With a two-nil lead from the first leg, it was always unlikely that Liverpool would face an upset in the second outing of their Champions League quarter final tie with FC Porto.
Admittedly, the Portuguese outfit did stick it on us early on during Wednesday’s game, but we rode out the storm and took what would surely be an unassailable lead when Sadio Mane slid home following Mo Salah’s dragged shot at goal.
The Senegalese ace was level when with the defence when making his run, and this was one Champions League contest where VAR would not be a factor in the result!
Both sides took their foot off the gas at that point, and Jurgen Klopp was able to make a series of changes, bringing on Jordan Henderson for Andy Robertson and Bobby Firmino for Divock Origi, who was a surprise starter on the night.
And there was even a very welcome half-hour for Joe Gomez, who is now fully fit and raring to return from injury.
Further goals from Salah, Firmino and Virgil van Dijk added some pleasing gloss to the result, and while Porto were able to pull one back through Eder Militao the result was never in doubt.
And that sets up the rather mouth-watering prospect of a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, with the first leg in Spain on Wednesday May 1. That should be an absolute cracker.
“For us to be in the semi-finals is unbelievable. The second time in a row is something really crazy,” Klopp said in his post-match interview. “I’m really proud of the boys and what they did.
“The news that there’s a proper football game between Liverpool and Barcelona is really good news, and I’m happy for all the people in the football club.”
In the meantime, there’s the small matter of trying to win the Premier League title. That journey continues with a trip to Wales on Sunday as we take on relegation-threatened Cardiff City in a hugely-important clash for both sides.
Liverpool Team News
From a team selection perspective, the Porto game went like an absolute charm for Klopp.
None of Firmino, Henderson, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold or Gomez played the full 90 minutes, while the in-form Naby Keita was given a watching brief from the substitutes bench.
In the build-up the manager confirmed that Adam Lallana was edging closer to full fitness, and while Dejan Lovren missed the trip to Portugal with illness he too will be back in contention soon.
So, as we head into the most important juncture of the campaign, we are close to being at full strength; what a dream scenario!
But how will Klopp play it here? There must be a temptation to rest one of Salah or Mane, so perhaps Origi will get another start on the left in place of the Senegalese man.
In midfield, the manager may want to reunite Henderson and Keita, who have been excellent of late, and if Fabinho is in good nick he will perhaps start at the base of the midfield trio.
Is it too early for Gomez to play a full 90 minutes? Perhaps, so expect the normal back four and goalkeeper to take their places.
Cardiff City Form
Roughly 24 hours prior to our win in Portugal, Cardiff were breathing new life into their quest to avoid relegation with a big victory of their own.
Their 2-0 triumph at Brighton was just their second since February, and keeps the Welsh side in touch with the pack just above them outside the dropzone.
Neil Warnock’s side had been struggling of late, but that win will surely pump up their tyres, metaphorically speaking, and give them renewed hope of avoiding the dreaded drop.
Mind you, recent results – they’ve lost six of their last eight, five of those by two or more goals – cannot be ignored.
Cardiff City vs Liverpool Betting Tips
One thing we know about this game is that Cardiff will give it a darn good go; especially early on, where they will attempt to throw the kitchen sink at us.
Confidence will surely be low in the camp, however, and if the Reds can nick an early goal there is a chance we could run riot; as Watford (5-1) and Everton (3-0) have done in recent times at Ninian Park.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that goal difference could come into the picture when separating us from Manchester City, and you suspect Klopp will instruct his side to show no mercy here.
Liverpool, at a price of 1/4 or so, are unbackable, but we can massage those odds by backing the Reds in the handicap market: the -1 line is available at 8/13 and the -2 at 6/4, so it depends how optimistic you are feeling!