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21.2.06

Liverpool vs. Benfica in the Champions League

Liverpool FC wants to revalidate their European title. That's why the reds are looking forward to win the first leg of their Champions League second round tie against Benfica today.

It's important to notice that the Portuguese outfit arrive at this stage having played a major role in the demise of Manchester United in this year’s competition. Ronald Koeman’s side handed out a 2-1 defeat to United in December, ensuring their own passage to the last 16 but also denying Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a shot at European glory in the process. Now they get set to take on English opposition once more, no doubt hoping for a similar result.

They should overcome one or two problems in the striking department to trouble the solid Liverpool back-line in this one. Both Geovanni and Fabrizio Miccoli will be missing from the starting line-up due to long-term injuries, meaning the main goalscoring threat is likely to come from Nuno Gomes. In fact, the man largely responsible for England’s Euro 2000 exit is still finding the net with reasonable regularity, having notched five goals from his 11 Champions League appearances.

Hoping to be given the opportunity to supply Gomes will be former Newcastle United and Portsmouth winger Laurent Robert. The Frenchman secured a surprise move to the Portuguese champions in January and will be one to watch whether for better or worse.

Rafa Benitez’s team goes in without defenders Daniel Agger and Jan Kromkamp, but otherwise should be at full strength. Agger has picked up a leg injury while Kromkamp is cup-tied after helping serve up his own part of European misery to Manchester United earlier in the season with Villarreal. Midfielder Xabi Alonso has recovered from the thigh problem which forced him out of the FA Cup victory over United at the weekend and is in contention for a central midfield role.

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