona.
So how far have the Red’s fallen behind Europe’s elite? A player by player comparison does not make encouraging reading, and may suggest an unpleasant truth.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen/ Claudio Bravo vs Simon Mignolet
The fact I couldn’t decide which Barcelona keeper made the most significant contribution to a treble winning season shows the depth of class at the Catalan club. Meanwhile, in Northern England, the story is very different. When Liverpool changed their keeper for an away tie at Manchester United, people raised eyebrows, but nobody really flinched – Mignolet was performing at a level that cannot be defended. However, Brad Jones’ performances caused even the most resolute red to question what was going on. Granted, Mignolet picked up as the season went on, but goalkeepers can win games – and there’s a reason Liverpool are 6th, and Barca are on top of the world.
Fullbacks: Dani Alves/David Alba vs Glen Johnson/Alberto Moreno
No contest. Of course there’s no contest. Whilst Glen Johnson is aging, Dani Alves isn’t getting any younger either; but the gulf in class is still more than evident. On the other side or the defence, two younger Spaniards; it would be wrong to right off Moreno, given he’s only been at the club one year, but the signs aren’t looking overly promising. Compare that to Alba, who joined Barca at young age and hasn’t looked back since, seemingly improving year upon year. One can hope the same for Alberto Moreno of course; but for now it’s safe to say Liverpool are still worlds apart here as well.
Centre backs: Javier Mascherano/Gerard Pique vs Martin Skrtel/Mamadou Sakho
Now: centre-backs and Liverpool haven’t had the greatest relationship since the departure of Jamie Carragher, but, I am of the belief it is not quite as bad as it is made out to be. That being said, I’d take Mascherano back at Liverpool in a heartbeat; and I wouldn’t mind losing Lovren in that very same heartbeat. However, I do believe, unlike Lovren, Sakho has shown promise – whilst the ill-informed may shout and point at his ‘uncomfortable style’ on the ball, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at how accurate (if unconventional) his passing is. I am not for a second saying Liverpool’s centre back situation is better than Barcelona’s, but the difference between the two is less explicit here.
Midfielders: Andres Iniesta/Ivan Rakatic/ Sergio Busquets vs Jordan Henderson/Phillipe Coutinho/ James Milner
Assuming a 4-3-3 formation for the purpose of this investigation, these are the three players from each team most likely to feature as part of a trio in the middle of the park. If the two teams were to play in this way, against one another, I believe it is in the midfield that perhaps Liverpool would come closest to their Spanish opponents – not superior, but closer all the same. It is also here that I believe Liverpool have their only player capable of playing at the Camp Nou: Coutinho. The young Brazilian’s talent and flair earned him a call to the national team, and occasion he marked with a goal earlier this week. But whilst his flair may give Busquets and co trouble, it would be nothing against what the next set of Barca players could do to a Liverpool defence.
Attackers: Luis Suarez/Lionel Messi/Neymar vs Mario Balotelli/Rickie Lambert/Danny Ings
Yes, the three Liverpool players selected are not the best three available at the club; but with Sterling set to leave and Sturridge injured more often than not, this is realistically what Rodgers will have to work with next season. Now compare that to the Barca attack; Suarez spent more games suspended that Balotelli and Lambert scored goals this season, and still got more than triple their total. And Suarez is on paper, the worst of the 3 South Americans. However, a million words will be written about the Barca front line; what will concern Liverpool more is the lack of goals their front line got to their name last season – whilst Danny Ings could address that, I think we’d all agree he’s not a ‘Champions League’ level signing.
So, perhaps this highlights a benefit of the Europa League next season; we won’t have to see Liverpool play this Barcelona team, as on paper, it wouldn’t even be a contest. All this really serves to prove though, in my opinion, is the not so graceful fall from grace Liverpool have endured. I may be wrong and we may be back next season, but all of the worrying signs point towards one thing: Liverpool are not a big club anymore.
Its looking like Suarez made a good decision.