Want to feel old? Liverpool clinched a place in the Champions League knockout stages five years ago today.
Or at least that’s what it feels like. So much has changed for the Reds since they topped Group E back in early December. The biggest things were the departure of Philippe Coutinho to some upstart club in Spain and, of course, the arrival of Virgil van Dijk to shore up Liverpool’s shaky defense.
Since it became official on 1st January that van Dijk was a Red, fans have been itching to see him play against FC Porto when Liverpool take them on in the Champions League Round of 16. Finally the time is nearing, and on Wednesday van Dijk will likely make his Reds’ European debut at the Estádio do Dragão.
Also set to start is Loris Karius, who once again had another solid game when Liverpool beat Southampton away at St. Mary’s Stadium. Karius, who featured heavily in Liverpool’s group stage campaign, is looking forward to the challenge presented by the Portuguese league leaders.
“They play good football but we’ll go over there determined to get a good result in the first leg,” Karius said of Wednesday’s match. “Having the second game at home can be a real advantage for us. But for it to be an advantage we need to put ourselves in a good position in the tie. We go there with belief. Hopefully we can keep another clean sheet and get an away goal.”
“We have some very big games coming up and now it’s important to maintain this form. We want to go as far as we can in the Champions League. We need a bit of luck in terms of avoiding injuries, but we can’t look too far ahead. The first challenge is to get into the last eight. We’ve shown this season that we can beat the big teams and we need to maintain this momentum.”
With Roberto Firmino leading the line, Mohamed Salah streaking right alongside him, and a brand new £75million defender at their backs, Liverpool have a good shot at getting a strong result in Portugal.
Either way, watching Liverpool walk out on the pitch to play a Champions League knockout round tie will be a sight for sore eyes.