Lionel Messi's pledge and the best No 9 in world football: Why Barcelona will win the Uefa Champions League

Lionel Messi pledged before the start of the season that he and his Barcelona teammates would do all they can to bring 'that beautiful trophy' back to Camp Nou

Not since they last lifted the trophy in 2015 have Barcelona made it to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League.

With La Liga title wrapped up following the weekend's results, Lionel Messi and Co are aiming for a treble of Copa del Rey and European Cup to cap a remarkable campaign.

First they must overcome Liverpool, who are aiming to reach a second successive Champions League final having lost to Real Madrid in Kiev just over 12 months ago.

Here are five reasons why Barcelona will win the trophy in Madrid on June 1.

Messi's pledge

Barca were eliminated from last season' Champions League by Roma in a thrilling quarter-final. The concession of a late Edin Dzeko goal at Camp Nou, with Barcelona cruising at 4-0, would prove costly for Ernesto Valverde's side. Barca lost the second leg 3-0, Kostas Manolas' 82nd-minute goal levelling the tie at 4-4 on aggregate to send the Italians through on the away goals rule.

Four months later and that defeat clearly still rankled. Before Barcelona had kicked off their 2018/19 season, captain Messi made a rare speech before the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Boca Juniors, telling Barca supporters at Camp Nou: "Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League. We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Camp Nou."

So far Messi has stayed true to his word. Barca topped their group ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven before dispatching French side Lyon 5-1 on aggregate in the last 16. Manchester United were comfortably beaten 4-0 over two legs in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final showdown with Liverpool.

Only a fool would back against Messi making good on his pledge.

Suarez's sixth sense

Only four players have scored more goals in Barcelona colours than Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan striker is the best No 9 in world football, no matter what Zinedine Zidane says.

His link-up play with Messi is worth the price of admission alone. And while Suarez's assist statistics are just as impressive as his goals column, they only factor in the times he plays the final pass. What about the times he assists without touching the ball? Take Messi's second goal against Tottenham in the group stages. Suarez's sixth sense told him his teammate was lurking with menacing intent behind him. A darting run towards the ball drew Spurs defence towards Suarez and away from Messi. Suarez dummied, allowing the ball to run through for the Argentine to apply the finishing touch on a 4-2 win.

Too much is made of the fact Suarez has not scored an away Champions League goal since September 2015. Before a dubious goals panel - no doubt locked away in the deepest dungeon of Uefa headquarters in Geneva - woke from its slumber Suarez had broke that duck with a header at Old Trafford earlier this month before it was awarded as an own goal to Luke Shaw.

Coutinho can come good

As well as Suarez, Philippe Coutinho offers another connection to Liverpool's past. The Brazilian joined Barcelona in January 2018 but has struggled to replicate the form that prompted the Catalans to part with a fee that could eventually rise to £142 million to prise the playmaker from Anfield.

Suarez has called on Barca supporters to back Coutinho to be a success at Camp Nou, and on his day there is no doubt Coutinho can be a game-changer.

Liverpool invested the proceeds from Coutinho's sale to bankroll moves for Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. There is no doubt Jurgen Klopp's side have become a better outfit since the Brazilian's departure. It's time for Coutinho to prove to Barca that their investment is well spent.

Ter Stegen's reflexes

The German goalkeeper's agility to fling himself across his line and ability to readjust to claw out goal-bound efforts are fast-making him a contender for the best in the business. Marc-Andre ter Stegen has fully established himself as first choice at Camp Nou and the noise to see him installed as his country's No 1 ahead of Manuel Neuer grow louder each week. Six goals conceded in 10 Champions League matches this season show Barca are just as stingy at the back as they are sublime in attack.

Treble chasers

Sunday's 1-0 win against Levante secured a 26th Spanish title for the Catalans. They can complete a second straight double of league and cup when they take on Valencia in the Copa del Rey final in Seville on May 25. Win that, and with the Champions League final a week later on Spanish soil, at Atletico Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano, Barca manager Ernesto Valverde will be on course to emulate Luis Enrique's treble winners of 2015 and Pep Guardiola's side of 2009.

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