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Rupert Wyman 1st Apr 2010 - 16:00

Could the April Fools' Day joke be on the hosts?

The Europa league represents Liverpool's only remaining chance of silverware this season. It is not part of the glory-laden path that Benitez envisaged at the start of the campaign. However, the team selection against Lille in the last round proved Benitez is desperate to win the competition.

The Europa League is a run of the mill competition but Benfica away should offer a stern test. Their latest win against Steve Bruce's Sunderland made it ten wins from eleven in the league at Anfield. Benitez can only dream that they can take their Anfield form away from Liverpool.

They are not nearly as effective or resilient in defence away from home and the Benfica match is followed by a tough trip to Birmingham City in the league.

Lisbon on April Fools' Day is no easy task, but the joke could be on the hosts should Liverpool perform like they did against Sunderland.

Liverpool manager Benitez will want his side to kick on domestically and on the European front, so the club is an attractive proposition for potential new signings.

If Liverpool are unable to qualify for next seasons Champions League or fail to win this year's Europa, they may struggle to attract the calibre of players required to challenge for major honours next season.

Considering that Liverpool have lost their last three individual matches against Benfica and the Portuguese giants have already knocked out Everton, I would not be rushing to back Liverpool to win in 90 minutes at 2/1. Liverpool's Merseyside neighbours Everton let in five goals at the Estadio da Luz, earlier this season albeit with a few injuries

I would back both teams to score at 10/11, Liverpool boss Benitez will be delighted at the fitness of Torres and Gerrard and they are not the wasteful type in-front of goal.

With an almost fully fit first eleven, they have the players and the ability to score goals.  Benfica can justify the selection, they have now scored in every one of their last twenty five games, a run that has yielded 54 goals. In attack, they have the reborn, prolific former Barcelona and Galactico striker Javier Saviola. He plays alongside Paraguay marksman Cardozo, who has notched three hat-tricks in his overall tally of twenty-eight goals.

Aquilani has joined Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio on the injury list, after suffering an ankle injury in training.

Both Benfica and Sunderland play at the Stadium of Light and the scene is set for Torres to repeat his exploit against the Wearsiders in far warmer sub-tropic surroundings. Another flutter I would consider is the Evens money on offer for Torres, to score anytime. He will be itching to get on the score-sheet and build his match fitness pre World Cup. As long as the blond haired number nine is on-form and scoring, Liverpool tend to be winning.

If they are able to conjure an away goal at the Estadio da Luz, it would set the tie up perfectly for Liverpool to progress through to the next round and a potential trip to Hamburg for the final in May.

 

 
 
 

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