Liverpool will be hoping to extend their 100 percent record in the UEFA Champions League when they take on FC Porto in a Group B encounter this week.
With four wins in four matches, Liverpool have booked a place in the knockout stages of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League and are certain to finish top of Group B even if they lose their next couple of matches. So, the motivation for Jurgen Klopp & co. will now be to continue their winning run in Europe when they play hosts to FC Porto in their penultimate group game on Wednesday.
Despite having had to deal with threats from AC Milan and Atletico Madrid along the way, Liverpool have done exceptionally well to cruise through to the Round of 16. The Reds booked their place in the next stage with a 2-0 win over Atleti earlier this month. Having lost their subsequent match to West Ham United in the Premier League, they bounced back in style to beat Arsenal 4-0 this past weekend and will be looking to carry that momentum forward.
Porto, meanwhile, are second in the group, with five points from four games. The Portuguese giants have picked up just one win in Europe this term – a 1-0 victory over AC Milan last month. Following that, they were held to a 1-1 draw by the Rossoneri in the previous game. With third-placed Atletico Madrid just a point shy, Sergio Conceicao’s men will be gunning for all three points at Anfield ahead of their showdown against Atleti on the final matchday.
The reverse fixture played at Estadio do Dragao saw Liverpool annihilate FC Porto 5-1 with their terrific trio of Mohamed Salah (2), Roberto Firmino (2) and Sadio Mane getting into the goalscoring act. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 23, 2021
Liverpool continue to be without the services of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Joe Gomez and Roberto Firmino for the clash against FC Porto. In addition, question marks linger over the availability of both James Milner and Naby Keita. Diogo Jota picked up a knock in the weekend win, but it is not expected to be serious.
Jurgen Klopp indicated in his presser that neither Jordan Henderson nor Andrew Robertson was 100% fit, meaning the pair could be held back on Wednesday night. The Liverpool manager could look at this game to give some of his non-regulars a run-out, but there will also be a need for continuity and stability within the side, so the rotation is unlikely to be wholesale.
Alisson Becker is likely to continue in goal, but there could be a double change at the heart of the defence, with Ibrahima Konate and Nathaniel Phillips likely to get a look-in ahead of Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk. Trent Alexander-Arnold, however, is expected to continue at right-back, while Kostas Tsimikas should keep his place in the lineup on the left side after impressing at the weekend.
Moving into the midfield unit, youngster Tyler Morton will be looking to get some minutes in the game. However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara is likely to be retained with Thiago, in particular, in need of regular minutes to build up his rhythm after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
While Jota is likely to be available, Klopp could decide to take him out of the lineup, instead handing Takumi Minamino a starting berth through the middle, flanked by the deadly duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Phillips, Tsimikas; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Minamino, Mane
Unlike their opponents, FC Porto do not have a lot of injury concerns ahead of their trip to Merseyside. However, Sergio Conceicao has confirmed that defender Ivan Marcano is not fit enough to travel with the rest of the squad. Meanwhile, veteran defender Pepe will be making the trip to England, but a call on his involvement in the game will only be taken late on the matchday.
As usual, Porto will set up in their preferred 4-4-2 formation at Anfield, with Diogo Costa manning the goal for the Dragoes. With Pepe’s involvement a doubt, Fabio Cardoso is likely to pair up with Chancel Mbemba at the heart of the defence.
Youngster Joao Mario is expected to replace Wilson Manafa at right-back, but Zaidu Sanusi ought to continue on the left, with the pair set for an intense battle against Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah on the night. Further protection to the backline will come from the central midfield pairing of Mateus Uribe and Sergio Oliveira, with former Liverpool man, Marko Grujic, set to miss out.
Nicolas Otavio, who scored a brace in Porto’s 5-1 win over Feirense over the weekend, is a certainty to feature on the right flank, while in-form man Luis Diaz, who is on the radars of top clubs across Europe including Liverpool, will be stationed on the left. The pair will have the task of acting as the supply-line for the centre-forward pair of Mehdi Taremi and Evanilson.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Costa; Mario, Mbemba, Cardoso, Sanusi; Otavio, Uribe, Oliveira, Diaz; Evanilson, Taremi
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their nine meetings with FC Porto in European competition (W6 D3), with five of these games coming during Jurgen Klopp’s reign (W4 D1).
- This will be the fifth time that Porto have travelled to face Liverpool at Anfield in European competitions. They have lost three of their previous four visits (D1), managing to score just once in the process.
- Liverpool have only lost two of their 23 home matches in the UEFA Champions League under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp (W16 D5).
- Porto have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine games in the Champions League group stages.
- Since the start of the 2017/18 campaign, Mohamed Salah has scored 30 goals in 47 Champions League appearances for Liverpool.
Player to Watch
Sadio Mane has 3️⃣ goals and 1️⃣ assist in his last four matches for Liverpool in the Premier League & Champions League.
Atletico Madrid ⚽️
West Ham ❌
He’s now 2nd top scorer in the PL with 7 goals 👌 pic.twitter.com/JLd6aIlrGJ
— LFC Stats (@LFCData) November 22, 2021
With all the talk of Mohamed Salah and his contract at Liverpool, the fact that Sadio Mane’s current deal also expires in 2023 has gone a bit under the radar. After an underwhelming campaign last time out, the Senegalese speedster has upped his game this term and has once again become a vital cog in the Klopp machine, bagging nine goals and an assist in 16 games in all competitions so far.
Mane was one of Liverpool’s star players in the weekend thrashing of Arsenal, highlighting his value to the team. He also has five goals in five appearances against Porto in the Champions League. He will be aiming to add to his tally on Wednesday night, in the hope of reiterating his importance to the Merseyside outfit as he enters the final eighteen months of his contract.
Liverpool 3-1 FC Porto
Since their heavy loss to Liverpool last month, Porto have been defeated just once in nine games in all competitions and head into the midweek clash on the back of a thumping 5-1 win over Feirense. However, going to Anfield against a Liverpool side that is starting to hit their strides will be a challenge too tough for the Dragoes.
The Reds might make several personnel changes, but they have too much quality, especially in their attacking ranks, to overcome their visitors on Wednesday night. The Hard Tackle predicts another victory for Jurgen Klopp & co., extending their 100 percent record in the Champions League.