Liverpool FC

LAST TIME IN PORTO: Reds flex muscles on way to No. 6

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A date with the final has coincided with a visit to Porto in the Champions League, will the third trip in five seasons make for a similar fortune for Liverpool?

For the fifth time in the space of just three years, Liverpool will meet Porto in the Champions League – this time in the group stages.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side sit atop of Group B after one game having collected all three points against AC Milan, whereas the Portuguese side banked one point against Atletico Madrid.

It sets up an interesting battle, 895 days after they last contested a European tie.

 

It was a different world

PORTO, PORTUGAL - Wednesday, April 17, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between FC Porto and Liverpool FC at Estádio do Dragão. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The word pandemic was read only in the past tense, empty stadiums a foreign concept and the first piece of silverware under Klopp a dream that felt well and truly in touching distance.

Those were the conditions as the Reds last travelled to Estadio da Dragao on April 17 2019, for the second leg of their quarter-final tie.

Liverpool arrived with a comfortable lead up their sleeve having scored two unanswered goals at Anfield two weeks prior, affording the manager the chance to make some changes.

But it was the key pillars who would strike on the scoresheet for an emphatic passage to the semi-final – meaning not everything has had to change.

 

The XI

PORTO, PORTUGAL - Wednesday, April 17, 2019: Liverpool's players line-up for a team group photograph before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between FC Porto and Liverpool FC at Estádio do Dragão. Back row L-R: Mohamed Salah, goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Joel Matip, Divock Origi, Virgil van Dijk, Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho'. Front row L-R: Georginio Wijnaldum, captain James Milner, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)PORTO, PORTUGAL - Wednesday, April 17, 2019: Liverpool's players line-up for a team group photograph before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match between FC Porto and Liverpool FC at Estádio do Dragão. Back row L-R: Mohamed Salah, goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Joel Matip, Divock Origi, Virgil van Dijk, Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho'. Front row L-R: Georginio Wijnaldum, captain James Milner, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk were all on the scoresheet in the 4-1 win, ensuring the aggregate scoreboard read 6-1 come the end of the 180-minute tie.

It was the same margin as the preceding season when the two met in the last 16 of the competition.

Eight of the starters that night were in the XI at Brentford on Saturday, and another two were named on the bench.

The Reds did have to weather the storm before being able to flex their muscles, however, their quality shone and a marker was laid down.

Eder Militao would score the only goal for Porto, a consolation after Klopp’s side had already attained an unassailable 4-1 lead on aggregate and 2-1 on the night at the time of his strike.

The away end was bouncing as a place in the last four was secured for the season year running.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Mane, Origi

 

Which players still remain?

2EWWDP0 3rd March 2021; Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal; Taca De Portugal Football, FC Porto versus Braga; Otavio of FC Porto

From Klopp’s 18-man squad, only four have moved on – Gini Wijnaldum, Daniel Sturridge, Simon Mignolet and Xherdan Shaqiri.

And it ensures it is not out of the realm of possibility that a similar XI takes to the field on Tuesday, with Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo the obvious inclusions for present day.

For Porto, meanwhile, they have experienced significant change with the likes of Iker Casillas, Alex Telles, Moussa Marega and Hector Herrer no longer at the club.

Ex-Red Marko Grujic is now amid their ranks after his switch in the summer, as too Luis Diaz, Mehdi Taremi and Sergio Oliveira.

Familiar faces with similar ambitions, but they’re both different teams and the third installment of this tie is set to present a new set of challenges.

 

What happened next?

MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson lifts the European Cup following a 2-0 victory in the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Well, Reds will never forget what would follow in the semi-final and in the final.

A comeback for the ages saw Anfield witness the greatest ever night against Barcelona before Tottenham were toppled in Madrid as Ol’ Big Ears made its return to Liverpool after a 14-year wait.

Now, Liverpool have the same target in mind but this time it is in search of No. 7 – but could they go one better with a league and European Cup double?

Klopp and co. will rightly take it one taxing game at a time, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility and Porto have clearly been a kind omen.

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