BENFICA VS LIVERPOOL: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool face off against Benfica tonight, in the first leg of their Champions League Quarter Final tie. Here’s how we think Jürgen Klopp will line his side up for the encounter.
For a match preview, you can head over here:
Coming just three days after the win over Watford, tonight could see the gaffer make a few changes. That’s without even taking into account the title decider that awaits on Sunday at the Etihad. It is perfect timing for the squad to report a clean bill of health.
Every single member of the squad has trained ahead of the game and the gaffer has loads of options to select from. He will be wary of not putting too much focus on the trip to City. He always preaches one game at a time and his team selection tonight will support that.
Benfica deserve all of the Reds’ attention and with there being five days between tonight and Manchester City on Sunday, there should be enough time for recovery and preparation. We could see a few changes from the side that beat Watford but it is sure to be a strong Liverpool side.
Alisson Becker will continue in goal, with the Brazilian enjoying a terrific run of form. Another huge save on Saturday swung the pendulum in his side’s favour as they went straight up the other end to open the scoring.
Alexander-Arnold was an unused substitute against Watford after recovering from a hamstring complaint. Tonight should see him return to the side as he seeks to pick up some form of rhythm ahead of Sunday.
At centre back, Van Dijk is a constant. The Dutchman would be in line for his 40th appearance for the club this season, continuing his remarkable return from an ACL injury. Alongside him, Matip has also been similarly impressive this season.
He took a bang to the head on Saturday however, and with Klopp careful not to start Joel three times in a week where possible, we could see Konaté come in. Ibou has not let anyone down when he’s come in this season and will relish a battle against the physical Yaremchuk.
On the left side, Robertson is likely to go again. As pointed out, Tuesday to Sunday is enough of a turnaround for recovery. Tsimikas will get his chance in this crazy run of fixtures (the Reds could play up to 9 fixtures this April).
In midfield, Fabinho is expected to return to the lineup having been left out at the weekend. He netted a late penalty to seal the victory having come on around the hour mark. Henderson is then likely to line up on the right of midfield, having started in the holding role on Saturday.
Thiago played on the left of midfield and was named Man of the Match after another excellent display. His fitness struggles dictate that he be left out of the starting XI tonight though, with his influence required on Sunday. No chances can be taken with him.
In his stead, Naby Keita could come in after a return from a knee complaint. The Guinean has stated in an interview recently that the Anfield faithful are yet to see his best. What better time to show that than in this crucial run in? Failing that, Milner, Ox, Jones and Elliott all provide alternatives.
Upfront, Mané and Diaz were left out of the side at the weekend and will be champing at the bit to be unleashed at the Estadio da Luz. Diaz knows Benfica well having come up against them several times in his spell with Porto.
The gaffer then has a decision to make on the involvement of Mo Salah. The Egyptian was straight into the lineup after another dose of international heartbreak. He looked short of his best form against Watford and a case could be made for him to be given a breather.
In that case, Firmino will start alongside Sadio and Luis. Mo seems the kind of player that would much rather prefer to play his way into form than to be rested. With the availability of five subs, we could see him start again but get taken off if necessary.
Jota meanwhile gets handed a breather. His pace and energy in the latter stages of the game against tiring legs could be a useful weapon. Especially against the ageing pair of Otamendi and Vertonghen at centre back.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Mané, Diaz.
Subs: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Tsimikas, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Thiago, Minamino, Firmino, Jota, Origi.