Liverpool take a 2-0 lead to the Estadio do Dragao as they face Porto in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, arguably with one foot in the quarter-finals. But the job is only half done and there remains a lot of work to do, which means that Liverpool won’t be able to take this game for granted. So what are some of the potential key battles ahead of this game?
Gini Wijnaldum vs Hector Herrera
Two key midfield players that missed the first leg for differing reasons. Herrera was suspended and his loss was felt brutally as Naby Keita did a number on Oliver Torres. Gini Wijnaldum has been rested for the last two games as he looked knackered against Southampton, whilst Keita and Henderson were terrific as dual eights. However, both players are expected to slot back in with Henderson carrying a niggle and surely unlikely to play three big games in a week.
This could be a very big battle in the middle of the park. Although the two teams play fundamentally different systems, if you’re looking for which team will control the tempo of the game, this is your battle. Gini’s role will be interesting depending on what Klopp wants him to do, but Herrera’s return is a huge boost for Porto and Liverpool will be looking for Wijnaldum’s return to neutralise that.
Dejan Lovren vs Moussa Marega
This is the game. Right here. It really is. Marega ran riot against Lovren in the first leg, taking advantage of the fact that the Croat was starting his first game in months and simply failed to react to anything played in behind him. Having missed a hatful of glorious openings in the first leg, Marega will be aware that he can get some real joy against Lovren, who is expected to start again in the second leg. For Liverpool, shutting down this avenue completely shuts down Porto’s attacking threat and wins them the tie. For Porto, it’s their most likely way of turning over what looks like a very difficult deficit.
Sadio Mané vs Eder Militao
Militao was one of Porto’s best players in the first leg and helped keep the score respectable under huge pressure from Mo Salah in particular. However, with the return of Pepe at the heart of the defence, he’s expected to shunt to right-back for the second leg, where he’ll have to deal with Sadio Mané, in some of the best form of his career – just ask Azpilicueta.
For Liverpool, the equation is relatively simple, as it was in last season’s quarter-final second leg. Just score a goal and you’re all but through. Nick a goal on the counter and all of Porto’s dreams are dust. Sadio scored a hat-trick at this stadium last year, scored the important goals at the Allianz a few weeks ago and of course, scored a vital goal in Rome in last season’s semi-final. He is probably the man Porto will fear most, making this battle a huge one.