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Football News: Liverpool FC vs FC Porto - Champions League Preview

Liverpool FC vs FC Porto - Champions League Preview
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Liverpool head into the second leg against Porto with a 5-0 aggregate lead. As much as you should never get complacent in football, Liverpool haven't lost by six goals at Anfield since April 19th, 1930 against Sunderland AFC in the old first division. So this looks pretty safe, but it is still the Champions League and Liverpool fans know better than anyone that mission impossible doesn't exist in this competition.

With the sheer unlikelihood of losing 0-6 to any team, there has of course been discussion as to whether Jurgen Klopp will rest his star players with the Manchester United game at Old Trafford coming straight after this tie. I think that is highly unlikely though, as Klopp will not risk disappointing the home crowd or losing momentum going into a game against huge rivals. With United coming back from 2-0 down last night to beat Crystal Palace 2-3 on the night, their spirits will be high and Klopp will not want to go into this game off the back of a defeat. Players are historically more likely to get injured in training anyway. We may see one or two players rested, but don't expect wholesale changes.

When asked about the prospect of resting players tonight, Klopp said, "It's Champions League and the whole world is watching. I don't think for a second about resting anybody." Well that is pretty conclusive!


Recent Form:

Since the first leg, Liverpool and Porto are both flying domestically. In fact they've both won every game since then! Liverpool have looked especially improved defensively in recent weeks, which bodes well for their chances of defending a 5-0 lead at home.

Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all come into this game in frightening form. As an attacking quartet, I'm not sure there is anyone else in Europe who can match those four in terms of pace and power on the counter attack. With Porto needing five goals just to get to Extra Time, it's a possibility that Liverpool will sit back and take full advantage of how good they can be on the break. They could just as easily dominate possession though, such is the difference in quality that was made apparent in the first leg.

The view from Porto is that they have nothing to lose. They will almost certainly be coming into this game with a point to prove. As Klopp says, the world is watching when you play in the Champions League and they put forward an embarrassing account of themselves in Portugal. There is nothing more dangerous than men whose pride has been hurt.

The biggest win for Porto since the first leg defeat, was their 2-1 victory last Friday over title rivals, Sporting Lisbon. It was a game in which Porto largely dominated possession, Lisbon did find a lot of space on the counter attack through the pace in behind of Sporting's Seydou Doumbia! In fact, had it not been for a vital save with his feet one on one from Iker Casillas, and a silly dive from Doumbia when he had the goal at his mercy, Porto might have been in trouble temporarily. It was far too easy for the Ivory Coast international to get in behind them, and at 30 years old he isn't as quick as he once was, and certainly not a patch on Salah in terms of pace.


Injury worries:

Liverpool come into a game for the first time i can remember without a single major doubt. From Harry Kewell, to Fabio Aurelio, to Daniel Sturridge; Liverpool have just always seemed to carry someone who is never fit. Well not today. Nathaniel Clyne is probably the only player who is genuine injury doubt as he has only just returned, but even he managed 90 minutes for the U23's last week. Additionally, Danny Ings and Georginio Wijnaldum have been ill, but both should be available by now. Emre Can is even back from suspension!

It is very likely Klopp will be able to pick whoever he wants from his entire squad. That is a credit to Head of Fitness, Andreas Kornmayer, to be able to say that at this stage of the season. It is also a huge kick in the teeth to the muppet that is Raymond Verheijen, who has relentlessly criticised Klopp's training regimes over the years. The lack of injuries was actually pointed out to Raymond before the Newcastle United game though, and he rather embarrassingly made a desperate U-turn, essentially claiming responsibility for the improvement on the injury front, tweeting as below:

"Encouraging to see managers like Jurgen Klopp are not too old to learn from their mistakes in previous seasons.
It has taken him 2 years but Liverpool manager Klopp has finally found his way to deal with the external factors in the English Premier League."

Obviously, Liverpool fans responded in hilarious fashion, but I'm probably not at liberty to use some of the words they chose! One particular gem was "Oh give it a rest you insufferable little divvie." I think that sums it up!

Whilst Liverpool are relatively injury free, Porto are really struggling with fitness. Not only is star midfielder Danilo Pereira still injured, but they've lost three more key players since the first leg. Firstly, Alex Telles suffered a knee injury, then the forward battering ram that is Tiquinho Soares was struck down by a thigh strain, however most crucially, 22 goal Moussa Marega suffered a hamstring injury that forced him off the pitch just four days ago. His goals would have been vital to Porto's hopes of hurting Liverpool.


It is not all negative though for Porto. Brazilian centre back Felipe is back from suspension and he has been a rock at the back as well as a set piece threat in the box this season. Ironically though, injury doubt, Telles, is the set piece specialist! In the same game Porto lost Marega, they were boosted by the timely return to fitness of Vincent Aboubakar though.

The big Cameroon international striker is Porto's top scorer this season with 26 goals in all competitions; 5 of which came in 5 Champions League games. He played around 20 minutes of the match against Sporting Lisbon, and looked strong and sharp so it will not be a total surprise if he starts at Anfield. He is one of few players in Europe who have the physicality to potentially test Virgil Van Dijk in a physical battle. Whether he will be fit enough to start is still a slight doubt though, so he may be in no shape to bully the 6ft4 Van Dijk.

Though it is not fitness or suspension related, Casillas has been reinstated as number one goalkeeper since the 5-0 first leg defeat. So we can safely assume that Porto manager Sergio Conceiçao wasn't very happy with Jose Sa in the first leg!

Key Battle:

This game should be too much to ask of Porto in terms of the tie. It is likely Klopp will make a couple of changes, or even just substitute his star forwards earlier than he usually makes substitutions, but a 5-0 lead going into a home leg is about as unassailable as they come, and Liverpool have good quality in depth.

Porto are still well capable of coming to Anfield and beating a weakened or complacent Liverpool team though. Nobody likes losing games. Managers, players, fans etc. We all hate losing in general to be honest. Forgive the old cliché (my Mrs tells me I'm losing my hair so i feel entitled to call on dated clichés), but winning is a habit. Liverpool are in excellent form and riding on the crest of a wave of momentum. Even a marginal defeat against a Porto team decimated by injury, at Anfield, will dent confidence and team spirit going into the huge league game at the weekend.

It is for that reason that i think this game will be won or lost by Liverpool's attitude. Klopp needs to pick a relatively strong team, and the players need to be sent out under the instruction that this tie isn't dead until the final whistle is blown. If nothing else, Klopp and his men owe it to the home crowd to put on a show. This is the first Champions League knock out game at Anfield in a decade. It would be a huge shame if it is a losing return. If Liverpool have the right attitude, then they will win the game and the tie.


Personally, I can only see this game playing out one way. Liverpool will not over exert themselves and risk injury, but they will probably still have too much quality at home, and dominate the game anyway. Porto though, do have to go for this. Unfortunately for them, that will play into Liverpool's hands and i expect Liverpool to score at least twice on the break.

I predicted five goals in the first leg, though i didn't predict Liverpool would get all five, and i think we'll see more of the same. Porto will probably nick a goal back at some stage as Liverpool ease their foot of the gas, but i can see this being another long night for the Portuguese side. My prediction is a 4-1 home win.

Written by Adam Jones March 06 2018 09:46:06