Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has cited Ivan Rakitic as critical to Barcelona’s hopes in the UEFA Champions League final against Juventus.
In the build-up to Saturday’s Berlin showdown, much of the analysis of the Liga winners’ hopes has surrounded their brilliant front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have scored 25 goals between them in the Champions League this season.
Juventus’ entire side have only netted 16.
But for Henderson, Barca’s close-season signing from Sevilla is an inspiration.
The Croatia international has played 11 of Barcelona’s 12 Champions League matches this term, starting 10, and was the focus of Henderson’s attention when Luis Enrique’s side defeated Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in February’s last-16 first-leg clash.
“Rakitic was one of the players I was watching more closely that night at City,” the England international said.
“He doesn’t get the praise given to Neymar, Messi or Suarez but he’s so influential and does all the dirty work. He has qualities I can learn off.
“Everyone loves watching that front three play – I was blown away by that – but, while the credit goes to them, they all work just as hard behind them. Rakitic is a big part of that.”
Rakitic, who scored the winner in the return fixture against City, has started 38 matches in all competitions, edging out long-standing Camp Nou favourite Xavi.
Luis Enrique is expected to name Rakitic alongside Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in Barca’s midfield at the Olympiastadion as the Catalans seek to be crowned champions of Europe for a fifth time.
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