Jürgen Klopp: Benfica need to feel Anfield is a place opposition don't want to play at

Press conferenceJürgen Klopp: Benfica need to feel Anfield is a place opposition don't want to play at

Published 12th April 2022
By James Carroll and Glenn Price at Anfield

Jürgen Klopp wants Benfica to feel the power of Anfield as Liverpool look to book a place in the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday night.

The Reds hold a 3-1 lead from last week's first-leg meeting in the quarter-final tie in Lisbon, but the manager is refusing to take anything for granted as the sides prepare to go again.

Indeed, Klopp described during his pre-match press conference how a goal for the Portuguese side would change the complexion of the contest and, therefore, is eager to ensure his players make life uncomfortable for the visitors on Merseyside.

With a last-four encounter against either Bayern Munich or Villarreal up for grabs, the manager addressed journalists at Anfield on Tuesday afternoon.

Read on for a summary of what he had to say…

On what will present the biggest threat to Liverpool's semi-final qualification hopes...

We have to be on top of the game. We were good at Benfica, I liked the game. In a lot of parts I liked it a lot, even when I did the analysis it looked better than it did live, to be honest. The main target is, again our headline, being the one team nobody wants to play against – and that Benfica don't want to play against. Like, really aggressive in a football sense against the ball, really defending them, knowing more about what they play. Obviously they tried to isolate in moments Darwin a little bit [against] Ibou [Konate], one-on-one situations, going for the second ball and this kind of thing. But they play football and if you don't defend [Julian] Weigl then you have a problem as well because he connects the pieces a little bit. So, there is a lot to do. [They have] speed with Rafa [Silva] and there are so many things we knew before, but then you see it on the pitch and it is really impressive. Again, how a half-time should be, now you know more about the opponent, so adjust and go again.

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Liverpool's pre-Benfica press conference

On whether Luis Diaz's late goal in the first leg has had an influence on the tie...

Yes, it's better. Again, you can only describe it like this – if we play and it is 3-1 at half-time, that's as tricky as 2-0. Yes, it's a good basis, [but] if they score one – and we felt it against Inter – it is a game-changer. We felt it there when we were in control of the game until Benfica scored and then all of a sudden it looked slightly different. We altogether have to make sure tomorrow night they really feel this is a place you don't want to go. You want to go for whatever, sentiment or something like that, but you don't want to play them there – that's what we have to be. Really on our toes, really angry in a good way, they want to kick us out of the competition, so we have to be ready for these kind of things. I really hope we are.

On making substitutions around the 60-minute mark in matches and whether they are pre-planned...

No. It's rather a logical time. Half-time you could do as well but there is no real need for it. In these competitions we have to make these changes just because we come out of a very intense period and we have to be 100 per cent sure that we can keep our performance level over 90 minutes or 95, whatever. We are in April, so the boys have already 50 games in their legs. We are in April, so we have to make these changes early. Is 60 minutes early or not? I don't know but it's half an hour [left]. You can be really influential in half-time. But it's not pre-planned that we say, '60 minutes, now go.' If you are in the 58th minute you might rather wait for the sixties, I don't know. I don't even look properly at the watch. 

On whether anything has stood out with Diaz that he didn't know about him when he first joined...

I didn’t know how much he enjoys training, I had no idea. I'm not sure I ever saw somebody like that. I said it before, he cannot stop smiling during training. He just can't stop. It's crazy. I didn't know that. All the rest, how quickly he would adapt, no, we didn't know that as well. They are all happy, all the players we signed in the last few years were all happy when they arrived here. It's not the worst place in the world, to be honest. Luis is now here already for nearly two months, or is it two months? I don't know exactly. That's rare how much he enjoys training, that's really cool.

On what he thinks Benfica's approach will be for the game... 

I don't know, but what I know is what I would do: I would go for it, full throttle. I would go for it, put us under pressure, try to score early, if not, try to score a bit later. That's what you do and that's what we expect. Benfica respected us before, how we respected them before the game. But during the game I'm pretty sure Benfica felt, 'OK, here and there, it was quite good, we were close.' But now, bad news for Benfica – it's Anfield. It's Anfield and they don't only play against us, they play against the whole crowd. It's cool in a specific way but we hope we can use that. I said it a couple of times, we want to be the one team nobody wants to play against, that's what we want to be. And hopefully we can be that tomorrow night.

On whether this is the best Liverpool squad he's had during his time at Anfield...

Yes. Full stop, yes. Since I am here we always had great teams, to be honest, I loved them all. But now we have a bigger squad, high quality, all fit, which is the first time since I am here that it is the case, more experience. Quite a few boys are here since I am here, so that means we know much more about each other. Yeah, it's the strongest team. 

On Benfica striker Darwin Nunez...

Extremely good-looking boy and a decent player as well! Really good, really good, I have to say. I knew him before, of course, but he played pretty much in front of me with these tough battles with Ibou Konate. Physically strong, quick, was calm around his finish when he finished the goal off. Good, really good. Obviously how you say in these situations, if he stays healthy, it's a big career ahead of him.

Published 12th April 2022