Quadruple dream alive for Liverpool
A place in the Champions League semi-finals secured. The dream of an unprecedented quadruple of trophies still intact. Key players rested amid a hectic schedule.
Liverpool are in a good place entering the home straight of what could turn out to be the club’s greatest ever season. Even conceding two late goals to draw 3-3 at home to Benfica couldn’t take the smile off Juergen Klopp’s face.
“The day we qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League and I’m not happy, please come here and knock me out,” the Liverpool manager said on Wednesday after seeing his team advance from the quarter finals 6-4 on aggregate.
With Liverpool inflicting significant damage by winning the first leg 3-1 in Lisbon last week, Klopp was confident enough to rest stars like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold for a return match against Benfica that turned into a wild, end-to-end contest at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino’s second-half double put Liverpool 3-1 ahead on the night and 6-2 ahead on aggregate, only for Klopp’s team to ease off the pace. Benfica took advantage by getting behind Liverpool’s makeshift defence to score through substitute Roman Yaremchuk and rising star Darwin Nunez, but the gap was too much to make up.
“It was pretty comfortable,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said, “but we’re not happy with the goals we conceded.”
Villarreal await Liverpool in the last four. Despite the Spanish team eliminating both Juventus and Bayern Munich and their coach, Unai Emery, being a master strategist of European competitions, it’s pretty much a dream scenario for Klopp and his team.
The quadruple of major trophies might really be on for Liverpool, already the winners of the English League Cup, currently in second place in Premier League — just a point behind Manchester City — and into the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
That Klopp was able to rotate so heavily against Benfica — even Andrew Robertson and Fabinho had the night off — should enable Liverpool to field a full-strength team against Man City in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.