Great midweek: Liverpool v Barca, son, Sarri, Arsenal


Game to watch: Liverpool v Barcelona
"If we can not do this, we'll fail in the most beautiful way."

Liverpool is without Roberto Firmino, without Mo Salah, and seemingly hopeless after losing the first leg 3-0 in Barcelona. However, in some ways this seems doable. Partly because this is Liverpool and this is Europe, and partly because this Barcelona team is so vulnerable away from home in Europe.

Since winning this competition for the last time in 2015, Barcelona have lost 2-0, 2-0, 4-0, 3-0 and 3-0 to draw with Chelsea and Lyon. That the only away match that has won since 2015 came against a poor Manchester United, should provide some comfort to a Liverpool team that is 28 points better than its rivals. Defeating this Barcelona 3-0 at Anfield presents more of a rather large hill than a mountain. Qualifying for this scenario is certainly not the 16/1 shot that some bookmakers want you to believe.

"It may be our last game of the season in the Champions League, so let's celebrate it with our legs and our lungs," Klopp said, suggesting Liverpool will leave nothing on the pitch despite the Premier League title clash on Sunday. He clearly believes he can get at least 180 minutes from players who have already scored more than 4,000 (Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson). And you believe in him.

It may sound like a cliché, but it's all about the first goal. The game is over if it's for Barcelona, ​​but if Liverpool scores in the first 30 crucial minutes, you can imagine two in an hour against a defensively vulnerable side who will be fighting those whispering voices – oh no, no new & # 39; (except probably in Spanish).

Divock Origi to book a final place in the Champions League, anyone?

Player to watch: Son Heung-Min
The only good thing about Saturday's petulance, which led to an early count for Son, is that he is a Tottenham player who will not be absolutely exhausted after those ultimately futile efforts in Bournemouth. And the Tottenham boy needs him in Amsterdam.

It was not "Ridiculously unilateral" which some hyperbolic journalists would like you to believe, but Tottenham was initially baffled by Ajax in London before claiming a secure (toothless) position in the game. What we do know is that the Spurs are likely to need more than one goal kick in the off leg, and for that Son's return from suspension is invaluable. Being without their two natural scorers naturally creates thrashing problems. Who knew?

As Seb Stafford-Bloor wrote so eloquently last week: 'Pochettino will have Son Heung-Min available in a week. The threat of a child's goal is critical, given the deficit the Spurs are pursuing, but it also conveniently lines up with Ajax problems. From a structural point of view, its mobility offers a pressing option that Tottenham did not have in London and their speed will restore the threat of counterattack that proved to be so invaluable against Manchester City.

"More importantly, he offers a direct challenge to any isolated side, forcing a defense to make up and leave space somewhere else within the zone of attack. Son is two-legged, he can hit his man on both sides, and a defender alone can not mark him.

Watch him. Watch this game.

Manager to watch: Maurizio Sarri
We do not try to hide the joy of Chelsea having exceeded expectations this season, given the campaign of fans and the media to overthrow Maurizio Sarri. After being subjected to "f *** Sarriball" and "f *** off Sarri" this season's corners of some fans, and descriptions of him as a cheeky dunce of smoking in chains a few sections of the press, he showed remarkable dignity to take this team back to the Champions League, improving Chelsea's total points along the way.

In the last eight Premier League games, Chelsea have won four, five and six points more than Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United, two of which finished above the Blues last season. When the pressure was on Chelsea and Sarri, they delivered – without much help from sympathizers, it must be said. That Sarri did not participate in Sunday's "return of appreciation" with his players is absolutely right; it was not appreciated or even tolerated by some.

He may also have argued that Chelsea still have one more game at home – on Thursday against Eintracht Frankfurt, who spent the weekend being 6-1 by Bayer Leverkusen after making four changes – which, in fact, should expect to win a place in the final of the Europa League. Do it and there really should be some appreciation shown to a manager who was given a permanent outfield signature with which to pull off a revolution. That he has managed the early stages of an evolution should be applauded.

Team to watch: Arsenal
They were rotten on Sunday. Truly rotten. After receiving the gift of Tottenham's collapsing ability, they left the gift at the bar after a few drinks. In true, a top-four spot would have flattered them. Instead, it may flatter Tottenham as Arsenal prepare to leave the season with more trophies than either Spurs or Liverpool.

Unai Emery said following the 3-1 home win that the draw was still at 50-50; he did not elaborate, but it's only 50-50 because this is the Arsenal and there is a supposed ability to f *** -up. Let's face it, losing 2-0 in Valencia sounds totally possible. Probably the same.

A list of Arsenal strikers in all competitions perfectly illustrates the problems they face in trying to score enough goals to make up for a rotten defense: Aubameyang 25, Lacazette 18, Ramsey 6, Mkhitaryan 6, Ozil 6. In the absence of Aaron Ramsey, Any another midfielder can be the intermediary between the midfield and the attackers alone? So far, the tactic of "waiting for one of the strikers to rescue us" can certainly lead a team?

There is a lot of work needed this summer to keep the Arsenal away from Wolves, Leicester and Everton – forget to fill the gap between the first two, that's ridiculous – but that work will be easier if the transfer budget exceeds £. 50m supposedly destined for another campaign of the Europa League.

This defective team has potentially 180 minutes to turn a good season into a good and bloody good season.

Match game to watch: Newport County v Mansfield Town
Now is where football becomes brilliant / cruel. Mansfield has abandoned both of the league's two automatic promotion spots on the final day while Newport is only in last place in the play-off due to a late draw in the final afternoon. The Stags had the best season, but the Exiles are in better shape, having organized a series of ten undefeated games at the right time.

"At the start of the season, we would have cut our hands to the seventh," said Michael Flynn, manager of Newport, this week. "We have a budget of three funds, but we have a formula that means we have a group of guys who play above themselves more often than not."

So if watching Arsenal and Chelsea play under you is not your thing, turn to Sky Sports on Thursday night. And spare a thought for poor Matt Stead, and not just because he had the misfortune of being raised at Mansfield.

Sarah Winterburn


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