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  1. This fixture is all about finishing the job started in Lisbon. We controlled the game barring an iffy first 15 minutes of the second half, and in the end were well worth a 3-1 lead over Nelson Verissimo’s side. In the first leg match thread, I talked about how we were once against coming up against Jorge Jesus. I had no idea that Benfica had sacked him in December! Regardless, it’s all about getting through to face one of Villarreal or (more likely) Bayern in the semis. Movement. Accuracy. Nous. Organisation. Work-rate. Ambition. Ruthlessness. I don’t ask for much. We’ve met Benfica at Anfield in Europe on a number of occasions down the years. The most recent was in the quarter finals of the Europa League in April 2010. We’d lost the first leg 2-1 despite going a goal up (a recurrent theme in 2009/10). It was a hugely troubling period for the club. We were cash-strapped. Members of the boardroom, the coaching staff and the playing staff were briefing against one another in the press. We were off the pace for a Champions League spot (not too far off, just not consistent enough to seize opportunities). We’d sold a key part of our midfield the summer before, and another key midfielder plus our main striker both had itchy feet and were casting eyes elsewhere. The second leg against Benfica saw us, for one night at least, put all that aside with one of our best performances of the season to rout the Portuguese 4-1 and take the tie 5-3 on aggregate. Jorge Jesus was definitely the Benfica coach back then! Their side back then contained veteran Pablo Aimar along with a young David Luiz and Angel Di Maria. Dirk set us on our way with a header inside the six yard box from Stevie’s corner. The dopey linesman ruled it out for offside, and it took the experienced Dutch ref Bjorn Kuipers to tell him that players cannot be offside from a corner kick! Lucas then took a leaf out of Stevie’s book with a well-timed run through the middle of the Benfica defence to round the keeper and pass the ball into the net. It was classy as fuck, but not as classy as the goal that gave us a 3-0 lead on the night. A lightning break involving Yossi and Dirk, and El Nino charged in from the far post to fire into the net. Benfica’s Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo scored with a low free kick through the wall to bring Benfica to within one goal of going ahead in the tie on away goals, but El Nino made sure of the next round when he raced through down the right and calmly lifted the ball into the net past the stranded keeper. We were through and would come up against Atletico Madrid in the semis. The remake of 80s epic Clash of the Titans was atop the box office in April 2010. Starring the likes of Sam Worthington (fresh off James Cameron’s Avatar and the latest instalment of the Terminator franchise, Terminator Salvation), Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, it was basically about squabbling amongst the Greek gods (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, demigod Perseus, the usual suspects). I wish I could tell you more but this is one of those films that I saw when I still had the Sky Movies package (they threw it in for 18 months along with Sky Sports after a billing fuck-up), and I can barely remember it. I was probably sitting with my laptop posting shit on here instead. I did that a lot back then. My sketchy memory of the film visualises an overblown CGI-fest. It’s hard to know what to expect from Benfica, but I do know what I expect from Klopp and his men. Yes there is a big game at the weekend and a chance for us to reach our first FA Cup final in a decade, but he will want to ensure there is no let-up of focus, motivation and application against the Portuguese. I imagine he’ll shuffle the pack again to ensure players are getting sufficient game time in this hectic period as well as ample rest. As long as whoever is selected does what they are capable of, we should expect progress to yet another Champions League semi final without undue fuss. Get it done.
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