Liverpool’s FA Cup Semi-Final Has No Bearing On Benfica Line-Up – Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted a looming FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City will have no impact on his team selection for Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Benfica.
Last weekend the Reds, still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies in the one season, drew 2-2 with City to remain just a point behind the Premier League leaders.
They will face City again in the last four of the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday but before then the six-time kings of Europe play Benfica in the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final at Anfield.
Liverpool, who beat Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out to win the English League Cup final in February, have a healthy 3-1 lead following the first leg in Portugal, which has led to speculation Klopp could rest key players with an eye to the FA Cup tie.
But the German boss, speaking at a pre-match press conference on Tuesday, insisted: “The next game has no influence on the line-up for tomorrow but the last game has.
“So we have to see. It is a super intense schedule.”
Klopp added: “There is nobody injured, as far as I know, but we have to be careful with who is fresh enough for this game and stuff like this.”
As for Liverpool’s ongoing bid for the quadruple, Klopp said: “We are part of four competitions, and thankfully we are good enough this year not to go out early.
“We just try to squeeze everything out of every competition. Some are possible, we will see.”
– Anfield factor –
Liverpool raced into an early 2-0 lead in Lisbon last week before Darwin Nunez pulled a goal back for Benfica.
And it was only when Luis Diaz scored three minutes from time that Liverpool restored their two-goal lead.
“Knowing more about the way they played, they try to isolate Darwin and Ibou (Konate) one-on-one a little bit,” said Klopp.
“But they play football, and if you don’t defend (Julian) Weigl then you have a problem as well because he connects the people. They have speed with Rafa (Silva), things like this.”
He added: “I don’t know (how they will play) but I know what I would do. I would go for it, full throttle. I would try to put us under pressure, score early, and if not try to score a bit later. That’s what we expect.
“But now, bad news for Benfica, it’s Anfield: they don’t only play against us, they play against the whole crowd.”
Klopp also suggested television broadcasters were almost as much a threat to Liverpool as their opponents in a renewed attack on the scheduling of the Merseysiders’ matches.
If Liverpool defeat Benfica, they will face either Bayern Munich or Villarreal in the last four, with Klopp angry that after that potential midweek semi-final Liverpool would have to travel to Newcastle for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off.
“The schedule, and how people use the fame in the moment — Liverpool is hot and everyone wants to see them — they couldn’t care less,” said Klopp.
“It’s just not OK. If we play a Champions League semi-final, find me another league in the world and another broadcaster in the world who would put that team in a 12.30 pm (1130 GMT)?”
Benfica winger Everton said on Tuesday he has been analysing the weaknesses of Liverpool’s defence in the hope of gaining an advantage in the return leg.
Everton is likely to be up against the right side of Liverpool’s back-line, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate.
“I’ve been trying to study the opponent after the first game, looking to better analyse the individual qualities of Alexander-Arnold and Konate,” Everton told a press conference.
“I have tried to see where they have difficulties, the weak points, so that I can exploit and have a happy night, to give joy to the fans.”