Liverpool hosts Portuguese giants FC Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday night (8 pm GMT). The Reds have already sealed qualification as group winners in group B after winning their first four games, whereas Porto lies second, level with Atletico Madrid on 5 points. We preview the encounter.
Jürgen Klopp’s side has made light work of the group of death so far and earned the uncommon luxury of sealing passage with two games to spare. The Reds have been scintillating in Europe this season, scoring 13 goals in their four games so far. It will be interesting to see how they approach this game as there isn’t a lot on the line.
They will be playing for pride in front of their home fans, not to mention the not so insignificant £2.3 million prize money awarded for winning a group stage match. That prize money explains the approach the manager took in a similar dead rubber group game, away to FC Midtjylland last season.
With an injury crisis of epic proportions gripping the club (especially at center-back), Klopp rotated his side but sprinkled in a few of his star players in what was actually the club’s youngest ever starting XI for a CL game. Kelleher started in goal with Alisson injured, and Trent captained the side for the very first time.
The first choice center-back partnership at the time of Fabinho and Rhys Williams started, with Tsimikas giving Robertson a breather at left-back. In midfield, youngster Leighton Clarkson anchored with Naby Keita and Minamino on either side. Origi joined Salah and Jota in a strong-looking forward line.
Pertinently, the team got stronger with every change after teenager Koumetio came on for Fabinho at halftime. Jota went off injured but Robertson, Henderson, Firmino, and Mané were all brought on as the victory was chased. In the end, a late Minamino winner was ruled out by VAR and it ended 1-1. Just the £800k for a draw.
It could be a similar approach this time around, albeit with Porto being a sterner test. The Reds are coming off an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal and will want to keep that momentum going. They haven’t lost a CL home game since that 3-2 extra-time defeat to Atletico Madrid and will want to maintain their excellent record against Porto.
Porto on the other hand, come into the match off the back of a comprehensive 5-1 win over Feirense, and with all to play for in the group. A win here will be a huge boost to their qualification hopes as they host Atletico Madrid in their final group game. Up against a rotated side, they will fancy their chances and have a go.
Sergio Conceicao would have had a look at that 5-1 1st leg defeat and deduced a plan to make a better fist of things this time around. Porto did manage a goalless draw at Anfield in 2017/18 after another battering at the Dragao in the first leg. They however lost on their last trip to L4, 2-0 in 2018/19 as Liverpool went all the way to number six.
For Liverpool, Elliott, Gomez, Jones, and Firmino are ruled out. Milner, Keita, Robertson, Williams, and Origi should all be close to a return and will be assessed ahead of the game, whilst Jota may not be risked after picking up a knee injury against Arsenal. Porto however has a fully fit squad to pick from.
The Japanese international struggled for minutes at the start of the season but has slowly been bubbling. Already on 4 goals in just 7 appearances, he’s looked sharp on every occasion and has patiently waited for his chance. Scoring in front of the Kop with his first touch on Saturday surely sees him start here, anywhere in the front line.
The 24-year-old has been in great form this season. He’s scored 11 goals and provided 2 assists in 15 appearances across the Primera Liga and Champions League this season. Having scored in his last two appearances in the competition (home and away to Milan), he will carry the visitors’ goal threat and will need to be kept quiet.