Jurgen Klopp’s likely Liverpool line-up against Benfica reveals where the best trophy hope lies – David Maddock

Liverpool host Benfica in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals at Anfield on Wednesday, with the side chosen by Reds boss Jurgen Klopp offering a hint as to where their best hope of silver this season lies


Liverpool won’t welcome the comparison, but it’s starting to look like the 2018 Champions League again and again for Jürgen Klopp and its players.

A stroll through the group stage, a Portuguese side in the last 16 and the prospect of a semi-final that was less daunting than first thought. Hell, there’s even a chance for Real Madrid in the final.

Back then, the Reds – and the rest of the world – were convinced that their ‘reward’ for surviving a difficult quarter-final would be a mammoth showdown with one of world football’s true titans in the last four.

It was then Barcelona who led Roma 4-1 after the first leg of their own quarter-finals, with bookies pausing bets on their place in the semi-finals. This time it should be FC Bayern Munich, the Germans are also big favorites after the narrow first-leg defeat in Spain. However, the fact that Villarreal have somehow smashed all the chances stacked against them, somehow survived an attack by one of the strongest sides in European football to pick up a late winner changes everything for the Reds.

Immediately, bookies made Liverpool favorites to win the Champions League, also bringing them down just 12-1 to complete a historic quadruple. And without question, Klopp’s side now have a clear path to Paris on May 28, and one that – at this level – appears to be a relatively smooth passage to their 10th final in the competition. It gives Klopp real food for thought, starting with his team selection against Benficaas he tries to get the job done with the least amount of effort.

Bookies are rarely wrong and there is no doubt that the Champions League now represents their best chance of winning another trophy this season. Essentially, all they have to do after that is avoid a 2-0 defeat or more against Benfica their 3-1 win in the first leg, and then beat Villarreal over two legs to reach the final. City’s path is much tougher, with the gnarly cynicism of Atletico Madrid and then Real getting in the way. So is Klopp now going all out by setting up his strongest line-up at Anfield against the Portuguese?

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has to decide whether to start with Mohamed Salah against Benfica despite the Reds holding a 3-1 lead

Or does he go on the defensive to hold a draw in the second leg and hold off some players for the Wembley visit and another Showdown with City on Saturday in the FA Cup semifinals? It’s intriguing, as is the manager’s view of Liverpool’s quadruple challenge this season. He has previously stated that winning four trophies is almost impossible and not even part of his team’s thinking. But that’s Jurgen Klopp. This is the manager who, when asked how Benfica would proceed at Anfield, said: “I don’t know but I know what I would do – hit the gas, FULL THROTTLE!”

And you suspect you’ve been watching him so closely over the past seven years at Liverpool that this will be his approach to the quadruple. It’s there, still possible, so why not go full throttle? No team has ever gotten so far into the season that they’re still involved in the top four trophies to hunt. No English team, no European giant. Not a single other page. So setting priorities and reducing the chances in another competition would be alien to Klopp’s way of thinking. He won’t say that publicly, but that chance may never come again. So why not throw every single ounce of energy at it?

That’s why you suspect he’ll play a slightly pragmatic game against Benfica. Is he resting Joel Matip? Very likely as Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez are reliable alternatives. Virgil van Dijk? No chance. However, he was able to rest Andy Robertson as Kostas Tsimikas was solid defensively and had a good forward attack. However, the big questions are in midfield and up front. Thiago played 90 minutes at City so he will surely be rested when Naby Keita comes on. Will Fabinho get a break too? Or Jordan Henderson. Maybe one of those with alternatives to James Milner or Curtis Jones.

Luis Diaz has to start in front, as does Roberto Firmino. That leaves the choice of Diogo Jota, Mohammed Salah and sadio mane for the last berth unless Klopp goes all the way to the left and chooses Taki Minamino or even Divock Origi? Five substitutes make that possible and Klopp has already clearly indicated he will look to a ‘refresher’ for his side, with the importance of substitutes high on his list of thoughts. “In these competitions we have to make these changes,” he said ahead of the game. “It’s April and the lads already have 40-50 games under their feet so we need to make those changes early, with half an hour to really make an impact.” So he WILL make changes for Benfica to get the hang of it best chance to go flat out towards a quadruple and history.

Liverpool’s likely XI: Alison; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Konate, Tsimikas; Keita, Henderson, Milner; Mane, Firmino, Diaz

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/jurgen-klopp-liverpool-team-benfica-26703477 Jurgen Klopp's likely Liverpool line-up against Benfica reveals where the best trophy hope lies - David Maddock

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