Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 7/10
The Champions League campaign continues this week, and on Tuesday evening, at the Estadio Dragao, FC Porto will welcome Liverpool in the second round of Group B. The other match of the group will see AC Milan play host to Atletico Madrid at the San Siro.
Sergio Conceicao’s team opened their involvement in UEFA’s elite club competition with a goalless draw against Atletico in Madrid, in which they gave the La Liga champions a fair fight at the Wanda Metropolitano and arguably deserved the point they walked away with, even though they finished the match with 10 men after defender Chancel Mbemba Mangulu picked up a straight red card deep in injury time for denying Antoine Griezmann a clear goalscoring opportunity with a deliberate foul.
Porto and Atletico therefore occupy the middle two spots in the group table at the moment, with a point each.
As for their domestic season, Porto currently sit second to Benfica in the Primeira Liga with a four-point gap between them. Defending champions Sporting Lisbon are breathing down their necks on mere goal-difference. The last six matches in all competitions saw Porto draw 1-1 away to Maritimo, beat Arouco 3-0 at home, draw 1-1 against Sporting in Lisbon, play the goalless draw against Atletico, smash Morierense at the Dragao by 5-0, and beat Gil Vicente away by 1-2.
Conceicao will, of course, be without Mbemba who is suspended due to the red card in Madrid. Veteran Pepe was forced off the pitch in that game through injury and missed the last two league games, which means he’s very likely to sit this one out as well. Ivan Marcano and Fabio Cardoso are expected to take the two centre-back spots against Liverpool.
Conceicao’s first-choice goalkeeper Marchesin is yet to play this term due to a knee injury, but his involvement in this match hasn’t been ruled out yet. In case he doesn’t make it, 22-year-old Diogo Costa will be between the posts again. Marko Grujic could appear in the middle of the park against his old club.
Luis Diaz and Otavio have both been linked with Liverpool over the summer, and they will now line up against them in support of striker Mehdi Taremi.
Much like Porto, though in undoubtedly more demanding environment, Liverpool are yet to taste defeat this season in any competition. They are the only team in the Premier League that boasts such a run after six rounds, and they top the table with 14 points (ahead of Brighton’s trip to Crystal Palace on Monday which could see the Seagulls break through and claim the top for themselves in a surprising turn of events.
The Merseysiders opened their Champions League campaign with an extremely exciting 3-2 win over AC Milan at Anfield, in the first-ever match between them that wasn’t the final of this competition. An own-goal by Fikayo Tomori gave Liverpool the lead, but Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz both finished off excellent team moves to turn the contest around at the end of the first half. But Jurgen Klopp’s team simply would not be denied on the night, and after Mohamed Salah capitalized on a great pass from Divock Origi to equalize, captain Jordan Henderson smacked a low volley and scored the winner from just outside the box.
The three points from that match mean Liverpool top the group at the moment, but it’s way too early in the campaign for that to count as anything significant. Klopp will certainly want his men to build on that result in Portugal.
The Reds recorded three 3-0 victories in their last six outings in all competitions. They drew 1-1 against Chelsea at home, smashed Leeds United away by 0-3, beat Milan, beat Crystal Palace at home by 3-0, knocked Norwich City out of the Carabao Cup at Carrow Road by 0-3, and eventually played another thrilling match with ended in a 3-3 draw away to Brentford on Saturday.
Contrary to initial expectations, midfielder Naby Keita has recovered from a freak injury he picked up at Norwich and has made the trip to Portugal with the team, though it remains to be seen if he’s fit to start. However, Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott both remain unavailable; the experienced Spaniard should be back after the international break next month, while 18-year-old Elliott will be out for a long time yet, having had surgery on a dislocated ankle.
Klopp has been rotating his centre-backs this season, something he wasn’t able to do last term at all. Virgil van Dijk is expected to command the back line again, though Joel Matip, who played against Brentford, could be replaced by either Ibrahima Konate or Joe Gomez.
With Roberto Firmino still fresh from a thigh injury, Diogo Jota will likely be playing upfront with Salah and Sadio Mane, though Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino will also be hoping to be involved.
Liverpool looked rather comfortable the last two times they traveled to Porto, winning 0-5 in February 2018 and 1-4 in April 2019 as they strode to the Champions League final in both seasons, losing the first one to Real Madrid but lifting the trophy after the other against Tottenham Hotspur for the sixth time in their history.
Klopp himself admitted that those matches will count for nothing when the two teams take to the pitch on Tuesday, and he’s certainly right. On the other hand, Liverpool are still the better team in a better place, and they should return to the North-West of England with another three points in their bag.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 7/10
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