Christ online

Preview: Benfica aim for another European scalp against Liverpool – World – Sports

Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez (C) will be Benfica’s dangerous man against Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday (AFP)

Many circled Benfica as the nicest opponents available in the draw in Nyon last month, with the Portuguese outfit the farthest the Portuguese club have gone to the Champions League in six years.

The last time Benfica reached the semi-finals they reached the final, in 1990, when a side coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson lost 1-0 to AC Milan and missed their third European Cup .

It was the last time Benfica really belonged to Europe’s top flight and it would be the shock of the tour if they were to upset Liverpool, who, along with Manchester City, are surely the favorites for this year’s tournament.

Benfica’s impressive Champions League run belied a tumultuous season domestically for the club, which parted ways with Jorge Jesus as manager in December after a 3-0 loss to Porto and just seven wins in the of his first 15 matches.

But their form hasn’t been much better under caretaker coach Nelson Verissimo, who started with just two wins from their first seven while a 3-2 loss to Braga on Friday puts the side in third place in the standings. the Primeira Liga, 12 points behind leaders Porto. and six behind Sporting Lisbon.

Third place in Portugal is just enough to qualify for the Champions League qualifiers.

“We know it’s Liverpool, but we have to fight, we can play better,” Verissimo said on Friday.

“We always have to work. The Champions League game is different. We can’t forget our game today because Liverpool will see it. We have to fix it.”

Better performances in Europe kept Benfica’s season alive, with the 3-2 aggregate win over Ajax in the round of 16 as welcome as it was surprising.

They were outplayed by Ajax for great spells in Lisbon but managed to claim a 2-2 draw, before snatching a 1-0 win at Amsterdam to progress.

– Nunez key to Benfica hopes –

Darwin Nunez managed the winner at the Johan Cruyff Arena and the Uruguayan will be well known to Liverpool as he is said to have many admirers in the Premier League.

The 22-year-old has scored 27 goals in 34 games this season, including a brace in Benfica’s 3-0 win over Barcelona in the group stage in September.

Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi will also be familiar faces, with the former Tottenham and Manchester City defenders taking their place at the heart of Benfica’s defence.

Another former Spurs player, Adel Taraabt, is now plying his trade in central midfield. Rafa Silva, with his 15 league assists, is the team’s most creative source.

“People have already put us in the semi-finals of the Champions League, I don’t see it that way,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Saturday. “Benfica can be extremely strong if you let them.”

Sixteen years ago, Benfica beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield to seal a 3-0 aggregate victory and reach the quarter-finals.

Simao Sabrosa, now Benfica’s international relations director, fired past Pepe Reina to score the second goal and send Liverpool crashing.

“Of course history can repeat itself,” Sabrosa said last week. “We also knocked out Barcelona, ​​who were in our group, and Ajax. Looking at both teams, it’s possible to do it again.

“It’s scary to watch this Liverpool side but we’re going into the field with the result 0-0, 11 against 11 and anything can happen.”

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

Short link: