Liverpool FC, Champions League

Porto vs. Liverpool – 5 things we’d like to see tonight

Liverpool take on Porto tonight in a hotly anticipated Champions League last-16 clash, in need of a vital first-leg victory on the road.

The Reds have not reached the knockout stages of this tournament for nine years, with their last side to do so including Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres.

Jurgen Klopp is working towards a similarly talented group, and this term Liverpool can be considered an outside bet for European progress.

Porto are currently top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, but losses to Besiktas and RB Leipzig in the Champions League group stage prove they are not without fault.

Here are five things we’d like to see from Liverpool tonight.


1. An away goal

MARIBOR, SLOVENIA - Tuesday, October 17, 2017: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the fifth goal with team-mate Dejan Lovren during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between NK Maribor and Liverpool at the Stadion Ljudski vrt. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

No matter what happens, an away goal is vital.

Failing to score in the away leg always puts pressure on not conceding in the second leg at home – even a 0-0 draw would mean Porto only need a score-draw at Anfield to progress.


2. A goal for Sadio Mane

Without a goal in his last five appearances, Sadio Mane looks like a player lacking confidence.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the sixth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moscow at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Senegal attacker is working in the shadows of the virtuoso front two of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino but his importance to the team is still clear – the problem recently has just been that he is struggling once inside the box.

Since the Reds’ last Champions League game, the 7-0 hammering of Spartak Moscow in December when Mane scored two, he has just two goals in 12 appearances.

A goal would be the confidence booster he massively needs.


3. A dominant performance from Virgil Van Dijk

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 14, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There’s signs that Virgil van Dijk is starting to bed in at Anfield now after a somewhat shaky start – becoming the leading, calming defender that every supporter hoped he’d be.

How nice it would be to see a commanding performance from the centre-back on the big European stage.

The Dutchman has plenty of European experience, having played in Europa League and Champions League play offs with Groningen and Celtic. He has six Champions League proper appearances to his name so far, the last being for Celtic against Barcelona in 2013.


4. A solid midfield display

Liverpool’s last Champions League away game saw the Reds slump to an embarrassing 3-3 draw in Seville after being 3-0 up at half-time.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - Tuesday, November 21, 2017: Liverpool players Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan, Georginio Wijnaldum looks dejected after throwing away a three goal half-time lead as Sevilla score a late equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio RamÛn S·nchez Pizju·n. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The major area of contention on that night in Spain was how easily the midfield was over-run and missing for the second 45.

Two of those from that night, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, are almost certain to start this evening – the third was Philippe Coutinho.

Seeking to gain midfield stability, Klopp introduced Emre Can – who is suspended this evening – for Coutinho just after the hour.

This evening, James Milner could become important, whether he starts or is used from the bench – as he was in the last half an hour of the qualifier at Hoffenheim in August.


5. A ‘captain’s performance’ from Jordan Henderson

SEVILLE, SPAIN - Tuesday, November 21, 2017: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson lines-up before the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

To be Liverpool captain you have to deliever on the big stage, and this, the Reds’ first Champions League knockout stage game since 2009 offers Jordan Henderson the opportunity to do that.

It’s incredible that no player in the squad this evening was at the club the last time the Reds played in a knockout match in Europe’s top competition, but Henderson is the longest serving player in the squad and the one who needs to galvanise the players in what will be a tough atmosphere.

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