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Back Liverpool with a -1.5 handicap in the Caesars sportsbook. The Reds are a much stronger side than Benfica and that should be apparent in the first leg.
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No English team has ever won a quadruple before, but Liverpool have the chance to do so this year. The League Cup is already in the bag courtesy of a penalty shoot-out triumph over Chelsea in February.
The Reds are through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Manchester City in less than two weeks’ time. They have clawed their way back into the Premier League title race. And Jurgen Klopp’s side are the second favorites to win the Champions League as we enter the quarter-finals.
Other teams have been in this position before and none has been able to win all four trophies. It would be a phenomenal achievement, but also an unlikely one. After all, only one side – Manchester United in 1998/99 – has even won the three biggest prizes on offer, the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup. And it would be a surprise if a team as good as Manchester City ended the season empty-handed, as they would were Klopp’s side to triumph on all four fronts.
Yet Liverpool are in a fantastic position. There was a feeling last summer that their best days under Klopp were behind them. Liverpool only made one signing, with Ibrahima Konate joining from RB Leipzig. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea all splashed the cash much more freely, and many felt that Liverpool would struggle to keep pace at the top of the Premier League.
They have done much more than that. Klopp, now firmly established as one of the best managers of his generation, currently has the deepest squad he has ever had. Liverpool boast tremendous firepower up front, with the January signing Luis Diaz joining a frontline which already included Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino. Liverpool might not win four pieces of silverware this season, but they will take some stopping.
Benfica’s ambitions are suitably more modest. The most successful side in the history of the Portuguese league will not be winning the title this time: the Eagles are third in the standings, having failed to keep pace with Porto and Sporting CP. They were knocked out of the Taca de Portugal in the fifth round and lost 2-1 to Sporting, their Lisbon rivals, in the final of the Taca da Liga. The Champions League is their last shot at silverware – and a slim one at that.
The bookmakers consider Benfica to be the rank outsiders in the last eight. That is understandable. Benfica would probably need to get past Liverpool and Bayern Munich over two legs to even reach the final, where they could be drawn to face Manchester City, Chelsea or Real Madrid.
Benfica, to be clear, have had a fine season in Europe. They upset the odds to qualify for the knockout stage ahead of Barcelona, thanks in large part to a 3-0 victory over the Blaugrana in September that will live long in the memories of their supporters.
Benfica were also the underdogs in the round of 16, but a 2-2 draw at home and a 1-0 win away saw them knock out Ajax. Nelson Verissimo’s side turned in a battling, resolute performance at the Johan Cruyff Arena, and while they rode their luck at times they could not be faulted for effort or desire.
This was the ideal draw for Liverpool. Not only have they been paired with perhaps the weakest team remaining in the competition, but they will play the second leg at Anfield. Liverpool have only lost one home game within 90 minutes in front of a full house since September 2018 – and that was a 1-0 defeat by Inter last month which was enough for Liverpool to go through on aggregate. Benfica will therefore need to win at the Estadio da Luz to stand any chance of advancing to the semi-finals.
More likely is that Liverpool will triumph in both legs. Playing away from home first gives them the chance to in effect put the tie to bed by winning comfortably in Lisbon. That is a distinct possibility. Liverpool are in fantastic form and they will surely have too much attacking quality for Benfica, whichever of Salah, Mane, Firmino, Diaz or Jota is selected to start in the front three.
The Eagles have kept a clean sheet in only one of their last nine home games in all competitions, which does not bode well for Tuesday given Liverpool are the strongest side they will have faced so far in 2022. Backing an away win by at least a two-goal margin is the way to go here.
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|Benfica vs Liverpool Information|
|Teams||Benfica vs Liverpool|
|Location||Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal|
|Time||Tuesday, 5 April 2022, 15.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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