FC Porto vs. Liverpool
| Wednesday, February 14th|
Champions League | Estádio do Dragão
19:45 GMT / 14:45 EST
With so much going on in the domestic top four race the last few weeks, fans will be forgiven for feeling that the return of Champions League football has snuck up on them somewhat. It’s been 70 days since Liverpool thumped Spartak Moscow 7-0 in the decisive group game, and now, Jürgen Klopp will lead the Reds out for their first foray into the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier competition in nine years.
Their opponents are here all the time. Porto will make their fifth trip to the round of 16 in the last decade tomorrow, looking to advance to the quarter finals for only the second time. They placed second in their group, five points behind Beşiktaş, scoring fifteen goals, but conceding ten in their effort to finish ahead of RB Leipzig and Monaco.
The Primeira Liga runners up of last year are top of their domestic table this season — and are yet to lose in domestic competition — owing largely to an obscenely stingy defence, and the attacking efforts of Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega, who have combined for over 40 goals in all competitions.
The Dragões may have to make do without the former tomorrow, however, as Aboubakar missed the weekend’s win at Chaves with an unspecified muscle injury. Midfield dynamo Danilo Pereira is also doubtful with a calf injury, leaving Porto lighter in midfield than usual. Regardless, manager Sérgio Conceição will likely trust his team’s attacking prowess — evidenced by their 73 goals this season — and look to take the game to their visitors.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Karius; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner,; Salah, Firmino, Mané
After a challenging-until-it-wasn’t win at the weekend, Klopp must be prepared for a sterner test on Wednesday, despite Porto having yet to beat Liverpool in the history of the two teams. In their last meeting, Rafa Benítez’s Reds ran out 4-1 winners, courtesy of a Fernando Torres brace.
The defensive fibers of Joe Gomez will likely be preferred at right-back — despite Nathaniel Clyne traveling with the squad, there is no indication the former Southampton man will be ready to play — while the centre-back pairing of Joël Matip and Virgil van Dijk looks set to remain intact. At the other end of the backline, it’s a toss-up between Alberto Moreno and Andy Robertson.
Jordan Henderson was rested at the weekend, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken off at the hour mark, indicating a start for both is on the table. James Milner’s rested legs, big-game experience and workmanlike disposition might earn the England man a start, while Adam Lallana shows no signs of being ready to contribute significantly until he does something about his barnet.
Up front, the expectation is that the triumvirate of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah remains intact, and if so, that they will add to their 63-goal tally on the season.
The Officials (ITA)
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Assistants: Riccardo Di Fiore, Filippo Meli
Fourth official: Alessandro Giallatini
Additional assistants: Davide Massa, Antonio Damato
Kickoff is set for 19:45 GMT/ 14:45 EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.