Liverpool return to Anfield following a weekend draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Jurgen Klopp’s men remain in the hunt for the league title and will push current leaders Man City all the way to the finish line, but on Wednesday, the Reds take a break from their pursuit of points. They now meet Benfica in this UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match. The winner of this match will progress to the last four, keeping alive their dreams of being crowned champions of the continent. The Reds have a 3-1 aggregate lead, and supporters believe that will be enough to see them progress without too much fuss.
Liverpool were poor last season when surrendering both their Premier League and Champions League titles. They saw Man City win the English top-flight crown without encountering too much resistance while Chelsea beat Pep Guardiola’s men 1-0 in the final of the Champions League. Liverpool didn’t do themselves justice in either competition, but they are backfiring and ready to right the wrongs of the previous campaign. A strong first-leg win puts them in a commanding position, but the hosts are experienced enough to know there’s still work to be done here.
Liverpool and Benfica will meet at Anfield on Wednesday for what will be the 12th competitive match involving the sides. Heading into this game, Liverpool dominate the head to head scores with seven wins against the four of Benfica. Interestingly, these rivals have never produced a draw, and although the locals would be happy enough to see this game end level, armchair fans, neutrals and followers of the visitors would much prefer to see an all-action match with plenty of goals and even more talking points. There’s still everything to play for on Merseyside.
Liverpool lead the tie
Liverpool fans breathed a sigh of relief when drawn against Benfica in the quarter-finals of this tournament, knowing they had avoided the big names such as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as well as the other English representatives. Benfica, on paper, appear to be the weakest team left in the running, but Liverpool know they can’t afford to take anything for granted. They know they must work hard over both legs if they are to live up to expectations and get into the semi-finals. The English side are a quality outfit, but there are no easy games at this stage of the tournament.
They put one foot in the next round with an emphatic 3-1 away win over Benfica last Tuesday. That was a match they were expected to win, but few would have predicted just how convincing they would have been in the first leg. Liverpool opened the scoring inside 17 minutes thanks to Konate before Mane made it 2-0 before half-time. Nunez hit back for Benfica early in the second half to get the crowd up and out of their seats, believing again, but a fourth goal in the match, scored by Diaz on 87 minutes, put Liverpool in control.
Since that 3-1 win on the road, the Reds have played one match, and it was that tense 2-2 draw with Man City on Sunday. De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus were on the scoresheet for the champions and league leaders, but Liverpool remained competitive thanks to goals from Jota and Mane. Twice they fell behind in that game, and twice they fought back to get level but lacked the composure to win the match in the dying seconds. That means the gap between Man City and Liverpool remains at one point in the Premier League.
Benfica must attack
Benfica head to Merseyside for Wednesday’s match, knowing exactly what they must do. The visitors must win in England and do it convincingly if they are to have any chance of going through. A two-goal lead puts this game into extra time, with victory by three or more goals sending them through to the next round. That’s easier said than done, of course, but the away team can take heart from knowing their fate is in their own hands. They must come to Anfield and go on the attack, scoring first while keeping things tight in defence.
Benfica knew that their best chance of going through came from making home advantage count in the first leg. They wanted to beat Liverpool in front of their fans and send the team to England with high hopes of going through. That didn’t happen, but there’s no point in Benfica feeling sorry for themselves after that missed opportunity and aiming to avoid another heavy defeat. With the scores as they stand, Benfica are heading out, so they must do something about that.
If the away team can score the first goal in this game and it comes early enough, it will make the home support restless while putting pressure on the Liverpool players. The longer this match remains goalless, the closer Liverpool get to the next round. The pressure is on Benfica to explode out of the traps and crank up the pressure on their hosts from the first whistle. An energetic, fast-paced performance is needed, and even then, it may not be enough to see them get the two-goal lead they need to stay in this fixture.
Liverpool v Benfica prediction
Those camped inside the home dressing room before kick-off know this game is theirs to lose. They are in complete control, and having won so convincingly in Benfica last midweek; they will believe they are good enough to finish the job here. Liverpool fans and the coaching staff will want to see another victory and statement of intent.
Benfica have it all to do ahead of this match, but they know anything is possible in this competition. Score first, and it will be up to Liverpool to react. The opening goal of this game could be important in deciding which team goes through to the next round.
Champions League odds
The pre-match betting odds available at 22bet has Liverpool priced at 1.27 with Benfica 9.6 and the draw 6.15.
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