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Liverpool Chose Pre-Champions League Opponent Who Could Mimic Tottenham

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A pre-final friendly against Benfica B wasn’t simply a case of playing the first side that said yes.

Previews - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

When Liverpool fans heard that the club were seeking out a pre-Champions League final opponent, first asking Holland’s AZ Alkmaar and in the end facing Benfica B, most assumed it was just about keeping the squad sharp during a three-week break.

While it was about that, it turns out that it was about far more than that, too—and it wasn’t a case of Benfica B simply being the first to say yes to playing the Reds. Because of course it wasn’t. Benfica B were picked because it was felt they could mimic Tottenham.

“It could not be an English teams because of leaks of information,” Benfica technical director Pedro Marques revealed in A Bola. “It could not be Spanish because Pochettino was in Spain for many years. It could not be French because of Lloris.”

“There was a lot of thought to it. Team B had to move to Marbella for three days and meet Liverpool’s technical staff, who had perfectly identified what Benfica B was in technical-tactical terms, and then to learn what Tottenham was like.

“Benfica B were asked to adopt some of their behaviours: two defensive players, two offensive players, as well as behavioural tactics on free kicks similar to the ones that Tottenham do. we were a little bit more Tottenham and less Benfica B.”

Benfica B, then, tweaked their game to mimic Spurs, but as Marques explains it, Liverpool’s technical staff believing they had enough similarities—in approach and personnel profile—to convincingly do that was part of why they were chosen.

Along with the part where Liverpool believed there were no potential connections between Benfica and Spurs such that information would leak back to the North London club. It’s impressive, the thought put even into a decision like this one.

It shouldn’t be surprising, though. This is now a club that seeks out any advantage it can, from being at the forefront of analytical recruiting to hiring throw-in coaches. Of course there would be a method to selecting their pre-final friendly opponent.