Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists that his team’s imminent visit to the Camp Nou holds no fear for him or his players ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Semi Final first leg tie.
The Premier League title chasers play the first part of their double-header in Catalunya, before they renew acquaintances with Bara a week later at Anfield on May 7th.
Barcelona are one of the continent’s most difficult teams to topple on their own patch, and their Champions League home record over the past half a decade is a stunning reflection of the high levels the club have been able to maintain.
Since September 2013, the Blaugrana have won 28 and drawn 3 of the 31 Champions League fixtures they’ve contested at the Camp Nou, and Barcelona’s last defeat at home in the competition came in their 2012/13 UCL Semi-Final second leg 0-3 reverse to eventual winners Bayern Munich.
This season, Ernesto Valverde’s men have won 4 out of 5 Champions League matches at Camp Nou, drawing the other with a weakened side against Tottenham Hotspur after they had already secured top spot in their group.
In the knockout stages, Lyon and Manchester United were swept aside with devastating ease by 5-1 and 3-0 scorelines respectively – results that ended the tournament for both clubs.
Jurgen Klopp Not Intimidated
Yet, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp does not believe in the mystique that Barcelona’s famous stadium and battle-hardened continental fortress seems to hold.
In an interview with DAZN this week, Klopp said:
“The Camp Nou is just a stadium. It is pretty big, but it is no temple of football.”
Adding: “It had to arrive at some point. You see the other teams who have a bad time when they play there and now we will experience it. Although of course we hope to play well.”
Klopp did however, suggest that Liverpool, aiming to reach the competition’s Final for the second consecutive season, would start the Semi-Final tie as slight underdogs, saying:
“If you play against Barcelona, you are certainly not favourites,” he added.
“This is a fantastic game for all football supporters.”
The bookmakers certainly seem to agree with the German – Barcelona have been made 7/10 favourites with bet365 to qualify for the final, while Liverpool have been priced at 21/20 to make it to Madrid by the same bookies.
Barcelona’s Amazing Home Numbers
Barcelona’s notorious ability to dominate opponents at the Camp Nou has become such a perennial, routine facet of Spanish and European football, that their record there almost becomes easy to skim over with indifference.
In all competitions, Los Cules have tasted defeat just 4 times in their last 90 fixtures at home – and the identity of that quartet of rare Camp Nou conquerors tells its own story.
Girona, Betis, Alaves, Valencia all stole 3 La Liga points from under the noses of their more illustrious hosts, in games where Barcelona seemed to take their eye off the ball a little against teams they were expected to swat aside.
However, in games of magnitude and contests of significance, Barcelona’s record is generally impeccable.
The 0-3 Champions League Semi-Final defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2012/13 season we touched on earlier, is Barcelona’s only UCL knockout home loss since 2007.
Intriguingly, it was Liverpool who did the damage in that fixture a little over 12 years ago, beating Barca 2-1 at the Camp Nou in the Round of 16 first leg tie between the teams, with Craig Bellamy and John Arne Riise scoring the crucial goals.
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Liverpool’s Concerning Champions League Away Record
While Jurgen Klopp’s overall confidence in his team is understandable given the incredible consistency they have shown this season, a glance at Liverpool’s recent Champions League away record could trigger a wobble in that self-belief.
Liverpool were beaten on 5 of the last 7 cross-border European trips they have taken since May last year, losing out to Roma and Real Madrid last season’s Semi Final and Final, and to Napoli, Red Star Belgrade and Paris St. Germain in this year’s campaign.
In fact, since returning to the competition proper last season after a 3-year absence, Liverpool have won only 5 of their 12 Champions League away games, with 3 of those victories coming in games against Maribor and Porto (twice).
But while Liverpool’s recent Champions League travels have returned mixed results, the Merseysiders have a remarkable record from their competitive visits to Camp Nou.
Incredibly, Barcelona have never been able to beat Liverpool in their Catalonian cauldron. Before their most recent 2-1 win at Camp Nou in the 2006/07 Champions League, Liverpool enjoyed a trio of successful visits to Barcelona over a 25 year span
In a 2002/03 season Champions League Group Stage match, Liverpool took a valuable point after a 0-0 draw in Spain, and they secured an identical result in the UEFA Cup Semi Final first leg contest there in the ultimately unsuccessful 2000/01 campaign.
In 1976, Liverpool beat Barcelona 1-0 at Camp Nou in the same competition, again at the Semi Final first leg stage.
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping to etch a similarly positive entry into the annals of history with his Liverpool team on Wednesday, though the German’s almost dismissive pre-match Camp Nou sneer could well incite a Barcelona reaction that proves impossible to counter.