Benfica host Liverpool at the Estádio da Luz on Tuesday night in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg. The Eagles caused a huge upset as they knocked out Ajax in the last round whilst Liverpool progressed against Inter Milan despite a home defeat. This is the first meeting between the sides since a Reds win in 2010.
Benfica sits third in the Portuguese Primeira Liga with a 12-point gap to leaders Porto with just six rounds of football left to play. They were nine matches unbeaten in all competitions before losing 3-2 at Sporting Braga in their last match. They had beaten Estoril 2-1 in their penultimate match.
They have reached this stage thanks to their sturdy backline with five clean sheets in eight matches in the competition. They have gone away to Dinamo Kiev, Barcelona, and Ajax and not conceded a goal. A 3-0 group stage win against Barcelona (and a 0-0 away) were key in finishing above the Catalan giants. They fought back from 1-0 down and 2-1 down at home to Ajax to draw 2-2 in the first leg of the last 16 before their heroics to win 1-0 in the Netherlands.
Benfica Team News
Adel Taarabt will return to the starting XI having missed the weekend’s league defeat due to suspension. Soualiho Meite will drop down to the bench. Coach Nelson Verissimo rested 26-goal striker Darwin Nunez for the first half against Sporting Braga but he will return here in place of Roman Yaremchuk.
For this tough match, experienced midfield Joao Mario could come into the strongest midfield in a 4-3-3 shape instead of going with a 4-2-3-1. Veteran defenders Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi will anchor the defence.
This is a huge match for the hosts and they had one eye on it during their weekend defeat. All focus and attention will go onto this first leg. Benfica played very defensively away in Amsterdam and only had 31% possession and one shot on target in that victory.
Expected a low block to protect their older defenders and a very compact shape. They will play to nick a 1-0 home win but won’t take many risks.
Klopp’s team comes into this tie in superb form and with high confidence. They have 16 wins in their last 17 matches with one defeat, including the Carabao Cup final victory on penalties. Their only loss was 1-0 at home to Inter Milan in the last round when they already had a 2-0 first-leg advantage.
They bounced back from that loss to win four in a row without a goal conceded. A 2-0 win at Brighton was followed by a 2-0 win at Arsenal and a 1-0 victory at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. Their most recent match saw a solid 2-0 home win against Watford. They had won seven Champions League matches in a row this season before the Inter second-leg loss.
Liverpool Team News
Jurgen Klopp should have a clean bill of health with Trent Alexander-Arnold back on the bench against Watford and set to start. Naby Keita and Curtis Jones have shaken off injured and Joel Matip should start even after needing a head bandage over the weekend.
The Reds have to pick three of their five excellent forwards. Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota are one yellow from missing the second leg but should get the nod alongside Mohamed Salah. Luis Diaz will be keen to impress upon his return to Portugal, having joined in January from Porto.
It’s a huge week for the Reds with Benfica away and then a trip to Man City on Sunday in a possible title decider. They will be highly motivated to win this match and take a strong advantage into the second leg at Anfield.
Liverpool may also play slightly within themselves, as they did at the San Siro, but stepped it up enough to get a couple of goals and a victory without using too much energy.
Benfica have kept 5 clean sheets in 8 CL matches this season
Benfica have lost 1 of their last 10 matches (all comps)
Benfica’s Darwin Nunez has 26 goals this season
Benfica have conceded 6 goals in their last 3 home CL matches
Liverpool have won 10 PL matches in a row (with 7 clean sheets in 8)
LFC have won 7 of their 8 CL matches this season
Liverpool have scored 2+ goals in their last 4 away CL matches (12-4 aggregate)
Benfica have worked miracles in this year’s competition but were thrashed 4-0 at home by Bayern when they faced an elite team. Liverpool should have too much for them with a victory and clean sheet looking like the best bet.
Best Bet: Liverpool win to zero at 2.35
Alternative Bet: Liverpool (-1 spread) at 2.05
Safe Multiplier Leg: Liverpool win/draw double chance + under 3.5 goals at 1.71
Correct Score Tip: Benfica 0-2 Liverpool at 7.00