FC Porto v Liverpool Preview - Back Where We Belong

FC Porto v Liverpool Preview - Back Where We Belong

The Details

 Champions League

Venue – Estadio do Dragao, Porto

Referee – Daniele Orsato (ITA)

Date & Time – Wednesday, February 14th 2018 @ 19:45 BST

Current Odds – FC Porto 21/20, Draw 13/5, Liverpool 11/8

Form

FC Porto Form

Sergio Conceicao has been doing a splending job with Porto, this season. Only two competitive defeats all season (not including Sporting knocking them out of the league cup on penalties as the game itself ended 0-0). However, those two defeats did come in this competition, a 3-1 loss at home to Besiktas and a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig. That game with Besiktas was the last time Porto lost at Estadio do Dragao, back in mid-September.

Porto qualified for the last sixteen, pipping RB Leipzig to second place in the group, behind Besiktas.

The only undefeated team in Liga NOS, Porto are two points clear of Benfica and Sporting, with a game in hand. They also have a 1-0 lead over Sporting to take into the second leg of the Portuguese Cup semi-final. Things are going well, to say the least.

Liverpool Form

Since the late January blip, the Reds have been back in impressive form. Very good away wins at Huddersfield and Southampton were underpinned by organised defending, for the most part, and just not being too gung-ho in their general gameplay. Liverpool exerted a large amount of control in both games, as can be seen by the xG and xGA stats for those games in the table below.

The Spurs game at Anfield was a different story. After dominating the first half, Liverpool were pegged back a bit after the break. Yet, the xGA stats below include the two penalties that Spurs were awarded. Liverpool were the stronger team for the most part of that game and could consider themselves unlucky not to come away with all three points.

Liverpool won their group, going undefeated with 12 points and a goal difference of +17.

Hopefully, that speed-wobble regarding the Reds’ form against Swansea and West Brom is now well in the past and Liverpool can pick things up from here until the end of the season.

Team News

FC Porto Team News

Porto are without their Brazilian centre-back, Felipe, who is suspended for this game. Sergio Conceicao also has some injury concerns coming into Wednesday’s game. Ivan Marcano, Danilo Pereira, and André André (not a typo!) are all due to face late fitness tests.

More importantly, Conceicao is likely to be without Porto’s top scorer this season, Vincent Aboubakar. With 26 goals and 6 assists in all competitions for Porto in 2017/18, the Cameroonian international striker has been in the best form of his career and will be a huge loss for the Azuis e brancos.

With attacking full-backs, Telles, in particular, Porto will be aiming to get as much service as possible to the two front men who will start, most likely Marega and Soares.

Porto’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com – 10 appearances or more)

  1. A. Telles  —————  8.00
  2. Y. Brahimi  ————-  7.93
  3. M. Marega  ————-  7.68

Liverpool Team News

Jordan Henderson should return at the base of the Liverpool midfield after missing out on the weekend victory at Southampton. Emre Can is suspended so Henderson should be a straight swap and possibly the only change from Sunday’s starting eleven.

Nathaniel Clyne is still out but has been registered for the knockout stages of the Champions League so things might be looking up for him in the not-too-distant future. Joe Gomez is still carrying a slight knock so Alexander-Arnold is most likely to start at right-back, in place of Gomez.

Matip and van Dijk may get a chance to continue to work on their central-defensive partnership after keeping a first clean sheet together against Southampton. Loris Karius also had an impressive game at St Mary’s and is now, hopefully, going to see out the rest of the season between the sticks, injury permitting.

Liverpool’s Top 3 Rated Players this season (WhoScored.com – 10 appearances or more)

  1. M. Salah  —————–  7.70
  2. R. Firmino  —————  7.41
  3. T. Alexander-Arnold  —-  7.26

Predicted XIs

FC Porto (4-4-2) – Casillas; Pereira, Reyes, Marcano, Telles; Corona, Herrera(c), Oliveira, Brahimi; Soares, Marega

Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson(c), Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mané

When they last met

The last time the two sides met was in the group stages of the 2007/08 Champions League. The game in Porto finished 1-1. Dirk Kuyt scored to cancel out an early Gonzalez penalty. The Reds won the return fixture, 4-1 at Anfield. Torres x2, Gerrard (penalty), and Crouch were the scorers that night.

The only other meetings were when Houllier’s Liverpool knocked Porto out of the UEFA Cup in the treble-winning season of 2000/01. Liverpool won 2-0 at Anfield with goals from Danny Murphy and Michael Owen. That sent the Reds through as they had held Porto to a 0-0 draw in the away leg.

Prediction

FC Porto 1 – 1 Liverpool

Porto are no shrinking violets when it comes to the physical side of the game. They also play an attacking style of football. Liverpool will need to be able to match up to them in all departments if they want to get any kind of positive result from this first leg. It will be interesting to see how much freedom the Reds will be allowed, offensively, by Klopp. With Porto’s impressive home record, I think Liverpool will need to settle for a score draw.

 

** Please note – “xGA” on the Form Stats Tables symbolises “expected goals against”

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