LIVERPOOL VS BENFICA: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool host Benfica tonight with a chance to advance to the semi finals of the Champions League. The Reds hold a 3-1 first leg lead and will be looking to book a date against Villareal in the last four. Here’s the predicted lineup…
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With this fixture lying in between two titanic clashes against Manchester City, the gaffer is likely to make a number of changes. He confirmed this in his press conference yesterday but the depth in the Liverpool squad means you could make a raft of changes and still line up a scary looking XI.
Although the Reds hold a comfortable first leg lead, they will be wary of the events in last night’s Champions League fixtures. Not to mention the scare Inter Milan handed them after going 1-0 up at Anfield. The manager will want to rotate but still field a side strong enough to get the job done.
Alisson Becker will continue in goal. The Brazilian is likely to play every single minute of every single match in this marathon month. Goalkeepers don’t usually need rest, and Ali seems to have put his injury problems of the past year behind him.
In the backline, there’s likely to be a number of changes. Trent could be expected to go again with an eye on a rest around the hour mark depending on how the game is going. Gomez was excellent against Watford and will likely get minutes here.
On the opposite flank, Tsimikas could come in for Robertson from the start. Kostas has been a reliable alternative all season and will be needed here. In the heart of defence, Matip is likely to go again having been rested for the first leg last week.
Van Dijk has played more minutes than any Liverpool player this season in what has been a remarkable return from the ACL injury he suffered. He’s human however and will need a breather somewhere. This is as good a time as any looking at the upcoming schedule.
Konaté scored in Portugal and will be expected to partner Matip here. The young Frenchman was in a direct battle against Darwin Nunez and it will be interesting to see if Benfica will target him again. Ibou is as adept playing on the left of centre back as he is on the right so won’t be fazed by the switch.
The manager has a few decisions to make in the midfield of the park. Thiago was not pictured in training yesterday and was unlikely to start anyway having started each of the last three. It feels as if Ox has fallen behind Jones in the pecking order after being left out of the squad completely at the weekend.
The gaffer could choose to rest Fabinho, with Henderson starting in the holding role. Either side of the skipper will likely be Curtis Jones and Naby Keita. Naby played really well in the first leg and will know another strong performance here could get him in the team on Saturday.
Curtis feels like a work in progress, with his recent performance not hitting the heights he’s well capable of. He seems to have the manager’s trust though and will want to take his opportunity tonight should he get picked as expected.
Upfront, you would expect Mané and Salah to be left out of the XI. The dynamic duo have had a ridiculous schedule this season having gone all the way in the AFCON and then head to head again in the World Cup playoff. In their stead, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota will line up on the wings, with Firmino starting through the middle.
Diaz was named Man of the Match in the first leg and will be keen to get another one over Benfica, given his Porto roots. Jota meanwhile has scored or assisted in each of his last six starts for club and country, whilst Bobby will seek to bring energy and try to link everything together.
It is a fantastic opportunity for the Reds to make the last four. That doesn’t happen every season and Jürgen Klopp will want to finish the job whilst resting a few key figures ahead of the FA Cup semi final on Saturday.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konaté, Tsimikas, Henderson, Jones, Keita, Jota, Firmino, Diaz.
Subs: Kelleher, Van Dijk, Robertson, Gomez, Fabinho, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elliott, Salah, Mané, Minamino, Origi.