KEEP CALM EXCLUSIVE
LIVERPOOL 1 REAL MADRID 3 If Kop stay cool and be more aggressive against Madrid, one goal will kick-start their comeback
RAFA BENITEZ says patience and intensity will be keys to Liverpool’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The former Reds chief says there is no reason why Jurgen Klopp’s side cannot turn around their two-goal deficit against Real Madrid at Anfield.
But he believes that both cool heads and an increase in the energy levels will be needed to claw back the goals against Los Blancos.
Benitez is busy doing his homework from his home in the north-west ahead of his next assignment, and has been adding yet more information on players to his personal database, taking in the best the Continent has to offer this week.
And he says that there is no need to charge headlong into the return leg.
Benitez said: “The way the tie is, if you score once, you are back in it. Even if that takes an hour, so be it. For me, the key will be not to get to anxious – for them to manage that anxiety – don’t rush it. Maintain concentration levels and keep focused.
“With quality players, a goal will come. But Liverpool have to be in a position where they can keep a clean sheet – and they will have to be more aggressive at Anfield and play with greater intensity over 90 minutes than they did in Madrid.
“Sadly, they cannot rely on the crowd to provide the spark for that. In my experience, the supporters at Anfield have been a huge factor in those European nights. I don’t think you can dispute that.
“It has been one reason for their success. One hundred per cent. Now, that drive will have to come from within.”
Benitez says that trying to pinpoint weaknesses within the Real Madrid side is difficult as, by definition, they are top opponents. But he does not feel
this Liverpool side did itself justice in Spain.
And he thinks if pressure is brought to bear in one or two key areas it could reap reward.
Benitez added: “Real Madrid are a balanced side. Casimero does that really well for them.
“He allows Toni Kroos and Luca Modric to move around. And to win matches, you need a balance. He also allows the full-backs to move forward. But the reality is they weren’t exposed too much.
“Nacho is a very good team player. I don’t have any doubts about his quality in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane but Liverpool didn’t put him under too much pressure, either.
“I would also include the fullbacks in that and Mo Salah and
Sadio Mane have it in them to cause problems in the return leg if they can find that intensity to their play.”
Benitez also sat through Borussia Dortmund’s visit to the Etihad and believes the hosts’ desire to push forward will play into Manchester City’s hands.
He added: “Dortmund have talented young players – such as Erling Haaland and Marco Reus – who come at you with great pace. They are dangerous. And
perhaps more dangerous than City realised – but motivation to play in the Champions League is very different to that of the domestic league.
“They are also comfortable in possession and don’t panic – as are City. They both looked good in open play – but Dortmund looked more dangerous with their counterattack. Next week, they’ll be trying to go through and doing so without the benefit of having their own fans. That famous ‘wall’ won’t be there. That’ll help City. “At the back, they have experience but they are not the quickest. I think this can be exploited. I can see City scoring and that will give them a great advantage.”
Benitez is not expecting any upset in the quarter-final
I can see City scoring and that will give them a great advantage involving Chelsea with Thomas Tuchel’s side well-placed against Porto to reach the last four.
The ex-Newcastle chief said: “Chelsea played very well on the counter-attack. Porto struggled to cope with their pace.
“Chelsea made good use of the wide areas. Ben Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta offered a lot of options. It is going to be tough to go to Stamford Bridge and score three goals against that Chelsea team.”