Liverpool FC status Frånvaroläge: Alla friska! Trolig startelva (4-3-3): Alisson Gomez, Matip, van Dijk, Tsimikas – Fabinho, Keita, Henderson- Diaz, Mané, Salah Tankar om elvan: Med alla spelare friska blir det såklart extra svårt att förutspå vilka elva som får plats på planen mot Benfica, jag tror Klopp kommer ha matchen mot City med i bakhuvudet när laget tas ut och därför blir det några av startspelarna som får börja bredvid. Jag tror inte Alexander-Arnold kastas in direkt från start, Gomez gjorde det bra mot Watford och även om det är annat motstånd här tror jag han är redo för det. På mitten är Thiago i en fantastisk form, men han kan inte spela varje match och om Keita är redo att kliva in tror jag så blir fallet här. Fabinho och Henderson känns givna från start här. Anfallet kan se ut på många sätt, men jag tror att Salah får vara kvar från startelvan senast och att Diaz och Mané kliver in med honom. Det här skulle innebära att vi har namn som Jota, Firmino, Thiago, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Milner, Oxlade, Jones, Elliot, Origi, Minamino, Tsimikas och Kelleher som kan ta plats på bänken, det är tamejtusan inte fy skam. Benfica status – António Pita(@pita_80), @benficafm 1. Tell us a bit about your season so far, how are you doing in the League? The last two seasons have been disappointing, despite the large investment made last season (about 150 Million Euros), between new players and technical staff. The pressure and expectations at Benfica are always very high, but with this investment it was expected that we would be able to reach other levels, have hegemony internally and establish a position in the UCL. In internal competitions it has been a disgrace. We are far from 1st place in the league for the 2nd year in a row and there is a tremendous lack of quality in our football. 2. You recently changed manager, when Jorge Jesus where replaced by Nelson Verissimo. How would you describe the way Verissimo wants you to play? The truth is that in recent years there have been many changes and division within the club. Bruno Lage, who was the last coach of Benfica to win a championship, was sacked and replaced by Jorge Jesus (who had left a mark on Benfica in the previous decade, with 3 championships, several cups and 2 European finals), but this return never it was peaceful and always created a lot of division among the fans and even in the adminstration. Jorge Jesus came back and promised the best football and the best results. Despite the investment made with the signing of international players by their national teams (Portugal, Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, Ukraine, Argentina and Belgium), everything went wrong. In between, there was a change in the Board, with two elections and a lot of controversy. All this to say that Verissimo carries a heavy and almost ”poisoned” heritage, which continues to give little juice in internal competitions, but in contrast, at UCL, the team shows that it is capable of competing with the best..as if the set mind was totally different. Verissimo changed the tactical system used by the previous coach, recovering the 4-4-2 that is very familiar to Benfica over the last few decades. But the team presents big changes in the dynamics and in the approach between the championship games and the UCL games. In domestic competitions, despite being more dominant, we are a team that exposes itself too much defensively and is unable to control the game. There is a primacy for possession, but the movement of the ball is always too slow. At UCL the team is always more focused and willing to give control of the game to the opponent, but always taking advantage of the speed and power of some of our players and of course the technique that characterizes Portuguese football. But actually we are two totally different teams…it’s a bit schizophrenic. Although we, Benfica fans, are not used to seeing our team giving control to the opponent and being a counterattack team, the truth is that the team works better this way…Liverpool can expect a patient Benfica . 3. What are the strenghts and weaknesses of your team? Strengths: a) Team with experienced players (Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo, Rafa, Everton, Weigl, João Mário…) and used to competing at the highest level, with a mix of irreverence from some younger players (Darwin Nunez, Gonçalo Ramos , Paulo Bernardo). b) Speed and power in the attack. c) Estádio da Luz (As in Anfield Road for Liverpool, our fans can help the team a lot). Weaknesses: a) Lack of trust, motivated by the many changes and the bad internal results. b) lack of speed in defense c) too predictable and slow movement and possession 4. Which players are most important to your team? Otamendi, Julian Weigl and Darwin Nunez. 5. Tell us a bit about your way to this quarter final. After the bad championship we did last season we had to play 2 qualifiers to get to the UCL group stage. We started in August where we had to eliminate Spartak Moscow and PSV Eindhoven and we did it with distinction. Then, in the group stage draw, we were not happy: Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Dynamo Kiev. We only lost to Bayern Munich (who doesn’t?) in the entire group stage. In the Round of 16 we had AJAX as our opponent, which until then only had victories in the competition. 2 great games where Benfica ended up deserving the Ticket for the Quarter Finals and having the privilege of facing another historic club. 6. What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool? As a fan I would like to see 2 great games between two historic clubs, with goals and a lot of emotion. However, if we are realistic and put passion aside, we realize that Liverpool is the best team and I’m sure they will come out as the great team they are. Whatever the result, Liverpool can expect a top atmosphere at Estádio da Luz and great support from Benfica fans in England… the recent past has been a happy one for Benfica in their clashes with Liverpool FC. Let’s hope for the best 🙂 7. How do you rate your chances of getting into the semifinals? Being realistic is not being too modest and unambitious. To be realistic is to recognize the superiority of the opponent in terms of their quality and the moment the teams are going through. Liverpool are the better team and going through a better moment. So, I think that Benfica will only have a 30% chance of reaching the semi-finals. However, Liverpool will have to sweat a lot because that 30% will look like 60%, because we are Benfica! Totaal reflektion: En kvartsfinal i Champions League är aldrig enkel och även om vi av de flesta ses som favoriter här kan vi räkna med att det kommer bli en tuff uppgift, speciellt i det inledande bortamötet. Både form och trupp talar till vår fördel och man kan nog dessutom tänka att Benfica är ganska nöjda med att ha tagit sig så här långt, samtidigt ska vi komma ihåg att de slog ut Ajax i förra omgången och kan spela matchen utan någon större press. Hur man än vrider och vänder på det ska vi ha goda chanser att ta oss vidare och ett bra resultat redan i bortamötet vore såklart viktigt, inte minst med tanke på att returen kommer mitt i mellan två möten med City. Det är en härlig tid nu, där alla matcher är viktiga, men ett par svaga insatser de kommande fjorton dagarna kan ta död på den känslan. Låt oss hoppas att vi ser till att den lever vidare länge till.