Benfica vs Liverpool: Match Preview | UEFA Champions League 2021/22

Talib Haider
By Talib Haider
11 Min Read
Benfica-vs-Liverpool-Match-Preview-Champions-League-Quarter-Finals-2021-22

The Champions League nights are back! After triumphing over their respective opponents in the Round of 16, Benfica and Liverpool face each other over the 2 legs, in the quarter finals…

Benfica, for all the home advantage, will be looking to get some edge over their fearsome opponents from Tuesday, in Liverpool. As the 1st Leg will be played in the capital city of Portugal – Lisbon. While it might sound a pretty convincingly easy fixture for Klopp and co., in truth, it is against one of the trickiest teams they face this season.

Whether, it is the Portuguese – Nelson Verissimo or the German – Jurgen Klopp, both will be martialing their troops for sure. In games like these where everything is at stake, you cannot afford any slip ups. And Klopp, for sure, will be telling his players not to get over their heads for this one.

Benfica vs Liverpool: Forms going into the match

Both of the teams will be stepping on the pitch on Tuesday with different moods.

The Reds have won 16 out of their 17 games in all competitions, while the latest win coming on the weekend against Watford in the Premier League. As for the home side, Verissimo’s team tasted a bitter defeat at the hands of their Portuguese opponents- Braga, on the same day that marked the Reds’ victory.

For all that is being said, momentum does play a part in football going into a fixture. Even if it just a little. And apart from everything else, this where Benfica will be going in the tie as the underdogs.

Benfica form across all competitions: LWWDW
Liverpool form across all competitions:
WWWWL

Meanwhile in the Champions League, Benfica are coming off from a terrific performance against Ajax in the Round of 16, who were favoured more than the Portuguese outfit. While, Klopp’s men tasted a defeat in the 2nd Leg of the Round of 16 at Anfield, against Inter, only to qualify on the aggregate score.

Does Nelson Verissimo has what it takes to beat the Klopp’s fearsome men?

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We know that it is going to be an attacking battle between two of the Europe’s most fiery teams, going upfront. But it has been a pleasure to watch Benfica this season. Nelson Verissimo’s has set up a well-balanced squad, barring a few mistakes here and there.

Replacing Bruno Lage as a caretaker manager back in 2020, in the final stages of the season, Verissimo showed great promise after leading the club to 4 wins out the 6 games in he stood as the in-charge. Well that is how his relationship, for most part of his career, has been like.

Even as you read this article, he stands as a caretaker manager. But one who has certainly anchored a weak Benfica ship, pretty well.

For someone who has devoted his entire career to the service of the club, Verissimo certainly knows what the team wants and what are the fans’ desires! It is hard to meet them both, but the Portuguese coach has delivered it most of the times than not.

Meanwhile, Verissimo’s style of football comes as a news to the managers facing his side because he plays an all-out counter attacking. Firstly to look at this ball game we have to understand that he plays a system of 4-2-3-1, wherein allowing the 2 defensive midfielders to act as defensive covers. So whenever Benfica tries catching the opposition off-guard, what happens is that even the 2 defensive midfielders cramp their opposition’s 6 yard box. In turn allowing very little to no space to defend in.

Another highlight of Verissimo’s style of play is taking the advantage from the set pieces – mostly corners, or up the field free kicks. Most recent spectacle being the goal against Ajax, in the 2nd Leg of the Round of 16.

One can argue the fact that it can lead to many gaps being opened in the defence, but conceding a goal is fine till it is being compensated upfront by the attackers scoring more goals for the team. And on this note, the Portuguese will urge his players to be composed at the back and attack on will.

As the world now knows the pressing prowess of the Reds, since Jurgen Klopp introduced gegenpressing, Benfica players cannot even let this Liverpool side have the slightest of openings. Rather, Verissimo would want them to play to their strengths and lure the visitors into committing mistakes.

There is nothing much Klopp has to change in the journey to success apart from asking his players to deliver with the same intensity week in, week out

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Jurgen Klopp has, without any doubt, built a relentless side in Liverpool – who just don’t know when they are beaten. They can scuff out a victory, even when they are not in their brightest of days. Like we saw in their last game against Watford, on Saturday. There will be one instruction in particular, that the German will be giving out – Do what you have been doing lately. But, the question arises is that every game they go in with the same mindset, how come they are still unplayable?

To be clear, the play might be predictable, but the in-game instructions during the course of the game is the USP to success for the German coach. Moreover, the recent developments have spoiled the treat for many oppositions.

At the start of this season, Liverpool’s gameplay was criticized. The main reason was the amount of crosses each of the fullbacks, Trent & Robertson, whipped inside the box during a course of a single game. Adding to this, there was no flow to the play from the middle. Jurgen Klopp, however, has martialed his players now, in a way that there is a rhythmic flow to the ball movement. Though, intensity of the crosses per game is still high but it does not effect the overall play.

In the recent few games, it is visible how the likes of Thiago, Henderson, now Luis Diaz are driving the plays forward for the team. It is like loop, Fabinho passes it to Thiago and the Spanish, master of threading in perfect passes, just do what he does the best.

While, in the final third, Liverpool players have looked to resort to the two touch passing. This strategy, however, has looked to help them pass and move the ball even in the tighter defensive areas.

The German Gaffer, Jurgen Klopp, will expect nothing less than a similar performance again from his in-form players. Keeping in mind that the away goal law has been erased, the visitors cannot expect to sit back and relax after scoring a goal.

When & Where?

VENUE –  Estádio da Luz.
DATE – Tuesday, 5th April 2022.
TIME – 7:00 PM GMT.

Team News

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For Benfica it has been a run of a few merry days, as there have been no fresh injury concerns. Adding to that, Seferovic was back among the substitutes in the loss against Braga on the Weekend.

Verissimo, however, will not be expecting the services of Lucas and Rodrigo as the pair remain out due to the injuries. While Otamendi and Vertonghen would stand guard their guard in the defence to face a well-known opponents in Liverpool. The in-form striker, Darwin Nunez, could return to the starting XI as well.

As for Jurgen Klopp and co., they could be handed a boost in Trent’s speedy recovery. The English full back’s initial Hamstring injury caused a fear that it could take a prolonged recovery period, but Trent was among the substitutes on Saturday in the League game against Watford.

No further injury concerns, but it will be a challenge for the German to rotate his players. Specifically, the likes of Diaz and Mane who started on the bench last game out.

Predicted Lineups

Benfica: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Silva, Mario, Weigl, Everton; Nunez, Yaremchuk.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Jota, Mane, Diaz.

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