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Liverpool’s Klopp on facing Messi for the first time

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is the only returning club in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, and the manager says that’s worth a bit of celebration.

“I’m happy for all the people in the club that it’s like this, second time in the second year in the semi-final,” Klopp said. “That’s a big statement. However you go there, it’s difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last two years.”

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

That also means Klopp’s first “proper game” managing against Barcelona, and Liverpool’s first meeting with the Blaugranas since the 2006-07 UCL knockout rounds. All-time, the Reds are 3W-3D-2L versus Barca in European competition.

It also means an attempt to slow Lionel Messi, who at age 31 is in splendid form with 45 goals and 21 assists in 42 matches. Of those goals, he’s bagged 10 in eight Champions League appearances (two v. Manchester United, two v. Spurs, two v. Lyon, and four against PSV Eindhoven).

From LiverpoolFC.com:

“Thank God I don’t have to think about that tonight and thank God I have a few more nights to think about it! I think everybody tried it so far and nobody can really do it. We still will try it. But we are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona. So let’s first play these games and then let’s prepare for Barcelona. Then we will see. I have never played Barcelona in a proper game, so [it’s] my first time there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Messi went 90 minutes in his only appearances against Liverpool during that 2006-07 series, though he was 19 years old.

He’s just a bit wiser now, but remember it works both ways; As much as Klopp’s never had to stop Messi, he’s certainly had plenty of opportunity to watch what other managers have tried in bids to slow the Argentine. Could Klopp cement his tactical legacy and make another UCL Final, or will he just hope to outgun the genius of Catalonia?

Unplayable Messi reacts as Barca “finally” returns to UCL semis

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Poor Lionel Messi, what with his off-kilter sense of time.

The Barcelona superstar scored twice in Tuesday’s defeat of Manchester United, which moved into the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

For Messi, it achieved a goal of reaching this stage of the tournament, “which we hadn’t for a long time.”

[ RECAP: Barca 3-0 (4-0 agg.) Man Utd ]

Or four years. Leo, four years is not a long time for most clubs to miss the UCL semis.

Though most clubs aren’t Barcelona, and no one’s like Messi. The megawatt attacker scored a fantastic goal before completing his brace with the help of a David De Gea gaffe.

Overall, the 3-0 win was just what the Argentine sought from his side.

“It was spectacular,” Messi said. “This is who we are. We were cold and nervous for the first five minutes. I don’t know why, but then we took control.”

Now Barca is within two successful rounds of giving him his fifth UCL crown, which would tie him with Ronaldo and nine others for second-most all-time. He’d also be the first Barcelona player to win five European Cups, and slide to within one of all-time leader Paco Gento’s six with Real Madrid.

Barca’s last semifinal came in 2015, when the club beat Bayern Munich and then Juventus in the final.

Messi, Barcelona knock Manchester United out of Champions League (video)

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The fairytale ending didn’t materialize for Manchester United, as Lionel Messi and Barcelona thumped their visitors 3-0 on Tuesday at the Camp Nou to win the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal 4-0 on aggregate.

Messi scored twice and Philippe Coutinho also scored as Barca advanced to meet the winner of Liverpool and Porto.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

United controlled the ball off the opening kickoff, and Paul Pogba sent Marcus Rashford on goal only to see the young striker rip a shot over the cross bar.

United had the better of the early chances, but Ivan Rakitic’s charge for a loose ball saw him trip over the outstretched leg of Fred in the box. It wasn’t intentional, and the decision would go to VAR.

No penalty.

Barca went ahead minutes later, as Messi cut in from the right to swerve a sensational strike around the diving De Gea.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

And it was 2-0 before long, 3-0 on aggregate, as Messi’s low drive took a slight turn off Phil Jones but still seemed destined for De Gea’s arms only to squirt underneath the United keeper.

De Gea made a face save before halftime to deny Sergi Roberto and Messi in their bid to ice the contest.

Coutinho put it to bed with just under a half-hour to play, and Liverpool fans have seen this a time or two.

Messi scores 2 in first 20 minutes versus Manchester United (video)

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Those dreaming of another away Manchester United fairytale in the UEFA Champions League may have overlooked the fact that Lionel Messi is as otherworldly as anything created by the Brothers Grimm.

And when you let a nearly supernatural striker score via howler, well, you can forget the happy endings.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There’s still plenty of time to play at the Camp Nou, but Barcelona has taken its 1-0 advantage from Old Trafford and turned it into 3-0 via two Lionel Messi goals.

The first is vintage Messi.

The match could’ve stayed 1-0 a bit longer, but the 20th minute saw a low drive from Messi bamboozle De Gea.

This one, undoubtedly, underscores the difference between 2017-18 De Gea and 2018-19 De Gea.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Solskjaer on limiting Messi: ‘Wasn’t a night for chances’

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First of all, let’s get something out of the way: The above photo is a super weird scarf, and I would’ve bought more than one of them.

Not many players can set up the lone goal of a match and be considered “quiet,” but Lionel Messi is a different breed.

The Argentine swept a cross to Luis Suarez that produced an own goal and Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal at Old Trafford, but that was all Barca’s GOAT could manage in Manchester.

[ MORE: UCL summations for each quarterfinalist ]

That keeps Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the tie, which will conclude Tuesday in Spain. From ManUtd.com:

“He’s a fantastic player and you see the cross for the goal, his awareness and his technique. We did as well as we could against him and we kept our shape well at times. It could have gone both ways.

“It wasn’t the night for chances, I don’t think we hit a shot on target once and that’s one of the disappointments because Rashy had a decent chance, Diogo had a chance there. When Anthony came through towards the end normally he takes a touch but he toe pokes it.”

Solskjaer also said he’s confident United can score in Barcelona, which is obviously an imperative part of the game plan.

Barca’s defense is stingy but not as tight as years’ past, having allowed 31 goals in 31 league matches this year, but has been very good in the Champions League. Through nine matches, opponents have scored six goals.

Only two of those have come at the Camp Nou.