Porto vs Liverpool
| Wednesday April 17th |
Champions League | Estádio do Dragão
8PM BST / 3PM EST
After some of the ghosts of title races past were expelled in a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday, it’s time for Jürgen Klopp’s charges to return their attention to the Champions League, where a trip abroad for the return leg against Porto — and potential tickets to the semi-finals — await.
The Dragons may be down by two goals, and given only a four percent chance to advance to the next stage by bespectacled statisticians in air-conditioned offices, but Sérgio Conceicão will undoubtedly attempt to use the cinderella story approach to motivate his players.
Porto showed no ill effects of their first leg loss at the weekend, dispatching Portimonense 3-0 with a goal each for Moussa Marega, Yacine Brahimi and Tiquinho Soares. The former in particular will fancy his chances to impact the game, having given Dejan Lovren all he could handle in the first leg, managing five shots in total, only a quality Alisson save away from handing his side a very solid away result
The return of captain Héctor Herrera and first-choice centre-half Pepe will also bolster the home side, as they look to turn over a two-goal Liverpool lead for the first time since 1965.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner; Mané, Firmino, Salah
The Reds did the business at the weekend, but it came with a cost, and though he looks to have shaken it off in time, there is a chance Jordan Henderson’s ankle knock will be enough to see the captain start on the bench on Wednesday.
Dejan Lovren is confirmed absent with an unspecified illness and will stay at Melwood along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who continues to work on his fitness following last year’s knee surgery. Adam Lallana will be in contention to play his first minutes since mid-March.
In excellent news, Joe Gomez has joined the squad in Portugal and will be available for selection for the first time since being forced off with an ankle injury back in December. It is unlikely, however, that the 21-year old will oust Joël Matip from the starting XI just yet, as the Cameroonian has established a highly functional partnership with Virgil van Dijk and there is no need to force Gomez into action.
With a healthy two-goal lead and an opponent forced to come at them, it makes sense for Klopp to opt for a control- and transition-based midfield, which could spell a return for both Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner, with Naby Keïta dropping to the bench.
A single goal would ensure that the hosts would need to score four to advance, and the manager would certainly want to give his front three a rest, but don’t expect Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino to find themselves on the bench until the Reds are in the clear.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “We go there to win the game, that’s the plan. It’s not easy, we know that, but we should not think about anything else because that’s always the aim.”
Sérgio Conceição: “I like the Liverpool dynamics, their game model. I like the way they play with the ball and without it, it’s similar to how I see football. In my opinion, in a lot of these moments they are the best team in the world.”
The Officials (NED)
Referee: Danny Makkelie
Assistant referees: Mario Diks, Hessel Steegstra
Fourth official: Tasos Sidiropoulos (GRE)
Video Assistant Referees: Pol van Boekel, Jochem Kamphuis
Kickoff is set for 8PM GMT/3PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, 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.