There are three things that Jurgen Klopp would adore from Liverpool’s Champions last 16 first leg tie with Porto: a win, obviously, but failing that an away goal or a clean sheet wouldn’t go amiss.
If you can net an away goal in the first leg of a continental tie you stand a huge chance of progressing to the next round – the history books have taught us that on countless occasions, and so Klopp will unleash messrs Salah, Firmino and Mane on the Portuguese outfit in the hope of breaking the deadlock.
The 2-0 win over Southampton on Sunday was the perfect tune-up. Our front three interchanged with style and panache – Salah and Firmino getting on the scoresheet, while Virgil van Dijk showed plenty of composure in the face of boos and more from his former supporters. With no new injuries to worry about, it was the ideal warm-up for a game that could define our season.
Porto are embroiled in a tight old battle at the summit of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, and they hardly sailed through an admittedly tough Group G in this competition. Opportunity knocks for the Reds….can we take it?
Liverpool Team News
As mentioned, there were no new injuries reported from the Southampton game, so Klopp has a full deck to choose from barring Ragnar Klavan (thigh) and Joe Gomez (knee).
From the Saints match, we presume the back four of Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk and Robertson will stay intact, although the manager’s penchant for rotating his goalkeepers may mean that Simon Mignolet comes in for a rare start of late.
In midfield you suspect that Klopp will want a solid base plus somebody to link with the front three, and for the sake of balance you would argue that Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Gigi Wijnaldum are perhaps the ideal trio.
And as you know, the front three picks itself!
FC Porto Form
The standard of football in the Portuguese Primeira Liga isn’t the best, as we know, so Porto’s form on the domestic front is only partially relevant. For reference, they are yet to be beaten and have won seven of their last eight!
Much more illuminating is their performances in the Champions League group phase. They finished second in Group G on ten points, which was four behind leaders Besiktas and three ahead of Leipzig in what turned out to be a madcap old affair.
Goals followed the Portuguese outfit around. They bagged 15 in six games, an excellent ratio, with nine of those coming in a trio of home matches.
But here’s a stat to warm the cockles of Reds fans: Porto conceded ten goals, and only Sevilla shipped more in the group stage. Playing on the front foot in Portugal on Wednesday is a necessity!
FC Porto vs Liverpool Betting Tips
With so much at stake in knockout format matches, we wouldn’t ordinarily class them as goal-friendly encounters. But all of the signs point towards plenty of goalmouth action in Portugal.
Five of Porto’s six group stage matches witnessed three or more goals, including their trio of home outings, and those numbers are matched by Liverpool. We won 7-0 in Maribor of course, and drew 3-3 in Sevilla.
Both teams are set up in quite top-heavy fashion, and while we know about the Reds’ attacking strength and occasional defensive vulnerabilities the Porto squad may be less familiar to many. They generally struggle from a defensive perspective, but in attack they have the talented Jesus Corona pulling the strings for Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega, who have notched 31 goals between them this term. Indeed, Aboubakar netted five goals in the group phase: the same amount as Salah and one less than Firmino.
With that dose of pessimism aside, there really isn’t any reason why Liverpool can’t this game. We are a better side away from home, when our opponents have opened up a little bit and we can hit them with pace on the counter, and their stats suggest that Porto aren’t exactly backward in coming forward.
You can back the Reds at 11/8 to win this game – an unmissable price, by anybody’s standards. If you are feeling particularly frisky ahead of this Valentine’s Day fixture, the Liverpool to Win & Over 2.5 Goals will definitely put lead in your pencil at 5/2.