To prepare for the 2019 Champions League final, Liverpool got help from Benfica.
The Reds take on the Portuguese giants for a place in the semi-finals on Tuesday night, but three years ago they sought help from their B side by mimicking Tottenham’s tactics in a friendly.
Jurgen Klopp’s side spent a week in Marbella preparing for the final, which they eventually won 2-0 in Madrid.
The trip was used to maintain fitness levels and get used to the heat in Spain ahead of the match.
Benfica B have been invited to their training camp for a friendly match and their coach Renato Paiva has explained how big of an impact their impact has been.
They were asked to analyze and reflect Spurs’ approach in every possible way and they were chosen because of similarities in style.
Paiva informed the Portuguese media A Bola, translated by Tiago Estevao, of their mission.
“We recreated two of their attacking moments and two of their defensive moments, as well as the set pieces we thought they would use in the final,” he said.
“We replicated their centre-back and goalkeeper reinforcement routines, their 4-2-3-1 defensive form with the striker cutting between the opposition centre-backs and the 10s obstructing Liverpool’s 6. Vinicius imitated [Christian] Eriksen, Bernardo acted more like [Dele] Alli and Jose Gomes were [Harry] Kane.
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“We had to adapt to this 4-2-3-1 form, both defensively and in possession, with two midfielders falling close to the centre-backs during the build-up to try to attract the Liverpool press. “Tottenham would ideally like to draw Liverpool players closer to their box, so after a few passes between the centre-backs and the goalkeeper, they can then attack the space behind with their forwards and full-backs.
“We ended up making slight changes to our usual system. A midfield triangle with Alli closing in on the opposition centre-back (with Kane next to the other), Eriksen moving in to draw in the full-back while [Kieran] Trippier covers the vast space. Kind of like with [Heung-min] Son and [Danny] Pink on the left.
“Klopp complimented us – ‘When you dropped your centre-backs to build, we immediately put in the same press we used against Manchester City and you still managed to outplay it three or four times!'”
On the night, Liverpool took victory, helped by an early penalty, scored by Mohamed Salah.
Divock Origi scored the second three minutes from time.
And Benfica will have to be wary of the threat from Salah in the first leg of the quarter-final in Lisbon, which is live on talkSPORT.
Six of his eight goals for Liverpool in the Champions League this season have come away. No player has ever scored more than six away times for Liverpool in a single season in European competition, while they are also chasing a record.
He could become the first player to score ten or more goals in multiple seasons for the club in the competition. Ruud van Nistelrooy, who did so for Manchester United in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons, is the only other player to score double the number of Champions League goals on more than one occasion as he was playing for an English club.
Surely, no amount of preparation from the hosts can stop such an in-form striker…
Benfica vs Liverpool is live on talkSPORT at 8pm on Tuesday April 5 on talkSPORT