Pundits for BT Sport believe there’s a worrying theme developing at Liverpool and it was on show against Benfica on Wednesday evening. The Reds drew 3-3 at Anfield but still made it through in the Champions League.
Liverpool are into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals once again. They saw off Benfica 6-4 on aggregate after a pretty chaotic evening at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side went into the second leg with a 3-1 lead and that guaranteed a degree of comfort. Everything looked wrapped up, too, once they went 3-1 up on the night.
But some poor second-half defending allowed Benfica to score twice more against Liverpool. They were still some way short of forcing extra time, of course, though it wasn’t exactly reassuring to see them get in against the Reds.
After the game, pundits in the BT Sport studio discussed the Benfica goals. They’re worried it’s a sign of a worrying Liverpool trend.
“Even if you’re keeping a high line, you still need to be on guard, you still need to run back,” said Michael Owen. [Matip] just stands.
“He’s not squeezing up for offside, he’s not running back – he does nothing. Of course, it’s a pathetic goal, really. And I can’t for the life of me believe that would happen if it was a close game, if everyone was at it.”
“It’s a theme, though,” added Peter Crouch.
“It happened at [Manchester] City, yeah.”
“It’s now becoming a theme, isn’t it?” said Steve McManaman.
Liverpool 3-3 Benfica
They’re right – teams do appear to be getting in behind Liverpool right now. We saw a few high-quality chances beat the Reds’ high line at the Etihad Stadium and it happened again here. Benfica scored three but they had another two disallowed for slight offsides.
We do think there are explanations, though. Liverpool’s high line only works if the pressing in front of it stops accurate passes over the top. It’s incredibly difficult to do that against City, however, as they have so many elite players who can handle a press.
And against Benfica, Liverpool rotated heavily. Klopp mad seven changes to his starting XI and that will always have an effect. Maybe it’s in the back four not keeping a decent line, maybe the pressing is off. Either way, it’s difficult to keep a solid structure with so much upheaval.
So while it has been a theme over the last two games, we’re not worried. Though, admittedly, Liverpool might run into the same problem against City this Saturday.