Benfica vs Liverpool
| Tuesday, April 5th |
Champions League | Estádio da Luz
8PM BST / 3PM EST
The Champions League is reaching its home stretch and Liverpool find themselves on the right side of the bracket, taking on one of the weaker teams left in the competition and avoiding their domestic rivals until a potential final, but at this stage of proceedings, there are no bad teams, and the difference between winning and losing is marginal.
Benfica have faced the Reds ten times in official competition, with the Portuguese outfit winning four of the last five meetings, although their home win back in 2010 counted for little as a 4-1 drubbing at Anfield saw them eliminated from the Europa League quarter-finals.
This season has not gone according to plan for Nélson Veríssimo’s men, and they find themselves third in the Primeira Liga, ten points clear of Braga in fourth, but also nine and twelve points behind Sporting and Porto, respectively, leaving them likely to miss out on automatic Champions League qualification next year.
A 3-2 loss to the aforementioned Braga at the weekend was a less than stellar dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s clash, and As Águias will have to deal with some injury issues, as long-term absentees Rodrigo Piño and Lucas Veríssimo continue to miss out alongside Haris Seferovic, while former mercurial starlet turned holding midfielder Adel Taarabt should recover in time.
Nonetheless, they are a side featuring a combination of talent and experience, as dynamic, early-peak players like Darwin Núñez, Alejandro Grimaldo, Valentino Lazaro, Gonçalo Ramos and Everton star alongside the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Nicolás Otamendi and João Mário.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson; Mané, Jota, Díaz
For Liverpool, health appears to be less of a problem than at any point in recent memory, and Jürgen Klopp confirmed today that he boasts a full squad to choose from just as the season is coming to a head.
With the potentially title-deciding Manchester City clash not taking place until Sunday, one would expect a strong starting XI tomorrow, with Trent Alexander-Arnold shaking off his “injury” just in time to feature alongside Joël Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson at the back.
In midfield, the Thiago/Fabinho double pivot is expected to start once again, likely supported by captain Jordan Henderson.
Up top, Mohamed Salah is experiencing a bit of a drought, having failed to score a non-penalty goal for the Reds since mid-February, and a start on the bench could be on the cards for the Egyptian, with the dynamic Luis Díaz — who has experience playing against Benfica — replacing him. Sadio Mané is expected to start having only featured as a substitute at the weekend, while Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino battle for the final place in the front line.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “Benfica maybe aren’t where they want to be in their league but it’s a tough opponent. We all know one failure, one little misstep, and at least one competition can be gone. That’s no problem for us, we’re just ready for the next challenge.”
Nélson Veríssimo: “We can suppress Liverpool’s strengths. Like any team, they have weaknesses that we can take advantage of. We have a defensive process in which we will have to have great competence. It’s going to be tough but we can share the game tomorrow then count on our fans, who will be able to inspire our team for a great European night.“
The Officials (ESP)
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano
Assistant referees: Diego Barbero, Ángel Nevado
Fourth official: José María Sánchez
VAR: Alejandro Hernández, Ricardo de Burgos
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.