Ben Morgan has the latest as Liverpool travel to the Estadio do Dragao to take on FC Porto in the first leg of this Champions League Round of 16 tie, including team news for both sides and what we could expect to see in the game.
The Champions League Last 16, a stage Liverpool have not reached for many years. Wednesday gives the Reds the chance to showcase their European credentials but will face a stern test in the Portuguese side that has not lost in their last 23 matches in all competitions.
Liverpool head into the game in decent form. They ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at Southampton in their last game, with goals from the brilliant Firmino and Salah, propelling the Reds into 3rd in the league, 2 points behind Manchester United. The focus will be firmly on Porto now, with the club and fans alike wanting to bring the glory days back to Anfield.
The Reds have a good record against Porto, with two wins and two draws from the four games played between the two sides. Jurgen Klopp’s men were also unbeaten throughout the group stages so will be hoping to carry that form into this evening’s fixture.
Liverpool have decided on taking a 25 man squad to Portugal, a squad which also features full-back Nathaniel Clyne as he steps up his recovery from injury. Due to the Reds not being involved in the FA Cup action at the weekend it represents a chance for some warm weather training for the squad; a chance Jurgen Klopp has taken up.
Here’s what the manager had to say: “We have three or four players more than we would usually have. The other reason is we will go afterwards and use the time we have now, for proper training in different surroundings. It’ll be four really intense sessions. It’s really good the club gave us the opportunity to do it.”
Jurgen Klopp has confirmed Loris Karius will start in the Liverpool goal. The German stopper was instated as the club’s number one over Simon Mignolet at the start of the year and after a few shaky games has performed well recently, drawing praise from the recent win over the Saints.
As a result, Klopp was quizzed about Mignolet’s future in his press conference: “Nobody knows about his future. I don’t know about it. It says nothing about it. It’s not about me to think about these things. I have to make a decision for tomorrow night, that’s all.”
Ragnar Klavan has returned to first team training and could be hoping for some minutes. Jordan Henderson was rested at St Mary’s and is expected to return to the line-up with Emre Can suspended for the fixture.
Adam Lallana will be hoping for some game time as well as he continues his comeback from injury. The front three of Salah, Firmino, and Mane is expected to continue.
Porto will be without holding midfielder Danilo Pereira. The midfielder has been linked with a host of European clubs and is an integral part in Porto’s system. Striker Vincent Aboubakar could also miss the game. The powerful frontman has been struggling with a muscle injury and was not present for Porto’s training session on Tuesday.
Expect this game to be full of goals. Porto are renowned for their attacking prowess – much like the Reds. Klopp’s men are one of the best counter-attacking sides in Europe and Klopp will not likely change his system even playing away from home in a crucial tie.
Porto like to change their system though, with Jurgen pointing this out in his press conference: “That’s football. The system will never win the game. Systems are very important but only to bring players in their best positions.
“I respect Porto a lot. They are a mixture of football and fight, experience and youth, well organised and fluent. I like it, but to be honest they’ve not played 20 times against a team like us. We are not too bad and we know that as well.”
The front three are often the difference makers but the Liverpool defence will need to be solid throughout. Vincent Aboubakar is a strong pacey forward, who could create plenty of problems. Yacine Brahimi and Moussa Marega provide pace and trickery as well. The steel in the midfield is captain Hector Herrera, who has been linked to plenty top clubs.
A hard test awaits Liverpool on Wednesday night in a competition close to every Reds fan. With the hard test brings great opportunity, opportunity to gain an advantage in this last 16 tie and keep all Reds dreaming of more European glory.