Liverpool’s 3-1 victory at Benfica offered a mixed bag and was dissected by three Reds supporters, who also selected their starting XIs to face Man City this weekend.
Liverpool had to battle hard in the end, as Benfica came to life in the second half, and improvements will be required at City on Sunday.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Dan Clubbe (@dan_clubbe) and John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) to dissect the Reds’ win and pick their team to take on City at the Etihad.
DAN: As blindingly obvious as it is, it’s the result.
Taking a two-goal cushion into the second leg is massive and puts us in such a strong position to advance against a side who certainly proved they could cause problems.
The changes once again away in Europe proved pivotal as the introduction of Jordan Henderson brought a calmness to proceedings that was lacking for much of the second half.
On that note, Diaz’s finish was cool, quality and a sign of things to come. The Colombian ended the match with an assist and a crucial goal in a Champions League quarter-final – nobody could’ve predicted that level of importance when he was added in late January.
JOHN: The result, clearly. A European Cup quarter-final away and Liverpool emerge victorious with a two-goal margin. The Reds weren’t always at their best, but they manufactured enough openings to win that game by even more.
I thought Keita was superb, possibly his best game for the club. He was aggressive in the press, enterprising with the ball and — were it not for a bad finish — could have had two goal assists for Diaz.
He is a player fully comfortable with his role, but, as always, the issue is keeping him fit. If he and Thiago are available for the rest of the season, Liverpool can win the lot.
Trent was good on his first start back after injury. His pass to Diaz to assist Mane was like prime Tom Brady and he played a wonderous pass through to Mo Salah that the Egyptian ought to have scored from.
He did Andy Robertson no favours with a slack pass that started in motion their goal, but, overall, he was impressive.
Despite his role in their goal, Konate was so commanding. Physically dominant, which we saw with his goal, and happy to carry the ball out of defence – in the manner of Joel Matip – the young Frenchman is remarkably well rounded for his age.
Fabinho was imperious, as per usual. He used the ball well and at times it felt like he had more than two legs, given the way he always seemed in the right place to snuff out the opposition threat.
HENRY: As Dan and John correctly said, the win is clearly the main positive, with any 3-1 away victory in Europe not to be sniffed at.
It was a strange game, in many ways, because I think we expected Liverpool to win with relative ease, so it didn’t feel especially dramatic.
The first-half display was outstanding, though, and I agree with the lads that Keita deserved a special mention.
His Reds career has been a curious one full of false dawns, but I think he’s been very good this season, when fit, and he was the best midfielder on the pitch on Tuesday.
Konate was really good barring the error, too – these things happen and supporters shouldn’t dwell on it.
DAN: We allowed the game to descend into chaos almost immediately after the second half got underway.
Whilst credit can go to Benfica, who completely changed their approach after being passive in the first 45 minutes, our performance for a long time was many levels below what we had just produced, as we allowed them to get far too much joy from their endeavours due to an inability to keep the ball.
This was a night to forget for Salah. Although I can count on one hand how many of them there have been since the Egyptian’s signing, almost everything he tried didn’t come off, including a couple of relatively straightforward touches.
One to put behind him quickly and if there is anything playing on his mind, it needs to be shrugged off now.
Alisson‘s moment of madness deserves a mention, too. I know nothing came of it, but I do not need to see that again in a hurry! Keep that one for the Samba streets of Brazil please, Ali.
JOHN: Despite an assist, Robertson was quite poor. He seemed to make the wrong choice in attack quite often and he didn’t cover himself in glory for the home side’s goal.
Salah’s open field goal drought goes on. He was actually good in the first half in general play, even though he spurned two great chances to score, but in the second half he seemed to lack conviction and he didn’t perform well.
The context is he has played extra time several times in quick succession for Egypt and Liverpool and all those 120 minutes seem to be making a difference. Hopefully hooking him at 60 minutes gives him enough of a break to rediscover his form at City.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were very poor. Liverpool didn’t control the game and kept giving a clearly inferior team confidence by being dragged down to their level.
The attacking football is great, but sometimes it is necessary to slow it down. Thiago is usually the player to regulate the flow of the game, but he wasn’t as good in the second period as he was in the first.
As it was, it didn’t really matter but the Reds need to improve that aspect ahead of the likelihood of progressing and playing better teams.
HENRY: I’ll be honest, it’s painful watching Salah at the minute.
He looks like his head is absolutely chocker – contract talk, missing out on AFCON glory and World Cup qualification will do that! – while his legs look like they have six lots of 120 minutes in them in 2022.
He made some good runs in the first half, but overall, his touch was awful and he looks to be overthinking everything, whereas pre-AFCON it couldn’t have been more different.
Mane was also pretty average, with his own first touch leaving a lot to be desired, losing the ball in key areas.
They were the worst players in my opinion, although Thiago lost the plot for 15 minutes after half-time and was deservedly substituted.
And pick your team vs. Man City…
DAN: The curveball of the week, this!
There are multiple players who will feel they are deserving of a start based on form, but I can see Jurgen Klopp reverting to type for this one and picking arguably the most dependable XI of players who have been there and done it time and time again.
JOHN: The I know Klopp will pick is totally different to the team I would pick, but if it was up to me, I would go with the same team as last night apart from bringing in Firmino for Mane and Matip for Konate.
Henderson will clearly play, but I don’t think his form warrants it and Keita’s form last night – plus the fact he is really press resistant and that is important against City – means I would give him the nod beside Thiago.
Firmino will be important to press them and disrupt their build-up and that’s my logic behind selecting him.
You could say Salah’s form doesn’t necessarily warrant him starting, but you have to select the Premier League‘s top scorer, and knowing the player he is, he could well turn his form around on Sunday.
HENRY: Before last night, Henderson would have been in my team, but I think Keita deserves to start on current form, as John stated.
The skipper’s performances have been patchy and he looks more leggy as age catches up with him, so I’m not as confident as I used to be with him in big games when he simply had to start.
Matip comes back in, without question, but as for picking the front-three, it’s so, so difficult. I’ve changed my mind three times in the last minute already!
Jota is a killer and it feels wrong not playing him, though, while Firmino is often good against City, so I don’t know what to believe anymore!