Liverpool’s European journey continues with a trip to Benfica in what is the start of a thrilling week for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, but all that matters is taking a positive result back to Anfield.
Benfica vs. Liverpool
Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg | Estádio da Luz
Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | 8pm (BST)
A disjointed performance was to be expected against Watford after the squad reconvened following the international break, but the job was to collect all three points and the Reds did just that.
But thoughts of the Premier League and what awaits on the weekend have to be put to the back of the mind as the Champions League pursuit starts in earnest once more.
Benfica awaits in Lisbon and here are 10 key things to know ahead of the quarter-final first leg.
1. The hosts suffer pre-Reds setback
While Liverpool took their winning run in the league to 10 in a row on Saturday, Benfica stumbled only days prior to the visit of Klopp’s side.
Caretaker manager Nelson Verissimo had seen his side go undefeated for a run of nine games in all competitions, which included the 3-2 aggregate win over Ajax to book their place in the quarter-finals.
But on Friday evening, the Lisbon side took a significant hit in the Primeira Liga by falling to a 3-2 defeat to Braga, seeing them drift further away from rivals Porto and Sporting CP.
Benfica had got back to level terms at 2-2 with two goals in only three minutes but their defence failed to hold firm, a fallibility Liverpool will hope to take advantage of.
2. At risk of suspension
Champions League rules are that a player will be handed a one-game suspension when having accumulated three yellow cards throughout the competition.
And with the Anfield decider in mind, Benfica have seven players walking a disciplinary tightrope while Liverpool have two.
Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Mario, Alejandro Grimaldo, Julian Weigl, Roman Yaremchuk, Rafa Silva and Goncalo Ramos could all be ruled out for the second leg should they pick up a yellow card on Tuesday.
As for the Reds, Sadio Mane and Digo Jota are similarly just a single booking away from missing the decider.
3. Familiar Benfica faces
Benfica have not had as much luck on the injury front as Liverpool in recent weeks but the situation has eased somewhat with Haris Seferovic and Adel Taarabt to be in contention.
And although the two clubs have not met competitively since 2010, there are a number of players that will be familiar.
Jan Vertonghen, Otamendi, Julian Weigl and Joao Mario are such players and are likely to be involved at Estadio da Luz — also known as the Stadium of Light.
Possible Benfica XI: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Silva, Mario, Weigl, Everton; Nunez, Yaremchuk
4. A FULL squad
Now, we don’t want to jinx it but Liverpool finds themselves in a healthy position with Klopp having a fully fit squad to choose from.
Trent Alexander-Arnold returned to the bench against Watford and Naby Keita took part in training on Monday afternoon, meaning the boss has some touch selection decisions on his hands.
It means some will be left out of the matchday squad altogether but with games coming nearly every three days, rotation will be in order and chances will come.
Liverpool squad in training on Monday
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Kelleher, Adrian, Pitaluga, Karius
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Konate, Gomez, Williams, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Tsimikas
Midfielders: Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Keita, Jones, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner
Forwards: Salah, Mane, Jota, Diaz, Firmino, Minamino, Origi
5. How could Klopp line up his side?
With an abundance of choices comes endless possibilities, leaving plenty for Klopp to mull over.
Much of the XI is unlikely to come as a surprise, but a lot of eyes will be on who makes up the front three in Portugal after Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz both started on the bench against Watford.
There is a chance Mohamed Salah could be handed a respite after a taxing schedule with club and country, with chances to do so few and far between this month.
At the other end of the pitch, there could be a place for Ibrahima Konate, who has started three of the last four in the Champions League.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago;
6. Can Salah stay in the hunt?
Mohamed Salah has been nothing short of electric this season and his feats on the European stage have been something to marvel at with eight goals in eight appearances.
It’s not only this season that has seen him thrive on the big stage and it keeps him in contention to break a record held by Cristiano Ronaldo. But he has to score at Benfica to stay in the hunt.
He currently has Liverpool’s record for scoring in the most consecutive European away games with eight, dating back to October 2020 – but Ronaldo sits at the top with 12 in a row whilst with Real Madrid.
Think he can stay in the running?
7. Nothing new to say’ on Mo
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp was drawn into further discussions over Salah’s contract situation and his current form:
“I’m happy. There’s nothing new to say [on his contract].
“The decisive parties are talking to each other and that’s all I need. That’s it.
“He might not have scored from open play or whatever, it’s not too important.
“For me, the performance level is really important. It’s completely normal in a season that you have these little things.
“There is nothing to worry about, apart from we have to manage the physical part as well.”
8. Did you know?
There are bound to be nerves swirling but the Reds have an impressive record at this stage of the competition and on the road.
As for progressing beyond the quarter-final stage, of the last eight at this juncture to see Liverpool play the first leg away from home, they have reached the next round six times.
Only Real Madrid last season and Widzew Lodz in 1982/83 have denied Liverpool passage to the semi-final after hosting the first leg – comforted at all?
If not, of the last 12 away Champions League games, Liverpool have won nine with only two defeats and a draw – with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Napoli taking the credit for those blemishes.
9. A new face in the middle
It’s a first for Liverpool and Jesus Gil Manzano, with the Spanish referee overseeing the Reds for the very first time.
He’s no stranger to Benfica, however, having officiated the Portuguese side on four different occasions, ending with one win, two draws and a defeat.
His record shows he is not shy in dishing out a red or yellow card nor a penalty, having pointed to the spot seven times in eight games since early December.
10. How do I watch?
It’s another BT Sport affair for those in the UK, with BT Sport 3 the place to tune in from 7.15pm (BST), ahead of the 8pm kickoff.
But This Is Anfield’s matchday live blog will also be in full swing as Dan Clubbe keeps you entertained and informed with all the happenings in Lisbon from 7.15pm!