Champions League: FC Porto vs Liverpool – Lineup, Preview and Prediction
Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring outfit head to Portugal on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 fixture.
19:45 GMT, Wednesday 14th February, Estádio do Dragão (Porto, Portugal), BT Sport
With the Champions League entering the knockout stages, Liverpool travel to the Estádio do Dragão in Porto to face FC Porto in the first leg of their Round of 16 encounter.
This season has been an up-and-down one for the Reds who have scintillated football fans around the country with their blistering attacking football whilst giving pundits a set line in their commentary with a defence that has been all-too-porous at times throughout the season.
Their Champions League campaign has been no different. A 10-0 aggregate win against NK Maribor was swiftly followed by a 3-3 draw at Sevilla which saw Liverpool throw away a 3-0 lead in the second half.
For FC Porto, this season has been one of renewal. Having dipped in recent years in the wake of a third-party ownership scandal at the club, Porto now find themselves sitting at the top of Liga NOS, two points ahead of their closest rivals Benfica but with a game in hand.
In the Champions League group stages, Sérgio Conceição’s side were perhaps lucky to find themselves in a group which, despite its billing as a ‘group of death’, ended up disappointing as both RB Leipzig and AS Monaco failed to burst into life on the European stage.
With both teams regularly involved in high-scoring games this season, expect this one to be end to end and not without its goals.
Last Time Out
GD Chaves 0-4 FC Porto (Liga NOS)
Last weekend, Porto eased past Chaves in their Liga NOS fixtures to retain their place at the top of the table.
Two first-half goals from Tiquinho Soares steadied the ship for Porto and, after the interval, the Dragões came out and finished off their opponents with goals coming from Moussa Marega and Sérgio Oliveira.
With their closest rivals in the league winning away at Portimonense, Sérgio Conceição will not be able to take his foot off the gas in the league over the course of these two Champions League legs.
Southampton 0-2 Liverpool (Premier League)
When Liverpool headed to the South Coast to take on relegation battlers Southampton on Sunday, there were some who might have wondered if the fixture might have posed the same old problems with Jurgen Klopp’s men.
In the event, despite underwhelming, Liverpool ended up taking their chances and, although relying on their goalkeeper with the score at 1-0, running out relatively comfortable winners.
When Mohamed Salah latched onto a defensive mistake by Southampton, no one expected him to do anything other than shoot. Instead, he laid the ball wide to his teammate Roberto Firmino who slammed the ball into the bottom right corner.
Salah would get his goal, though. This time, Roberto Firmino played provider, receiving the ball from the Egyptian before playing an exquisite back heel back into Salah’s feet, Liverpool’s top scorer making no mistake.
FC Porto Lineup
Sérgio Conceição is facing something of a personnel crisis, missing Danilo Pereira, Ivan Marcano, Andre Andre and Vincent Aboubakar to injury and Felipe to suspension thanks to a red card picked up in the last Champions League group stage against Monaco.
Expect Tiquinho Soares to start up front given his brace at the weekend. Elsewhere Diego Reyes will come into the central midfield area, Olivier Torres will drop into the double pivot and Otavio will come in as a number 10.
Jurgen Klopp is only missing Emre Can who misses out as a result of picking up five yellow cards in the group stages. He’ll be replaced by James Milner as Jordan Henderson comes back into the number 6 position.
Key Battles: Moussa Marega (FC Porto) vs Loris Karius (Liverpool)
This season has seen Moussa Marega scoring at a prolific rate in the Portuguese league, picking up 16 goals in 20 appearances from his position out in a wide right position of a front three.
Where there has been a disappointment in his season it has been in the Champions League. In five appearances so far, Marega is yet to score for Porto despite them being involved in a number of high-scoring games.
His manager will be hoping that, up against a Liverpool defence whose frailties are known all-too well, Marega might cause some headaches on Wednesday.
One of the Liverpool players tasked with stopping Marega from making inroads is Loris Karius.
Much maligned for large swathes of his debut season, the former Koln goalkeeper has slowly made himself the starting goalkeeper for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Good performances against Tottenham and Southampton will only have given him added confidence and, for once, Liverpool fans might not feel quite so anxious about their goalkeeper as they go into this Champions League fixture.
How to make the most of Liverpool’s defence
Sérgio Conceição will be aware of Liverpool’s defensive woes this season. The question is how best to exploit them.
In spite of the fact that Virgil van Dijk has been brought in to be the saviour of the back line, speed is not his strength. In order to exploit this, Porto will look to isolate the Dutchman by implementing speedy counter-attacks instigated through counter-pressing.
If they can do this, Porto could cause Liverpool all kinds of discomfort. The question is: how many will they concede in reply?
Will Klopp be measured?
Of course, the solution to this on Jurgen Klopp’s part would be to approach the game with a level of patience.
Yet too many times this season, the German has seemed to lack any real capacity to manage games. His team seem to have two volumes: frantic and off.
At this point in the competition, game management is vital. The match against Sevilla comes to mind, which found Liverpool unable to manage possession and play the game out.
Liverpool might blow teams away in one leg. But can they do enough to get through two?
Prediction: FC Porto 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool fans were pleased to pick up Porto in the next stage of the competition. Of course, on paper they are one of the easier opponents they could pick up but they shouldn’t be under-rated.
Expect a tight game with Liverpool under pressure for stretches but expect them to do enough on the night.