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

FC Porto vs Liverpool FC - Champions League Preview
Image from: en.wikipedia.org

After 9 long years of waiting, Liverpool will finally play in a Champions League knock out game again, tonight.

Jurgen Klopp's team travel to Portugal to face Porto in the spectacular Estadio do Dragao. This is by no means an easy tie to have drawn. Porto have lost just once all season at The Dragao, and that was against Besiktas in the Champions League group stages. It is an imperious home record.

For Liverpool, they are effectively at full strength. Henderson, Gomez, Klavan and Lallana are only just returning from injury. However Henderson and Lallana were both rested against Southampton in Sunday's Premier league fixture, so they will likely feature in some capacity. Emre Can will miss the game due to suspension though, and Nathaniel Clyne will not be match fit having only just returned to first team training.

From a Porto perspective, they will likely miss the strong character at the back of Brazilian centre back known simply as Felipe. The monster centre back has scored 3 goals already this season and is a huge threat from set pieces. It is also very likely that midfield powerhouse Danilo Pereira will miss the game through injury having been out since late January and making no appearances since then.

Key Battle:

This game will most likely be won down Liverpool's right, and Porto's left. Porto have two very obvious star players; Alex Telles and Yacine Brahimi. Telles has already got 16 assists this season. Liverpool cannot afford to give him the time and space they afforded to Ryan Bertrand on Sunday, or they will be punished. Brahimi though, is just an absolute live wire. He is a direct left forward/winger who drives inside at the heart of the defence to create space for Telles on the overlap. Brahimi already has 8 goals this season and stopping him and Telles down the left will be key for Liverpool if they want to win.

From the Reds point of view though, that side of the pitch is also the most likely to cause damage. With Telles being so keen to maraud forwards, Mohamed Salah is sure to be given plenty of space, unless Porto change their usual tactics to specifically deal with him. Salah already has 29 goals this season and stopping him is easier said than done. Behind Salah, it is very likely that young midfielder Trent Alexander-Arnold will deputise at right back again. Arnold can deliver deadly crosses into the box if given space, and he already has 2 Champions league goals this season from right back.

The battle for supremacy down this flank will surely play a part in the final score at some stage.

Defensive frailties:

Porto have already conceded 10 goals in this seasons Champions league and with Felipe suspended, I'm not backing them to keep a clean sheet tonight. Roberto Firmino is very good at finding pockets of space to work in and a makeshift partnership at the back will cause uncertainty. Firmino already has 7 goals in this seasons Champions League with 1 coming in qualifying and 6 in the group stages. That tally is bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo this season.

At the other end though, Liverpool also look fragile defensively. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have been rotated as Virgil Van Dijk's partner recently, but Virgil himself has struggled for match fitness this season and may not be able to play twice in quick succession. So Liverpool will also have problems at centre back, which is not what you want when trying to deal with Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar. Aboubakar in particular is a major threat, with 5 goals already in the Champions League group stages this season. Liverpool have already conceded 8 goals in 8 Champions League games, so it is very unlikely they will shut out Porto at the Dragao. Especially as Porto scored 8 goals from set pieces in the group stages; more than any other side in the competition. We all know Liverpool don't like defending set pieces!

Prediction:

I am going to go out on a limb and predict a 3-2 victory for Liverpool tonight. I think Salah and Firmino will be given too much space, but Porto have a lot of quality going forward and certainly have the ability to score a couple of goals.

Whatever the score, this is a huge night for Liverpool in particular, as they finally return to the top of European football. With all the focus likely to be on Firmino and Salah, Liverpool will be hoping that Sadio Mane can rediscover his goal scoring form and deal Porto a real sucker punch in Portugal, so that they have a lead to protect at Anfield. Likewise, Porto will also be hoping for a big performance from an unexpected source.

Written by Adam Jones

Written by Adam Jones February 14 2018 11:20:31