How Benfica mimicked Spurs to help Liverpool win the Champions League
'We went through how we could set up like Spurs.'
Benfica are preparing to knock Liverpool out of the Champions League quarter-finals three years after helping the Reds win the competition.
The Portuguese giants sent their B team to Marbella to mimick Spurs in a behind closed doors friendly against Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp's side prepared to play Spurs in Madrid.
Liverpool went on to beat Spurs 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in 2019, to claim their sixth Champions League trophy.
How the friendly came about.
Benfica's technical director Pedro Marques received a call from Julian Ward, the man who will replace Michael Edwards as Liverpool's new sporting director from the end of the season. They were asked to face the Reds in a secret friendly, an offer which they accepted.
Marques kept who they were playing against secret from the Benfica players until they arrived in Marbella, to prevent a potential leak.
Benfica B-team manager Renato Pavia, Marques, and his staff met with Liverpool's assistant manager Pep Ljinders and video analysts Greg Mathieson and Mark Leyland. Together they went through the tactics for both teams.
"We went through the gameplan of Liverpool, and how they felt Tottenham would play. We went through how we could set up like them, in terms of shape, a few pressing patterns, and some attacking plays," Marques told Goal.
"But they also asked us to play freely outside of those specific situations. They wanted it to be a proper game."
Liverpool versus Benfica.
The match took place on a Saturday evening, mirroring the kick-off time of the final itself. Benfica's players were briefed against reckless tackles, apart from that concern, they were excited about the game.
Liverpool won the match 2-0, mirroring the result at the Wanda Metropolitano. Sadio Mane opened the scoring early on in a similar fashion to the move that won the penalty in the final.
The Benfica players impressed in their roles, with David Tavares, now at Portuguese side F.C. Famalicao, said to impress Klopp and his staff.
"It was a privilege. We all understood that we were there on a mission, but we knew we had to enjoy it as well," Marques added.
"It was a great experience. I knew a few people from Liverpool, like Pep and (physio) Lee Nobes, so we were able to mingle. And the Liverpool players were top-notch. They mixed with our boys and gave them some shirts and boots, things like that. They were brilliant.
"What we said to the boys was 'enjoy it, but learn as well', look at all these top players. How do they arrive at training? How do they tie their boots, put their shinpads on, warm-up? All those little things, soak it up."
In 2019, before the Champions League final, SL Benfica B were invited to train and play against Liverpool due to the tactical similarities they shared with Tottenham.
Tomorrow, a few of these players will be playing against them again! 😉pic.twitter.com/NbZpHd5mct
— Benfica Youth (@SLBenficaYouth) April 4, 2022
Liverpool play Benfica in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday at the Estadio da Luz. The Portuguese side then travels to Anfield the following Wednesday.
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