Liverpool FC, the five-time European champions and England’s most successful football team in the competition, will travel to Portugal to take on FC Porto in the first-leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday (February 14). This is precisely the sort of night that made qualifying for the Champions League so important to Liverpool last season.
For a club that has been built and prides itself on churning out memorable European nights, Liverpool haven’t had a Champions League last-16 tie to look forward to since the 2008/09 season and under Jurgen Klopp, the traveling Reds supporters will be looking forward to a run to the deep end of the competition this time around.
Standing in their way are a Porto side that is not to be underestimated, with Sergio Conceicao’s men coming through a tricky group containing Beskitas, RB Leipzig and Monaco. To sum up what an impressive outfit the Portuguese heavyweights have turned themselves into this season, they are undefeated in the Portugal’s Primeira Liga this season winning 16 of their 20 matches.
Liverpool have never lost against Porto, winning 2 and drawing 2. Irrespective of that, Porto vs Liverpool promises to be a very interesting tie – one that is certainly tighter than what many fans and pundits have predicted.
Liverpool Team News
Right-back Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee for Jurgen Klopp’s team, with the England international yet to make an appearance this season.
Midfielder Adam Lallana could also be a doubt as he has only just recovered from a long-term injury himself and is severely short of any real match practice. The attacking-midfielder did start a U23 game for Liverpool last weekend but was sent off in that match.
The Reds don’t have any other serious injury concerns other than Clyne and Lallana and Klopp is likely to have a healthy pool of players to pick for this tie. Loris Karius will once again start in goal ahead of Simon Mignolet.
Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, record-signing Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson are expected to be Klopp’s preferred back-four. The solid trio of Emre Can, captain Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start in midfield for Liverpool.
The brilliant attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and the breathtaking Mohamed Salah all pick themselves as well, as the best in football.
Porto Team News
Coach Sergio Conceicao will be without the services of influential midfielder Danilo, who has been ruled out of the first leg tie at home due to a leg injury.
Ivan Marcano and Andre Andre could also be forced to miss the match for the home side.
Jose Sa is likely to keep his place in goal ahead of veteran Spaniard Iker Casillas.
Liverpool Predicted 11 – Karius, Gomez, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Mane, Firmino
Porto Predicted 11 – Jose Sa, Ricardo, Marcano, Felipe, Telles, Herrera, Oliviera, Torres, Brahimi, Aboubakar, Marega
Prediction: Porto 1-2 Liverpool
Considering the level of competition and roster of players on show, one can never really predict any Champions League knockout tie, but this Porto vs Liverpool is unlikely to be a free-flowing contest, with tension definitely in the air. Both sides will certainly look threatening, with Porto being roared on by their adoring faithful at the Dragao Stadium, their home.
We are likely to witness a scrappy affair in the first leg of this tie which might come down to individual brilliance as a decisive factor. As a result, Mohamed Salah’s magic might just turn this game in Liverpool’s favour.