Barcelona are expected to bid at least one more time for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho in the next few days before looking elsewhere for other alternatives. Jürgen Klopp’s would hope they do not settle for his other Brazilian, Roberto Firmino, because in the absence of Coutinho this season the former Hoffenheim player has stepped up his game.
There is a tendency to see Firmino as simply a top-quality finisher, and he certainly is that, though there are other aspects of his game too, and whenraced into a three-goal lead before the mid-point of the first half their mobile No9 was pulling the strings just as effectively as the object of Barcelona’s attentions does.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates his goal in the Champions League qualifying round second leg against Hoffenheim. Photograph: John Powell/Getty Images
Firmino was involved in the second goal, cutting in from the left to provide the cross from which Georginio Wijnaldum struck a post for Mohamed Salah to score the rebound, then when set free down the left by Mané’s pass the Brazilian produced a perfect first-time cross to present Can with his second goal of the match.
The cross was just the end result, for Firmino had begun the move in his own half with a lay-off to Wijnaldum, before setting off on a 50-yard run into free space on the left flank.
All Firmino needed was to score, and he almost accomplished that when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass allowed Salah to cross from the right. Firmino was quickly on to it but Baumann came out to deny him the opportunity on the six-yard line.
One of the most impressive things about Firmino is that, he is blessed with vision and a range of skills. If a short or simple pass is the best pass, that is the one he will play, as at the end of the first half when he almost put Mané away again with a pass of no more than a few feet. He also covers the ground well, coming deep in search of the ball then going almost unnoticed in the opposition danger area as soon as an attack has been put in motion.
Klopp himself had been somewhat guilty of that, perhaps not assuming victory was in the bag when the third goal went in but certainly celebrating wildly with the fans behind him. To be fair to him he might just have been overjoyed in recognition of a hallmark Liverpool goal.