Barcelona vs Liverpool Preview: European heavyweights go to war in mouthwatering semi-final clash
(Getty Images Alex Caprinos)

Liverpool travel to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals with the first leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.

An utterly mouthwatering tie awaits everyone connected with football. Jurgen Klopp's team made it back-to-back semi-final appearances after thrashing FC Porto 6-1 on aggregate, while Barcelona dismantled Manchester United in the quarter-final stages with a 4-0 victory over two legs.

Both these European heavyweights will be hoping to lift a 6th title in the competition following a miraculous campaign from both teams. Barcelona welcome Liverpool having already secured the La Liga crown at the weekend for the fourth time in five years.

Meanwhile, the visitors have kept themselves one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race having already recorded a club-record points tally in the competition (92) with still two games to play.

Klopp and co will be hoping to extend their 19 match unbeaten streak and will travel to Catalonia with fond memories from their last trip to the Nou Camp - a 2-1 win back in 2007.

Ernesto Valverde will welcome Liverpool to Spain in pursuit of a historic treble with former Reds pair Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho making their first appearances against their former side.

It's a game impossibly difficult to predict with both juggernauts at the peak of their powers this season. Valverde and his team's demolition job of United was a testament to Barca's strength.

However, their victories over the Red Devil's may rather have highlighted the Manchester club's inabilities rather than Barcelona's undeniable strengths. Liverpool will not waste the chances that were presented to United and many fans are believing that the team are still too reliant on Lionel Messi.

Attempting to keep the five-time Balon d'Or winner quiet in his own backyard will be the toughest test yet for Liverpool's PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman has been a colossus for the Reds this season with the Merseyside club still remaining in the hunt for an unprecedented double and it's rather poetic that such a semi-final would feature Europe's best defender against quite arguably the game's greatest ever player.

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Roberto Firmino appears to be looking sharp in his race to be fit after a muscle tear, but a late decision still have to be made on whether the Brazilian can feature.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is available after returning against Huddersfield for the first time in over a year following a serious knee injury sustained in the same round of the competition last season.

Academy graduate and young striker Rhian Brewster has also included in the 23-man travelling party.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have a near full-strength side to select from with Rafinha the only player missing with a long-term knee injury.

Messi and Coutinho both only played 45 minutes on Saturday in a bid to keep both players sharp for Wednesday night.

Van Dijk desperate to erase Nou Camp memory

Liverpool's Van Dijk knows the Spanish giants all too well and will be determined to erase the memory of his only other appearance at the Nou Camp - a 6-1 defeat while at Celtic in December 2013.

"It is a nice stadium, a historic stadium and for me it was a great experience to play over there," he said.

"It was my first time, my only time and my last time so far, so I am looking forward to playing them again, one of the best teams in the world, but I think this can be totally different than when I was there the last time."

Klopp: Messi the best he's ever seen

It will be a first for Klopp when he lines up against Messi in an opposing dugout for the first time in competitive management.

The German manager refused to hid his plaudits for the Barcelona talisman rating Messi as the best footballer he has seen in his career, telling reporters in his Tuesday press conference: "I didn't see Pele live but there are a lot of good players. Lionel Messi is for me the best."

The Reds boss will be reunited with Philippe Coutinho for the first time since the Brazilian's £142 million move to Barcelona and admits he did not think the side could prosper as they have without him.

"Yes we miss Coutinho, a lot, because he is a world-class player and I loved working with him. But we had to deal without him and we really did well. When I first heard he wanted to go to Barcelona, I didn't imagine we could be that good [without him]."

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