Liverpool host Benfica at Anfield in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The Reds hold a 3-1 first-leg advantage and are overwhelming favourites to win this match and progress. Benfica’s very strong defence on the road gives them some semblance of hope as they have kept clean sheets at Barcelona and Ajax in this yea’s competition already. Jurgen Klopp may rotate his side to some degree as well as protect the player who is one yellow from a suspension.
Klopp has his side in superb shape. They have lost just once in 2022 in 22 matches, a 1-0 defeat in the second leg to Inter Milan in the last round. They had won 2-0 away and took their foot off the pedal at Anfield. They won five matches in a row after that surprise loss and have won every other Champions League match this season.
After a 2-0 win against Watford, Liverpool started fast away to Benfica. A lull saw the Portuguese side come back into the match but a late goal gave a 3-1 first-leg lead. They produced 3.9 xG to 1.4 xG for Benfica. Their last match saw a huge clash against Liverpool rivals Man City. The Reds fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to earn a 2-2 draw as Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane were on target.
Liverpool Team News
Jurgen Klopp could make three or four changes to his XI for this match with it coming in between two crucial matches against Manchester City. Ibrahima Konate could start at centre back with one of Joel Matip or Virgil Van Dijk getting a breather. Kostas Tsimikas could get a run out with Andy Robertson rested.
Both Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane are one yellow away from missing the first leg of a possible semi-final. They could both, therefore, be left on the bench for this one. Roberto Firmino and Luis Diaz would come in as very able, hungry replacements. Naby Keita could play in midfield with Thiago Alcantara due to rest and Jordan Henderson struggling for form of late.
The Reds were complacent and below their normal intensity against Inter Milan in the last round having held a 2-0 away from the first leg lead. Klopp will want to avoid that in this match and kill the tie early on with a couple of goals.
Expect Liverpool to start fast but to play within themselves to conserve energy for the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday. They won’t look to waste energy by driving home the advantage if 2-0 up.
Benfica are out of the Portuguese Primeira Liga title race with Porto unbeaten and 15 points clear. The Eagles reached the quarter-final thanks to five clean sheets in eight matches before the first leg. None of Dinamo Kiev, Barcelona, and Ajax have scored at home against Benfica this season in Europe. They drew 2-2 at home to Ajax and won 1-0 in Amsterdam with just one shot on target.
After losing 3-2 at Sporting Braga, they were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool at home in the first leg a week ago. Darwin Nunez pulled a goal back at 2-0 down but a late Reds goal perhaps took the tie away from them. Benfica beat Belenenses 3-1 at home this weekend as Darwin Nunez netted a hattrick to take him to 30 goals for the season in all competitions.
Benfica Team News
Benfica coach Nelson Verissimo rotated his side heavily for the weekend league match ahead of this trip to Anfield. Nicolas Otamendi was the only survivor in defence as Jan Vertonghen, Gilberto, and Alex Grimaldo all got a breather.
Rafa Silva and Julian Weigl were others to get breathers. It is likely to be close to the same XI from the first leg unless Joao Mario or Soualiho Meite could into midfield to change the shape from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 for extra defensive protection.
Although Benfica needs a two-goal victory to take this to extra time, they simply can’t open up. They beat Ajax in the last round by absorbing pressure and defending deep and that will be the name of the game here.
They will aim to be leading by one goal with 20 minutes to go and then look to throw on extra attackers to try to nick a second and send it to extra time. That appears to be their only hope. They simply can’t afford to concede an early goal.
Liverpool have won 10 of their last 11 PL matches
LFC have won 8 of their 9 CL matches this season
Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in 8 of their last 9 CL matches
Benfica have kept 5 clean sheets in 9 CL matches this season
Benfica have kept 5 clean sheets in their last 6 away CL matches
Benfica’s Darwin Nunez has 30 goals this season
Benfica will need a miracle to get through this tie. In reality, Liverpool could blow them away if you consider they put up 3.90 Expected Goals in Portugal and beat Porto 5-1 away, a superior team to Benfica. Backing the Reds to win to nil looks like a good way to get some semblance of value. The spread is another option. This looks like the perfect game for Salah to rediscover his scoring boots.
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