The good, the bad and pick your team vs. Man City – Last word on Benfica 1-3 Liverpool – Liverpool FC

Liverpool’s 3-1 victory at Benfica offered a mixed bag and was dissected by three Red supporters, who also selected their starting XIs to face Man City this weekend.

It was a fifth Champions League away win in a row this season for the Reds on Tuesday night, meaning they have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals.

Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz all found the net for Liverpool at the Estadio da Luz, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Liverpool had to battle hard at the end, as Benfica came to life in the second half, and improvements will be required at City on Sunday.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Dan Clubbe (@Dan_clubbeand John O’Sullivan@NotoriousJOS) to dissect the Reds’ win and pick their team to take on City at the Etihad.

The good…

DAN: As blindingly obvious as it is, it’s the result.

Taking a two-goal cushion into the second leg is massive and puts us in such a strong position to advance against a side who certainly proved they could cause problems.

The changes once again away in Europe proved pivotal as the introduction of Jordan Henderson brought a calmness to proceedings that was lacking for much of the second half.

Roberto Firmino also allowed us to retain possession and the decision to keep Luis Diaz on the field proved a masterstroke.

On that note, Diaz’s finish was cool, quality and a sign of things to come. The Colombian ended the match with an assist and a crucial goal in a Champions League quarter-final – nobody could’ve predicted that level of importance when he was added in late January.

An honorable mention should go to Trent Alexander-Arnold and that laser of a right foot, as well as Naby Keita and Ibrahima Konate, who both had positive games in the main, barring momentary blips.

JOHN: The result, clearly. A European Cup quarter-final away and Liverpool emerge victorious with a two-goal margin. The Reds weren’t always at their best, but they manufactured enough openings to win that game by even more.

I thought Keita was superb, possibly his best game for the club. He was aggressive in the press, enterpricing with the ball and — it was not for a bad finish — could have had two goal assists for Diaz.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz.  Liverpool won 3-1.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He is a player fully comfortable with his role, but, as always, the issue is keeping him fit. If he and Thiago are available for the rest of the season, Liverpool can win the lot.

Trent was good on his first start back after injury. His pass to Diaz to assist Mane was like prime Tom Brady and he played a wonderous pass through to Mo Salah that the Egyptian ought to have scored from.

He did Andy Robertson no favors with a slack pass that started in motion their goal, but, overall, he was impressive.

Despite his role in their goal, Konate was so commanding. Physically dominant, which we saw with his goal, and happy to carry the ball out of defense – in the manner of Joel Matip – the young Frenchman is remarkably well rounded for his age.

Fabinho was imperious, as usual. He used the ball well and at times it felt like he had more than two legs, given the way he always seemed in the right place to snuff out the opposition threat.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Luis Díaz (R) dances with team-mate Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) as he celebrates after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: As Dan and John correctly said, the win is clearly the main positive, with any 3-1 away victory in Europe not to be sniffed at.

It was a strange game, in many ways, because I think we expected Liverpool to win with relative ease, so it didn’t feel especially dramatic.

The first-half display was outstanding, though, and I agree with the lads that Keita deserved a special mention.

His Reds career has been a curious one full of false dawns, but I think he’s been very good this season, when fit, and he was the best player on the pitch on Tuesday.

Trent’s passing was a joke, Thiago was magnificent in the first half and Virgil van Dijk had one of those imperious outings that you just expect, therefore not giving the praise he deserves.

Konate was really good barring the error, too – these things happen and supporters shouldn’t dwell on it.

The bad…

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Jürgen Klopp as he is substituted during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAN: We allowed the game to descend into chaos almost immediately after the second half got underway.

Whilst credit can go to Benfica, who completely changed their approach after being passive in the first 45 minutes, our performance for a long time was many levels below what we had just produced, as we allowed them to get far too much joy from their endeavors due to an inability to keep the ball.

This was a night to forget for Salah. Although I can count on one hand how many of them there have been since the Egyptian’s signing, almost everything he tried didn’t come off, including a couple of relatively straightforward touches.

One to put behind him quickly and if there is anything playing on his mind, it needs to be shrugged off now.

Alisson’s moment of madness deserves a mention, too. I know nothing came of it, but I do not need to see that again in a hurry! Keep that one for the Samba streets of Brazil please, Ali.

JOHN: Despite an assist, Robertson was quite poor. He seemed to make the wrong choice in attack quite often and he didn’t cover himself in glory for the home side’s goal.

Salah’s open field goal drought goes on. He was actually good in the first half in general play, even though he spurned two great chances to score, but in the second half he seemed to lack conviction and he didn’t perform well.

The context is he has played extra time several times in quick succession for Egypt and Liverpool and all those 120 minutes seem to be making a difference. Hopefully hooking him at 60 minutes gives him enough of a break to rediscover his form at City.

The first 15 minutes of the second half were very poor. Liverpool didn’t control the game and kept giving a clearly inferior team confidence by being dragged down to their level.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The attacking football is great, but sometimes it is necessary to slow it down. Thiago is usually the player to regulate the flow of the game, but he wasn’t as good in the second period as he was in the first.

As it was, it didn’t really matter but the Reds need to improve that aspect ahead of the likelihood of progressing and playing better teams.

HENRY: I’ll be honest, it’s painful watching Salah at the minute.

He looks like his head is absolutely chocker – contract talk, missing out on AFCON glory and World Cup qualification will do that! – while his legs look like they have six lots of 120 minutes in them in 2022.

He made some good runs in the first half, but overall, his touch was awful and he looks to be overthinking everything, whereas pre-AFCON it couldn’t have been more different.

Mane was also pretty average, with his own first touch leaving a lot to be desired, losing the ball in key areas.

They were the worst players in my opinion, although Thiago lost the plot for 15 minutes after half-time and was deservedly substituted.

And pick your team vs. Man City…

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Liverpool's Luis Díaz celebrates after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg game between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at the Estádio da Luz.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAN: The curveball of the week, this!

There are multiple players who will feel they are deserving of a start based on form, but I can see Jurgen Klopp reverting to type for this one and picking arguably the most dependable XI of players who have been there and done it time and time again.

I’d go with: Alison; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Mane, Firmino

JOHN: The I know Klopp will pick is totally different to the team I would pick, but if it was up to me, I would go with the same team as last night apart from bringing in Firmino for Mane and Matip for Konate.

Henderson will clearly play, but I don’t think his form warrants it and Keita’s form last night – plus the fact he is really press resistant and that is important against City – means I would give him the nod beside Thiago.

Firmino will be important to press them and disrupt their build-up and that’s my logic behind selecting him.

You could say Salah’s form doesn’t necessarily warrant him starting, but you have to select the Premier League’s top scorer, and knowing the player he is, he could well turn his form around on Sunday.

My team: Alison; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Diaz, Firmino

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 16, 2022: Liverpool's goal-scorer Roberto Firmino celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium.  Liverpool won 2-0.  (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: Before last night, Henderson would have been in my team, but I think Keita deserves to start on current form, as John stated.

The skipper’s performances have been patchy and he looks more leggy as age catches up with him, so I’m not as confident as I used to be with him in big games when he simply had to start.

Matip comes back in, without question, but as for picking the front-three, it’s so, so difficult. I’ve changed my mind three times in the last minute already!

I’m going to go with this: Alison; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Diaz, Mane

Jota is a killer and it feels wrong not playing him, though, while Firmino is often good against City, so I don’t know what to believe anymore!

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