Benitez names player key to Liverpool plan to overturn Real Madrid deficit

Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara Arsenal v Liverpool April 2021

Rafa Benitez believes Liverpool have a chance of overturning their deficit against Real Madrid in the Champions League and offered them some advice about how to do so.

Benitez was the masterminded behind Liverpool’s most famous Champions League comeback, when they beat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 final. The Spaniard earned a place in club folklore thanks to that achievement – which was all the more incredible as they had to come from three goals down to do so.

The margin of deficit isn’t quite as large this time, and Liverpool have longer to go at their task. They are trailing 3-1 from the first leg of their quarter-final clash with Real Madrid.

Since they got an away goal, they just need to score twice without reply to reach the last four. But keeping a clean sheet will not be easy after Real’s attack ran them ragged in Madrid.

With everything to play for over the 90 minutes on Wednesday, though, Benitez has issued some advice to Liverpool about the match.

He told The Telegraph: “It’s really important Liverpool start with intensity and start well but at the same time not to rush the match, not to panic if they don’t score early.

“Concentrate, keep the balance, have a clean sheet if possible and even if a first goal comes quite late they will still have time to score again with the quality of players they have.”

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One of the players with the most quality among the Liverpool squad is Thiago Alcantara, even if he hasn’t shown it as often as he would’ve hoped since joining the club in the summer.

The former Bayern Munich midfielder won the competition last season and Benitez believes his Spanish compatriot will be key.

Benitez said of Thiago: “He is a player who can dictate the tempo for Liverpool.

“He can find the right pass and has the quality to anticipate the movement of the strikers and do something a little different.”

Benitez delivers defensive advice

One of the reasons Liverpool find themselves behind in the tie is their struggles to cope with Madrid’s attackers last week.

Madrid found it too easy to get in behind the centre-back partnership of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak. Those two weren’t necessarily to blame, as Liverpool’s midfielders should have done more to stop Toni Kroos picking out the forwards with aerial passes.

Hence, Benitez denies that Phillips and Kabak need to be replaced. Instead, he simply wants to see them drop slightly deeper.

He said: “Sometimes you can start too high and then it’s easy for the other team to play in behind.

“I’m not saying they have to play deep but a little bit deeper — and I’m talking maybe only five metres — means you can attack the ball instead of letting it bounce and then have to start running back.”

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