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Diogo Jota: A Year at Liverpool, Playing Porto, and Champions League Success

The Portuguese international marked a year with the Reds just over a week ago, and spoke to the press ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie against the team he supports.

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Diogo Jota of Liverpool laughing during a training session at AXA Training Centre on September 09, 2021 in Kirkby, England.
Diogo Jota of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on September 09, 2021 in Kirkby, England.
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

When Diogo Jota was signed, his arrival was overshadowed amongst supporters with the (somewhat surprising) acquisition of Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara. Already an established name, the excitement over Thiago himself was perhaps melded a bit with excitement that the club could attract talent at his level full-stop.

While Jota’s signing didn’t make the same amount of waves, his impact on the first team certainly did — nicknames like “Dio-goal Jota” and “Diogo Slotter” emerged as it became clear that the Portuguese could seemingly score at will.

A year on, Jota spoke to the press ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League away tie against Porto. Jota was born in Porto, and played for the team on loan in 2016/17 — so has some idea of what the Reds are walking into for the second game in the 2021/22 Group Stage.

Jota had fond words for his experience thus far at Liverpool, and for his desire to win with the club:

I think playing for this amazing club with such surroundings like Anfield, so much support all over the world, it’s special. In the end, all we players want to provide to every person [with] is to win football matches and to win competitions. So, we are at the start of a new season and we will go for everything.

... I think playing under Jürgen and with this team, it helped me as well because we played a lot of attacking football and me being an attacking player I take advantage of that because I’m always around the goal.

The Portuguese emphasized his desire to succeed as part of the team, carefully eschewing any discussion of replacing anyone in the Liverpool squad.

Obviously I knew they were one of the best attacking trios in the world but I never thought about coming and taking anyone’s place. I thought about coming and to give my best in training and in games, and then it is up to the manager to decide. I think it’s always useful when you have those kind of players to help you, because in the end what we want is to win and only if you have good players you are able to do that.

Speaking specifically of this season’s Champion’s League campaign, Jota noted the difference fans — and the atmosphere they can create — makes for the players.

I had the opportunity to see how it is to play in a full Anfield on a European night. I think it was massive for me, it was my first experience - I knew it was going to be, but when you are really there that’s when you really learn. I think in the first half AC Milan, although they were winning I don’t know how... we did a fantastic first half and the fans there really pushed us and they are really useful to our style of game.

Having played with Porto on loan, Jota is knowledgeable about what the Reds should expect (though having faced Porto so often in recent seasons, perhaps Jürgen Klopp and Jota’s teammates have some insights of their own).

While the Estádio do Dragão will be a tough place to go, Jota emphasizes the development of FC Porto’s squad versus the version of the team Liverpool faced in the 2018/19 and 2017/18 seasons:

I would say it will be closer to the team that came up against Chelsea [in last season’s Champions League]. Obviously Porto’s objective in the games they lost to Liverpool, they intended to give a difficult game, but that’s football.

Sometimes we can’t impose our game plan, sometimes we can. But I’m sure it will be a tough game tomorrow.

More than anything, Jota emphasized that thinking of past results won’t help, as underestimating their opponents could result in heartbreak.

I know if we let ourselves go there thinking about those [most recent] results, we’ll be struggling.

Liverpool have faced Porto eight times in the teams’ history, each time in two-legged ties in European competition (six games in the Champions League and one set in the UEFA Cup); each time, Liverpool have progressed. The Reds will hope to continue this pattern — and return to winning ways — in Porto tomorrow.

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