„Benfica was not the favorite in the group and not against Ajax either. Ajax has an incredible amount of talent and yet they were kicked out by Benfica,” said Klopp. “They know how to get a result and we have to be apprehensive about that. Benfica is a footballing team, which consists of a mix of technical players, players with a lot of speed such as Rafa Silva and experienced players such as Jan Vertonghen and Nicolás Otamendi. And with Darwin Núñez they have a good striker. After Suárez and Cavani, another good striker from Uruguay, how do they manage that in that country?”
Liverpool have already won the League Cup this season and are in second place in the Premier League, one point behind Manchester City. Those teams meet on Sunday in Manchester. A week later, City and Liverpool will face each other again, then in the semi-finals of the FA Cup tournament. “We are in a situation that we dreamed of before the start of the season. We are still competing for all prizes. Now we have to try to get the most out of that,” said Klopp.
Benfica wants to peak again
After the elimination of Ajax, Benfica also thinks it can surprise Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday. Trainer Nélson Veríssimo realizes that his team has to perform at its best in both matches.
“Liverpool are a very powerful team, led by a coach who needs no introduction. We will have to peak in both matches as we did against Ajax and have to be at our best to have a chance,” said Verissimo of the encounter with Jürgen Klopp’s team.
“If we play at the level we are capable of, we can neutralize Liverpool’s strengths. We have the feeling that there will be situations where we can take advantage offensively and we will have to build security in defence. We have to play very compact. They have a large squad with many attacking options.”
Just like against Ajax, Benfica starts with a home match. “It’s good for us to play the first game at home,” the coach said. “We will have the support of our twelfth man and we believe he can make a difference.”
Midfielder Adel Taarabt, who played for Tottenham Hotspur in England, also knows that Liverpool is the favorite for the meeting. “But of course we have a chance, we are not just in the quarterfinals. We have a lot of respect for Liverpool, but we are not afraid of them.”
Benfica kept Ajax 2-2 in Lisbon and then won 1-0 in Amsterdam.
Guardiola: ‘Now you want to fight for the titles’
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is looking forward to the coming weeks. His team competes for three prizes in the last period of the year: the English title, the FA Cup and the Champions League. “April and May, those are the months that matter. Then you want to fight for titles,” said the Spaniard a day before the first game with Atlético Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
City’s schedule for the next week and a half includes two games against Atlético and two against Liverpool; first in the Premier League (Sunday in Manchester, with the lead at stake) and then in the FA Cup semi-finals (April 16 at Wembley). “If you don’t play these games, it means you’re out. It is therefore a pleasure to play such top duels,” said Guardiola, who, according to himself, comes up with a new tactic for every game.
Because every opponent is different. Liverpool is not Atletico because every player is different. You have to think about that over and over again. That’s why I keep thinking of those stupid tactics, all with the aim of beating the opponent. Today I am inspired for the tactics of tomorrow. Maybe we’ll play with twelve men,” Guardiola said with a laugh, referring to Bayern Munich’s mistake in the league match at SC Freiburg.
According to Guardiola, Atlético Madrid wrongly has the image of a defensively oriented team. “They play more offensively than people want to see. Trainer Diego Simeone does not let his team take any risks in the build-up, but Atlético is very good in the opponent’s half. You can also see that in the class of the players they have there. It is a misconception to say that Atlético play defensively.”