Jurgen Klopp has revealed he expected nothing less than the stern examination Liverpool were given en route to a 3-1 win at Benfica.

The Reds took control of the sides' Champions League quarter-final tie with victory in Portugal but the game was far less comfortable than the scoreline perhaps suggests.

The hosts created a string of chances after Darwin Nunez had halved the deficit early in the second period and were somewhat unfortunate to concede a potentially decisive Luis Diaz goal late on.

However, the challenge posed by Benfica certainly did not surprise Reds boss Klopp, who said: "In the end, coming here in an away game in the Champions League is tough. Obviously, Benfica fought for their lives. 

"We opened the door a little bit too much but they deserved the goal as well, even when we could have defended probably better. It's not that had absolutely no situations before.

"It was a tough game, what I expected, especially when they scored the crowd was there immediately. We knew it, we always know it, 2-0 is nothing, it's nice but not more. 

"They scored the goal and it was much more open than we wanted but, in the end, we should have scored [more] in the first half, could have scored in the second. 

"They played a really good game but the goalie was anyway the best player, he made a couple of really good saves. That's it, we won it, two goals up, half-time, not more, not less, let's keep going."

Klopp went on to provide a positive update on midfielder Fabinho, who was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Nicolas Otamendi in the final minutes of normal time.

He added: "Fabinho has a little cut – he's fine. It is a cut in the back of his head. It will need a bit of time but he should be fine.”

The German also refused to get overly excited about Liverpool's chances of progression to the semi-finals, insisting Benfica will remain dangerous at Anfield.

He continued: "It's half-time, we have a much better result than before, we know much more about the opponent. 

"They will go for it again, they won at Ajax and ground out all the results they needed in the group stage.

"We are aware of the quality and now we have a nice game in between [against Manchester City] but then we will be ready again for Benfica."

Liverpool took control of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Benfica as they claimed a hard-fought 3-1 win in Portgual.

Jurgen Klopp's side looked to be cruising into the last four after first-half goals from Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane gave them a deserved half-time lead.

However, Benfica were back in it when Darwin Nunez netted shortly after the restart, and they continued to threaten an equaliser before Luis Diaz wrapped things up in somewhat fortuitous fashion late on. 

The signs of the hosts' potential were evident in an encouraging start that came about thanks in no small part to a fervent crowd at the Estadio da Luz.

A fast-paced early break from Rafa seemed to hint at how Benfica might trouble their opponents and Nunez soon followed suit to provide a low cross that deserved better support.

But Liverpool, too, were creating chances and eventually took one when Konate rose highest in space to head home an Andy Robertson corner.

That marked the start of utter domination from the visitors, who double their tally just past the half-hour mark when Diaz nodded down a beauty of a Trent Alexander-Arnold pass to hand Mane a tap-in. 

Alexander-Arnold almost created another goal just before the break, an incredible pass on the turn putting in Mohamed Salah for a one-on-one that he should have done better with.

Given the one-sided nature of the first half, it did not feel like Liverpool would rue that miss, but it took just four minutes after the restart for Benfica to totally change the complexion of the game.

They visitors looked wide open even before Konate's miscued back-post clearance allowed Nunez all the time in the world to side-foot home and ignite the atmosphere once more.

Nelson Verissimo's men were subsequently transformed and went close again through a Nunez header before Everton shot straight at Alisson when he perhaps should have found a corner.

That flurry of opportunities prompted Klopp to look to his bench, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota emerging all at once to try and settle things down.

The trio partially succeeded in their aim, although they weren't capable of entirely negating Benfica's threat on the break, or silencing cacophony that greeted their every burst forward.

However, unaided by any mistakes similar to that which allowed Nunez to score, the hosts failed to find a second goal.

And they were hit by a late sucker punch when a heavy deflection on a Naby Keita through-ball allow Diaz to round Odisseas Vlachodimos and pass the ball home.

Tuesday's Champions League fixtures feature two of the tournament favourites, but there are no easy games when the competition reaches the quarter-finals.

Manchester City are the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy but will need to safely navigate their way past 2020-21 LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, starting with Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool are right behind City in the odds, but the Reds face a tough trip to Portugal where they will play Benfica after the home side triumphed over a strong Ajax team in the previous round.

While the English teams are well fancied, the Opta facts show Atleti coach Diego Simeone should not be daunted by City boss Pep Guardiola, and Benfica's Estadio da Luz has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Liverpool.

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

This will be the first ever meeting between City and Atleti in European competition, but the fourth between the respective bosses of the two clubs. None of the previous three games ended in a draw, as Guardiola won two and Simeone triumphed in the other.

While Simeone is down on the head-to-head record, his Atleti side eliminated Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. 

Showing his side can win ugly, across the two legs, Atletico averaged just 27 per cent possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

City should have some reliable avenues to goal, as only Vinicius Junior (44) has been directly involved in more shots than Riyad Mahrez (42 – 29 shots, 13 chances created) in the Champions League this season. 

 

One of Mahrez's chief suppliers is likely to be Kevin De Bruyne, who will make his 50th Champions League appearance for City if he plays in the first leg.

Since his first season at the club in 2015-16, he has more assists than any other player for an English club (17) in the competition. 

However, Atleti may be uniquely positioned to repel some of City's attacking firepower, as no goalkeeper has kept more Champions League clean sheets since 2014-15 than Jan Oblak, with 30 clean sheets in 67 appearances.

Meanwhile, City have only failed to score in one of their 28 home games under Guardiola.

Atleti are also the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties before winning the whole thing.

 

Liverpool v Benfica 

Liverpool are aiming to win a fifth consecutive away game in Europe's premier competition for only the second time in their history, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

While Liverpool are a very different beast in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, they have lost on each of their last three away trips to face Benfica in European competition, with the most recent of those coming in the Europa League in 2009-10 under Rafa Benítez.

On the other hand, Benfica are winless in their past four homes matches against English sides in the Champions League since beating Liverpool in 2006, with one draw and three losses.

The home side will need a big performance from Darwin Nunez, who is Benfica’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, having netted four times so far. He is just one goal shy of equalling Nuno Gomes as the player with the most goals for Benfica in a single Champions League campaign (five goals in 1998-99).

Meanwhile, Liverpool boast one of the main hopes for the Ballon D'or in Mohamed Salah, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season and could become the first player to score 10+ goals in multiple seasons for the Reds in the competition. 

 

The only other player from an English club to reach double-figure goals in a European Cup/Champions League campaign on more than one occasion was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for Manchester United.

Benfica will need to be efficient going forward, as their 40 per cent possession in the Champions League this season is the lowest of any remaining team, while only Real Madrid (23) have recorded more direct attacks than the Portuguese side.

Benfica are not afraid of the challenge that awaits them in their Champions League quarter-final tie with Liverpool, according to midfielder Adel Taarabt.

Liverpool enter the first leg of their showdown with Benfica at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday as strong favourites, having won 16 of their past 17 matches in all competitions.

The Reds have also won all four away games in UEFA's flagship club competition this term – only once, between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan, have they won five in a row.

But having finished above Barcelona in the group stage before eliminating an in-form Ajax in the first knockout round, Taarabt does not fear Premier League giants Liverpool.

"Of course we can compete with them," Taarabt said at a pre-match news conference on Monday. "I think we can do it. 

"They are a team we have to respect, but we're not afraid of them. We know their quality and hope to be at our best."

While Liverpool may be in good form, they have lost each of their last three trips to face Benfica in European competition, the most recent of those games coming in the 2009-10 Europa League.

The Reds are a far different proposition under Jurgen Klopp, however, as they look to add the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup to the EFL Cup already won.

Taarabt, who spent seven years in English football with Tottenham, QPR and Fulham, puts Liverpool's successful streak in recent years down to a settled side.

"This team has been playing together now for four or five years," he said. "They have a lot of dynamics to them and play well. They are also very consistent.

"In the past there were a lot of players coming and going, though even when that was the case they were still a very good side."

Benfica beat Ajax 3-2 on aggregate to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a fifth time, though they have never previously progressed any further.

Nothing will be decided in Tuesday's first leg and head coach Nelson Verissimo is hoping it will be all to play for at Anfield in next week's return fixture.

"In a two-legged tie it's always important how the first game ends," he said. "It was good for us when we played the first game at home against Ajax, and here it will be too.

"The result will be important to ensure the second leg remains open. It's important we start well, with the hope of progressing. But we know Liverpool's power."

Virgil van Dijk insists he is "just enjoying the moment" ahead of a run of games that could define Liverpool's season.

The Reds remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having already won the EFL Cup, as they are into the last four of the FA Cup, the last eight of the Champions League and just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

Ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg away at Benfica on Tuesday, Van Dijk told reporters he is calm about the upcoming period, and is pleased that Liverpool currently have a full squad to use across the three remaining competitions.

"If you would say at the start of the season that you will still be in all competitions by this time of the year, also having a full squad, which last season wasn't really the case, we would have taken it easily," he said.

"I'm just enjoying the moment. We all as footballers want to play games – it asks a lot physically from us, but I'm just going for it and enjoying every moment."

Van Dijk missed most of last season with a knee injury, but has been a near ever-present since his return for Jurgen Klopp's men, making 39 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign, with 24 clean sheets to his name. 

Liverpool have conceded just three goals in their last 13 games in all competitions, and the 30-year-old was asked if he feels the defensive side of their game sometimes goes unnoticed.

"I must say, before the [January] international break, I did care a little bit," he said. "I think I said it in [another] interview, I felt a bit taken for granted, coming back from a long-term injury, that everything was normal, everyone expected the same [level of performance], and it's quite difficult.

"But after the break, I really didn't. Maybe that helped also the performances, but at the moment we're just doing it together. Everyone is playing their part, everyone is involved, the back four plus Alisson changes at times as well. If you look at the [EFL] cup final, with Caoimhin [Kelleher] coming in, the hero in the cup competitions.

"Kostas [Tsimikas] coming in, Joe [Gomez] coming in now as well, everyone is getting involved in the success we have as a defensive unit, but the way we defend is we do it all together, and everyone feels responsibility for that as well."

Questions have been asked of Liverpool's high line in recent weeks, despite the impressive defensive record, and Van Dijk was keen to question why, believing people are forgetting to discount opportunities against them that would have been given offside had a goal been scored.

"It's now being highlighted, but I think if you look back at the last couple of seasons we always try to play with a high line," he said.

"This season, and last season I think, we started with the rule that [we] keep playing on, and then the linesman puts the flag up. It looks like we are conceding chances against us.

"Even the other day [against Watford] when Ali had to make the save, it looked like we are vulnerable when he is offside, so I think that rule first of all has to get out of the way, but the other thing is the high line, we don't speak about it a lot but on the pitch you definitely have to communicate and I'm always trying to do that."

No team has caught opposition players offside in the Premier League as often this season, with Opta stats showing the Reds have successfully caught players offside on 124 occasions, well ahead of City (76), Wolves (70), Leicester City (62) and Brentford (59).

The Netherlands captain also had words of encouragement for his national team boss Louis van Gaal, who revealed on Dutch TV on Sunday he is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

"I was in shock last night when I heard his interview, because obviously he is getting his film out next week so I was just wondering how he would promote it and speak about his life, and then obviously this was a big shock," he added.

"I messaged him after the interview, but it definitely says a lot about him [as a person]... He's not the type of guy that needs a lot of sympathy, that's how he is, but I told him we are definitely going to be there for him as a group whenever needed, and also we can also hopefully make it for him a World Cup to never forget."

Benfica may not be as big of a name as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United but Anfield hero Patrik Berger warned Liverpool of the "tough" challenge they face in the Champions League quarter-final.

Liverpool edged past Inter 2-1 on aggregate in their last-16 clash, while Benfica knocked out Ajax to set up the last-eight meeting between the two sides, with the first leg set for Estadio Da Luz on Tuesday.

Despite the Reds appearing strong favourites, Benfica will be no pushovers given they have won their last three home meetings with Liverpool.

However, Jurgen Klopp has assembled a formidable winning machine as his team aim for victory in five consecutive away games in the European Cup and Champions League for just the second time, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

Liverpool also remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, the Reds in contention in Europe, the Premier League and FA Cup after lifting the EFL Cup earlier in the season, but Berger urged caution from his former club against Benfica.

"Benfica are a good side, in the last 16 of the Champions League all the teams are good," he told Stats Perform. "Maybe some of them don't have a name like Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, but they are good team and they have good players.

"It's a tough opponent, they are playing well and it seems easy but it won't be easy they are a good side."

 

Former Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia also echoed Berger's sentiments as he called on the Reds to take each game as it comes.

"You can't underestimate any opposition," he told Stats Perform. "You have to go to every game with 100 per cent, and I think Klopp knows that as well so he will motivate the team to go 100 per cent in the next game."

Liverpool will look to continue their eight-game unbeaten run in the Champions League against Portuguese opposition, winning each of the last four, before hosting Benfica at Anfield in the return leg on April 13.

Jurgen Klopp has no concerns about Mohamed Salah's form as Liverpool prepare to face Benfica in a Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.

Salah has been outstanding for the Reds this season amid speculation over his future, scoring 28 goals in all competitions.

The Egypt forward, who has just under 15 months remaining on his contract, has only found the back of the net once in the past eight matches for club and country, however, and that was from the penalty spot against Brighton and Hove Albion.

You have to go back to February 19 for Salah's last goal from open play in a victory over a Norwich City side that are rock bottom of the Premier League.

Klopp is not worried about Salah's lack of goals of late and says the 29-year-old and Sadio Mane are bound to have felt the strain after being away on Africa Cup of Nations duty and returning to help Liverpool battle for an unprecedented quadruple.

And the German stressed that the former Roma and Chelsea man provides more than just goals.

Asked about Salah's form, the Reds boss said: "He might not have scored from open play or whatever, maybe a penalty here or there, that's not too important.

"The performance level is important for me, the threat he is for other teams. How he brings players together in moments when he gets the ball, maybe two or three players are going for him in these moments.

"Sometimes he could decide in a better way, no doubt about that, pass the ball quicker and all these things. But it's a tough period for Sadio and Mo, with the Africa Cup and coming back being immediately available for us again with all the games.

"That was really, really special and it's completely normal in a season that you have these little [gestures ups and downs]. There are not big changes, but it's still there and we see him every day in training, we see him playing obviously and there's nothing to worry about apart from that we have to manage the physical part as well.

"These players will not come to me and ask me for a break, so I have to give them the break in a specific moment. Hopefully we use that little break and we go again."

Liverpool are strong favourites ahead of the first leg at Estadio da Luz, but they have lost their past three away games against Benfica.

Klopp, who has a fully-fit squad to choose from, says there is no margin for error as his side go for glory in the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup after already lifting the EFL Cup.

"We all know one failure, one little misstep, and at least one competition can be gone," he said. "That's no problem for us, we're just ready for the next challenge."

Salah has scored eight goals for Liverpool in the Champions League this term, and could become the first player to score 10 or more times in multiple seasons for the club in the competition.

Jurgen Klopp is confident Trent Alexander-Arnold will be fit for Liverpool's potentially pivotal trip to Manchester City next weekend.

Reds right-back Alexander-Arnold sustained a hamstring injury last month that ruled him out of the FA Cup win at Nottingham Forest and England's two international friendlies.

Reports earlier this week claimed Alexander-Arnold was back in full training on Wednesday, suggesting he was likely to feature against Watford on Saturday.

Klopp dismissed those claims when addressing the media on Friday, claiming the 23-year-old only fully re-joined the rest of the squad earlier that day, only committing to it being "possible" that he plays on Saturday.

But any worries about the influential full-back missing the trip to City next Sunday – in what is being billed as a potential Premier League title decider – have seemingly been put to bed.

He told reporters: "Trent trained yesterday [Thursday] in parts and is in full training today.

"We will see what we do with that. Trent wanted to play for England, just to make sure everyone knows that, but he couldn't.

"The scans showed he could not go anywhere but sometimes injuries are not that serious and you are not out for five or six weeks, it's two weeks for Trent. It's tight for tomorrow, but possible.

"It depends what he does in team training. He was with the rehab and fitness department before, it was really intense what he did before with us, he should be fine. I'll make the decision."

Asked if will be ready for the midweek trip to Benfica in the Champions League, Klopp added: "I think so."

As such, Liverpool should be able to count on his services away to City in what is surely the Reds' biggest game of the season.

That will be a major boost given Alexander-Arnold's significant influence as a creative hub for Liverpool, even from right-back.

Only Alisson and Virgil van Dijk (both 2,430) have played more Premier League minutes for Liverpool than Alexander-Arnold (2,313) this term, while he leads the way for total chances created (77) in the squad.

Only Mohamed Salah (51) can better his 42 chances created in open play, though Alexander-Arnold's 11 assists is a Liverpool high.

In fact, his 10.9 expected assists (xA) shows that his goal creation comes from incredible creative reliability, rather than him benefiting from especially exceptional finishing – no one else in the Liverpool group has more than 5.6 xA this season.

Julian Weigl was taken aback by his recall to the Germany squad after a five-year absence, having previously been considered a potential future superstar.

Weigl rose to prominence at Borussia Dortmund, earning his first senior Germany cap 14 months after moving to BVB from 1860 Munich in 2015 as a 19-year-old.

His form during his first couple of seasons in the Bundesliga drew links with some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Manchester City apparently particularly keen on the talented deep-lying playmaker.

But he struggled to maintain that level after Thomas Tuchel's exit and was frustrated by untimely injuries, ultimately falling out of favour and being sold to Benfica for a reported €20million in January 2020.

The move was indicative of the decline in Weigl's reputation and he was being linked with another move less than a year after joining Benfica due to early struggles with Jorge Jesus.

But this season he has become a key figure and played in seven of Benfica's eight matches en route to the Champions League quarter-finals, helping him back into the Germany setup.

"When the coach called me, I was with my team-mate Soualiho Meite. I couldn't believe that Hansi [Flick] had called me and that I'd missed it," he told reporters.

"I knew I had to call him back. I was absolutely thrilled, we chatted for a short while and then I immediately rang my parents and my wife. They were some emotional phone calls. My family and my wife were also over the moon.

"I was extremely pleased when I got the call from Hansi. I wasn't expecting it. When you're putting in good performances for your club, you do get your hopes up a little bit, but it still came as a surprise.

"I was looking forward to seeing the lads again, and so I arrive here with a really positive energy. I've always looked out for when the national squad gets announced, and I'm more than aware that you have to be performing at the top level at your club week-in, week-out to earn your selection.

"But I never once said to myself at any time that my performances deserved to be rewarded with a call-up – I simply tried to keep concentration on myself and my game. Because of that, the eventual call-up was even more of a pleasant surprise."

Despite the promise he showed early on at Dortmund, Weigl only ever featured five times for Germany.

His most recent outing was 66 minutes in a friendly with England way back in March 2017 – now 26, Weigl does not think his playing style has changed significantly, but leaving Germany helped him grow and he feels better physically.

"Generally speaking, I'm still the same player," he continued. "What's changed is that I've become more mature and more experienced – playing abroad has certainly helped me in this regard, as well as becoming a father.

"My daughter helps me to relax, as my life is so fast-paced. I've improved from a physical perspective, too."

Weigl's recall comes at a potentially critical moment as well. With the World Cup starting in less than eight months, the midfielder surely has a genuine opportunity of being in the selection that travels to Qatar.

He is now focused on proving to Flick that he is worthy of consideration.

"I'm trying to show off what I can do every day that I'm here, as well as take on board the ideas of the head coach and work them into my game," he said.

"I'm asking for the ball a lot in the sessions and I'm not afraid to do so, because that's how I'm going to prove to the head coach that I'm a serious option for the World Cup squad, because I can be relied upon at any time and that I can put in a solid performance when needed."

Germany, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will face Israel and the Netherlands in friendlies during this international window.

Jurgen Klopp has said the one thing he wanted Liverpool to avoid in Friday's Champions League draw was a tie against another Premier League team.

The Reds' manager will have been relieved to see them drawn against Portuguese side Benfica for the quarter-finals of Europe's premier competition.

Fellow English representatives, Chelsea and Manchester City, were drawn against Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively, while Villarreal will play Bayern Munich.

Should Liverpool get past Benfica, they will face the winner of that latter tie in the semi-finals.

Speaking to the club's official website, Klopp said it would be a "mistake" to underestimate Benfica, but did say he hoped to avoid more familiar opposition.

"The only thing I didn’t want to have – I would have taken everybody – but the only thing I didn't want was an English team," he said. "We had that in the past and we went through [2018 v Man City], we played a final against an English team [2019 v Tottenham], it’s absolutely fine, in the final anyway, you take whoever you get.

"But actually I was just happy it's not an English club, not only because of the quality but because of the competition as well, we play them often enough during a season and it's good if you play somebody else in the European competitions."

Klopp added that he is "really looking forward" to the tie, with Benfica the only possible opponent in the draw he is yet to face as Liverpool manager. The Lisbon club knocked out Ajax in the round of 16 after a Darwin Nunez goal in Amsterdam sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.

"Really looking forward to it," Klopp added. "It's a quarter-final so a tough one. Benfica did obviously really well against Ajax and that's the situation. I know people will say we are the favourites and stuff like this, but that's already the first mistake you could make. We are too long in the business now to make these kinds of mistakes.

"I'm just really looking forward to it. I respect a lot what they are doing there, it's a massive club. I don't think I ever played there, to be 100 per cent honest. Lisbon, a great city.

"On top of that – I spent my last week off on holiday [before taking the Liverpool job], I got the call from [club director] Mike Gordon in Lisbon. So that's a nice memory as well. I was sitting in an outside coffee bar, I got the call and we made the decision actually in Lisbon."

Real Madrid will face holders Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals, while Manchester City tackle Atletico Madrid.

The clash of 13-time winners Madrid and two-time champions Chelsea will be a repeat of last season's semi-final, which the English side won 3-1 on aggregate, and will mean Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti goes up against his former team.

Madrid's Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois could also face their old club, who are in a state of crisis after owner Roman Abramovich was hit with UK government sanctions.

The winners of that standout tie will progress to a semi-final against City or Atletico, who meet in a tantalising clash that will see coaches Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone at the heart of the narrative.

Atletico beat Manchester United at the last-16 stage and will return to the north-west of England in pursuit of another major scalp.

Villarreal, who sprung a surprise by knocking out Juventus, have been rewarded with a clash against Bayern Munich, who were 8-2 aggregate winners over Salzburg.

Benfica will face Jurgen Klopp's in-form Liverpool. The Reds are six-time European champions but lost to the Portuguese giants at the last-16 stage in the 2005-06 season, their last meeting in the Champions League.

The two-leg quarter-final ties will be played April 5-6 and April 12-13, with the semi-finals scheduled for April 26-27 and May 3-4.

The Stade de France will stage the final on May 28, after St Petersburg was stripped of the match due to Russian military action in Ukraine.

Quarter-final draw

Chelsea v Real Madrid

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

Villarreal v Bayern Munich

Benfica v Liverpool

Semi-final draw

Manchester City/Atletico Madrid v Chelsea/Real Madrid

Benfica/Liverpool v Villarreal/Bayern Munich

Cristiano Ronaldo has been heavily linked with an early exit from Manchester United this season.

The Red Devils are out of the Premier League title race and struggling to make the top four.

There is said to be tension surrounding Ronaldo due to Ralf Rangnick's appointment as interim manager.

TOP STORY - RONALDO RE-COMMITS TO MAN UTD

Ronaldo will stay with United next season with interim manager Rangnick set to depart, reports AS.

The 37-year-old forward has committed to United, whom he joined in August on a two-year deal with the option for a third season, as he is confident they will show their ambition by making a major appointment with their new permanent manager.

United were eliminated from the Champions League this week by Atletico Madrid and are struggling to reach next season's edition, sitting fifth in the Premier League.

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard has been offered to Italian clubs Milan and Roma as he prepares to leave United as a free agent, reports Nicolo Schira. West Ham  and Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old England international.

- Benfica have slapped a £67million price tag on striker  Darwin Nunez , who is being pursued by Manchester United , Arsenal , Liverpool and Newcastle ,   according to The Mirror.

- Foot Mercato reports  Arsenal will enter the race to sign Real Madrid winger  Eden Hazard , with Chelsea previously linked to their former player.

- Fichajes claims  Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Athletic Bilbao head coach Marcelino should Diego Simeone opt to leave the Spanish champions.

After knocking Ajax out of the Champions League, Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo revealed Rui Costa provided timely pre-match motivation.

Tuesday’s hard-fought 1-0 win in Amsterdam put Benfica through 3-2 on aggregate, and the majority of the match saw Benfica defensively scrambling and scrapping.

It was only the club’s second win in the last 15 away matches in the Champions League, the other being a 3-2 win over AEK Athens in the 2018-19 group stage.

The influential Grimaldo embodied the team’s determination on an individual level, playing a full 90 minutes and seeing the result through despite multiple medical treatments.

The 26-year-old revealed the team received ample motivation beforehand from Rui Costa, the legendary former Benfica player and sporting director who is now president, following Luis Filipe Vieira's arrest in June.

"Before the game, he motivated the players, told us to dream and enjoy these types of games and in the end that’s what we did," Grimaldo told Eleven post-match.

"It was a game of great responsibility, because we know that in the league things are not going well, but we give everything for this club. We had the dream of reaching the quarter-finals and we did it."

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag described his side's defeat as a "bitter" blow after they fell to Benfica in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The reigning Eredivisie champions controlled most of the exchanges, boasting over 70 per cent of possession as it seemed Ajax would find the decisive goal following a 2-2 draw in the first meeting late in February.

But a late Darwin Nunez header secured a 3-2 aggregate victory in the last-16 clash as the striker powered in his fourth Champions League goal this season. Only Nuno Gomes has ever scored more in a single season for the club in the Champions League era (five in 1998-99).

That meant Ajax became just the second side to have scored as many as 22 goals without reaching the quarter-finals of the competition, after Paris Saint-Germain in 2017-18 when they netted 27 but went out at this same stage.

Ten Hag bemoaned his side's failure to make their dominance pay after Ajax failed to reach the quarter-finals in the competition for an 11th time in their last 12 attempts, since reaching the last eight in the 2002-03 campaign.

"We played good football, we were good defensively, and we also played good pressing. Then it is bitter that you do not win," Ten Hag told RTL after the game.

"But small mistakes have big consequences, you will see that tonight, and in Lisbon. We know that they are strong in set-pieces and then there is a miscommunication between two players.

"We have neutralised them completely, except for one moment."

Goalkeeper Andre Onana was towered above by Nunez for the 77th-minute winner, which was Benfica's only attempt on target, but Ajax captain Dusan Tadic refused to place the blame on one individual following the defeat.

"It is difficult to find the right words. We knew that they are strong with set-pieces and counter-attacks, that is what it is all about in Europe," Tadic told RTL.

"I am so disappointed, we should have scored earlier, in the first half. We are a team, and it doesn't matter if we win or lose, we have to stay together, and we can't blame anyone."

Daley Blind, who became Ajax's outright Champions League appearance record holder with his 44th outing in the competition, echoed Tadic's sentiments as he vented his frustration.

"This hurts, I think it is unjust," Blind said. "I have little to say about our game. We have not encountered much, only that one moment, then you just have to stand your ground in the box."

Darwin Nunez headed a late winner as Benfica secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory at Ajax, sealing a 3-2 aggregate win in the last-16 tie.

A 2-2 draw in the first leg in Lisbon had left the contest finely poised, and Erik ten Hag's home side dictated from the outset at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Tuesday.

However, it was Benfica who struck decisively in the 77th minute when Nunez powered in the Portuguese visitors' first attempt on target to send Nelson Verissimo's side through.

Benfica will now wait to find out the identity of their opponents in the last-eight draw on Friday, with the two-leg clashes set to take place across early April.

Ajax dominated the opening exchanges and Sebastien Haller turned home after just seven minutes, but a belated offside flag against Dusan Tadic cut short the celebrations.

Antony tested Odisseas Vlachodimos from range, and Ryan Gravenberch saw a fizzing strike tipped over as Ten Hag's players continued in authoritative fashion but without reward before the break.

Tadic skewed off target as Ajax picked up where they left off after the interval, before an unmarked Jan Vertonghen offered the hosts a scare as he headed wide from a presentable chance.

Antony almost broke the deadlock, but his headed effort narrowly missed the top-left corner, and Ajax's failure to convert proved costly with 13 minutes remaining.

Nunez towered above goalkeeper Andre Onana to meet Alex Grimaldo's inswinging free-kick from the right flank and he clinically headed into the left corner, dramatically snatching the spoils for Benfica.

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