Liverpool 0 – 0 Porto (Aggregate 5-0)

Bore Draw Enough to See Reds Through

 

In the build-up to the game, great intrigue surrounded both manager’s team selections. In the end though, both managers curiously decided to rest only half of their respective teams.

This lead to only a handful of players really their hardest to impress, and resulted in a forgettable 0-0 draw.

One of the only memorable aspects of the match was the class shown be Liverpool’s supporters, and disrespect shown by Porto’s.

Liverpool fans booed the Porto fans for deliberately ruining the minute silence in homage of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, but showed their own respect by loudly applauding legendary ‘keeper Iker Casillas when he approached The Kop.

To be fair to the travelling fans, they were the first to get there and admirably sang and cheered until well after the final whistle.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7:

 

Another morale-boosting clean sheet for the German.

Dealt with the few things that came is way comfortably, barring one spilt shot, but there was no danger of it leading to a goal.

Joe Gomez – 6:

 

Good to see Gomez playing again after another unfortunate injury setback.

It’s clear that, despite a couple of good crosses and a solid performance, he doesn’t offer as much as Trent Alexander-Arnold in attack, and is less comfortable defending out wide.

Dejan Lovren – 7:

 

Lovren somewhat filled the role that Virgil van Dijk vacated by taking on more responsibility with the ball at his feet.

An excellent block late in the game to deny Oliver Torres was the only moment where he was truly called into action though.

Joel Matip – 6: 

 

Matip again failed to upstage Lovren, even though he didn’t have many chances to do so.

His passing was inconsistent, but this wasn’t the type of game where his defensive merits could be judged effectively

Alberto Moreno – 7: 

 

Moreno was a decent threat throughout the night in attack, and he kept pressing forward even after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.

His defensive work was also sound, but despite a good display, he won’t be replacing Andy Robertson anytime soon.

Jordan Henderson – 7: 

His resolute defensive work was the highlight of his night, as he was fairly sporadic with his passing.

He wasted a chance to put Firmino through on goal in the first half, but in the second he linked up well with Milner, drove the ball forward and played an outstanding threaded pass to the Brazilian striker.

Emre Can – 7: 

Played a more advanced role than he has done recently, but he never got out of second gear.

A cheeky nutmeg on Andre Andre gave the fans something to sing about on a mostly uneventful night.

 

James Milner – 7 (Man of the Match): 

 

Milner’s quality as a football player, and not just a workhorse, has really been demonstrated over the last few weeks.

He almost scored twice as he had to stretch to reach Lallana’s pass, and also headed a Salah cross straight at Casillas.

Adam Lallana – 6: 

 

Lallana’s first start for many months due to injury, hopefully a return to form isn’t too far away either.

His touch was typically pinpoint, but he was unable to turn his twists and turns into a genuine attacking threat.

Sadio Mane – 7:

 

Mane was another player who clearly took the night off for the most part.

Even so, Mane had a couple of difficult chances before he was replaced, but he was unable to get on the score sheet.

Roberto Firmino – 7: 

 

Firmino had an unusually quiet game, but he still worked hard for the team.

Like Mane, Firmino also had a couple of chances to win the game, but his finishing wasn’t as good as it has been in previous games.

Subs

Danny Ings – 6 (on for Firmino – 62′): 

It would’ve been nice to see Ings start this game.

He was lively when he came on and got into good positions, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Mo Salah – 7 (on for Mane – 75′): 

Salah was given 15 minutes to try and send the fans home happy.

He created a couple of chances for his teammates, but they were unable to capitalise.

Ragnar Klavan – 5 (on for Can – 81′): 

Came on to see out the game, as Klopp switched to a back three.

A poor touch and needless foul almost cost Liverpool, as Porto nearly scored from the cross. Luckily Lovren and Klavan himself were able to block the shot well.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 6:

Ultimately, Klopp must be praised for guiding the team into the quarter-finals.

However, his decision to neither rotate the entire team, nor maintain the entire team’s form was puzzling.

The likes of Ings and Dominic Solanke would’ve benefited greatly from a full 90 minutes in the Champions League, while Mane and Firmino could’ve used a rest.

Talking Points

Through to the Next Round

 

The hard work was done in Portugal, and Liverpool deservedly march onward.

Liverpool, in their current form, should fear no team, obviously matching up with a smaller side is preferable, but beating one of Europe’s elite isn’t out of the question.

Liverpool’s potential opponents include:

Real Madrid

Tottenham (2) or (2) Juventus

Manchester City (4) or (0) Basel

Roma (1) or (2) Shakhtar Donetsk

Manchester United (0) or (0) Sevilla

Besiktas (0) or Bayern Munich (5)

Barcelona (1) or Chelsea (1)

Lack of Midfield Creativity

 

Of course, the easiest explanation for Liverpool’s subdued performance is the fact that they knew that their position was secured, so there was no need to push themselves too hard.

Another explanation though is a lack of drive and creativity from the midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain was missed severly.

The Ox has grown to be a vital player for The Reds, so surely when he returns against United, Liverpool will be far more dynamic again.

United Up Next

 

United play their second leg game tomorrow morning, and unlike Liverpool, they don’t have the luxury of resting players due to drawing against Sevilla 0-0.

Not only will Liverpool’s players be fresher, but they’re also in better form as United have been fortunate lately to beat Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

It will certainly be the most important game of the season so far for Liverpool, and a win would be a massive step towards finishing 2nd.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 07/03/2018

https://www.facebook.com/redordeadblog/home

https://www.instagram.com/red_or_dead_blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/redordeadbloglfc

 

Liverpool vs Porto : 2nd Leg Preview

Liverpool Look to Finish the Job

The Reds head into the second leg of their round of 16 tie against Porto already ahead 5-0 on aggregate.

All that is need to progress to the quarter-finals is a professional performance, void of repeated slip-ups.

Both sides will have one eye on their respective leagues as Porto know their chances of progression are slim, and Liverpool have a season-defining match against Manchester United in a matter of days.

Liverpool

Team News and Predicted Lineup

livvsport.png

 

Jurgen Klopp has been somewhat cryptic this week when asked about the possibility of rotating his players, flirting with minimal and generous rotation.

Nathaniel Clyne aside, every single Liverpool player should be available, but many deserve a rest.

Loris Karius doesn’t though and should continue in goal in front of an entirely new back four. Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and a returning Adam Lallana will make a strong midfield behind Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke who both need more game time.

Porto

Team News and Predicted Lineup

port

Sergio Conceicao faces a similar scenario and will be deciding whether to try and restore some European pride or merely resign to defeat and focus on the league.

The dangerous Vincent Aboubakar and solid Felipe are fit to return after missing the first leg and will itching to impress.

Unfortunately though, Porto also have many including strikers Tiquinho Soares and Moussa Marega, as well as talented fullback Alex Telles.

Analysis

 

This fixture is a difficult one to analyse given the unusually low stakes surrounding this round of 16 second leg tie.

The presence of Aboubakar will change the dynamics of Porto’s attack, but so will the absence of Telles, Marega and Soares.

Liverpool, regardless of the side that turns out, should have enough to see off the Portuguese champions, but if a close to full strength side plays, then a repeat result of the first leg could be on the cards.

Liverpool showed that they can cope with just about everything Porto have to throw at them, but the same can’t be said of the reverse.

Prediction

If Klopp chooses to rotate heavily, Porto will start with their tails up and attempt to get at Liverpool. But a goal or two will quell this, and Liverpool will stroll to a 2-1 victory.

If Klopp chooses to maintain recent momentum and rotate minimally, then Liverpool will get to a 3-0 lead and then take off their key players and just go through the motions until the final whistle.

Either way, Liverpool should get through to the quarter-finals without much effort.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – 06/03/2018.

https://www.facebook.com/redordeadblog/home

https://www.instagram.com/red_or_dead_blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/redordeadbloglfc

 

Porto 0 – 5 Liverpool

Reds Pummel Porto In First-Leg

Liverpool ran away with a perfect result in the first-leg of their round of 16 tie. It looked like it may not be the Reds’ night after a weak start in what was a surprisingly conservative opening period from both sides. The first 15 minutes were blighted by sloppy, unimaginative passing from Liverpool and Porto looked to be more likely of creating something. Thankfully, the Reds took control after 20 minutes and never looked back from there. Sadio Mane opened the rout after Jose Sa spilt his shot over the line, and Mo Salah scored his 30th goal of the season five minutes later. Mane scored a simple tap-in after the break, followed by an excellent finish from Roberto Firmino before Mane completed his hat-trick. It was an outstanding night for all of the Reds, but everyone will be particularly pleased to see Mane finally recovering from his slump.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: The German had virtually nothing to do in the first-half barring a few simple catches, but on the rare occasions he was called upon he did so with the same confidence he has shown in the last few fixtures.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 9: Porto were letting all of the Liverpool players have plenty of time on the ball except for TAA. The youngster was relentlessly pressed but he never looked like faltering. He dealt with the dangerous Yacine Brahimi comfortably while also getting forward to support Salah, so much so that Brahimi was forced to venture into more central areas to avoid TAA and try to get into the game. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he is only 19 and playing out of position from his natural role as a central-midfielder.

Dejan Lovren – 8: The Croatian made a vital block early to deny Otavio the chance to put Porto up 1-0. He followed this with a lovely long pass to Mane to give him an opportunity to create a scoring chance. He also won the ball from Sa’s throw to begin the move for Liverpool’s first goal of the night. An excellent performance from a man who comes under regular criticism.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7: Van Dijk made his Champions League debut for Liverpool on a brillaint night all around for the Reds. He made a crucial touch to divert a shot from Tiquinho Soares late in the first-half but also made one woeful attempt at a tackle against Corona in the box. In the second-half, he made another critical block to again deny Soares immediately after Firmino’s goal, but aside from these incidences, he didn’t have much to do.

Andy Robertson – 8: Another player who made his Champions League debut on the night. Robbo put in some threatening crosses, including one for Firmino that was only stopped by an outstanding intervention from Ivan Marcano and another for Sadio Mane late in the second-half. His only error throughout occurred when he was too slow to release Mane on a counter-attack.

Jordan Henderson – 6: An unremarkable but tidy game from the Liverpool captain. He didn’t do anything wrong, but it is arguable that he needs to be doing more than merely sweeping up at the back and recycling possession to help influence the game.

Gini Wijnaldum – 8: This was Gini’s best game for months now as he found himself involved in everything at both ends of the pitch. He should’ve had an early goal when he made a great run, but Mane was unable to find him at the back post. Moments later he drove through several Porto players and then laid the ball off to Mane who bundled it past Sa.

James Milner – 9: Liverpool’s vice-captain assisted the second goal when he smashed the ball off the post from range where it, fortunately, fell to a calm Salah who tucked it into the back of the net. This was also Milner’s best game in a while as he was involved in the build-up for most of the goals and got direct assists for two of them.

Sadio Mane – 10 (Man of the Match): The out of sorts winger scored the first goal of a much-needed hat-trick only moments after failing to roll it to Wijnaldum for a certain tap -in. He swooped to score his second after Sa could only parry away Firmino’s low shot. His performance caught up with his goal tally in the second half, as demonstrated by some brilliant work in the build-up to Firmino’s goal and a screamer from outside the box. It is also worth noting that he also showed a marked improvement in his willingness and ability to drop back and assist Robertson at left-back when defending crosses.

Mo Salah – 9: The Egyptian magician showed remarkable composure and skill when he collected Milner’s rebound. He managed to take all the pace off the ball with his first touch, dink it over the ‘keeper with his second, head it forward with his third and finally directed the ball over the line with his fourth. He was a constant threat throughout the rest of the game as he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Roberto Firmino – 8: The Brazilian was relatively quiet in attack, but worked tirelessly for the team to help turn over possession. He was unable to get a good shot away on the break under pressure from two defenders, but Mane pounced on the rebound though to make it 3-0. His selfless toiling was duly rewarded with a goal of his own after some good link-up play with his teammates.

Subs

Joel Matip (on for Jordan Henderson – 74′) – N/A: Matip was again brought on as extra security to help see the game out, but Porto were already finished by that stage, and he had nothing at all to do.

Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold – 79′) – N/A: Gomez was also brought on to sure-up the defence, it was good to see him back so soon after his injury.

Danny Ings (on for Firmino – 79′) – N/A: It was a heart-warming sight to see Ings make his long-overdue Champions League debut after a nightmare run of injuries. Liverpool were well and truly in cruise control upon his introduction, although he still managed to pick up the assist for Mane’s third goal.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: After the third or fourth goals, Klopp probably should’ve taken the opportunity to give the likes of Firmino, Mane and Salah a well-earned rest and award players such as Solanke, Lallana and Ings crucial minutes. Substitutions aside though it was a virtually flawless night for Klopp and his men, a deserved reward for an outstanding performance and tactical implementation.

Talking Points

Mane Is Back

It had been coming for a many weeks now, but it’s still a massive relief that Mane has returned to form at such a crucial stage of the season. If he can maintain that sort of level for the rest of the season it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Liverpool can continue to climb the Premier League table and go far in the Champions League. This performance was a just reward for a player who has worked so hard over the last several games to try and regain momentum but was continually struck down by misfortune.

Improved Midfield Performance

Even though the Reds drew against Spurs and comfortably beat Southampton there was still concern over the noticeably toothless midfield. Both games feature fairly different combinations, and yet the same problems remained. The likes of Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum seemed incapable of controlling the midfield and struggled to impose themselves onto games. A much improved Milner and Wijnaldum against Porto was an encouraging sign that this combination, and perhaps with Can behind them, could be the one that finally addresses this ongoing issue.

Second-Leg a Dead Rubber

Of course, it’s never over until the final whistle, but you’d have to think that five away goals are more than enough to see the Reds through to the quarter-finals. With that in mind, hopefully Klopp will utilise this rare opportunity to rest certain players, in particular Mane, Salah and Firmino who will be expected to play every other game until the end of the season. Allowing them to recharge their batteries for the run in will have the added effect of allowing fringe players such as Solanke, Lallana, Ings or even Ben Woodburn extra minutes and experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. However, given his track record, Klopp will likely field a near full-strength team for the return leg regardless.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 15/02/2018.

https://www.facebook.com/redordeadblog/home

https://www.instagram.com/red_or_dead_blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/redordeadbloglfc

Porto vs Liverpool – Preview

Reds’ First UCL Knock-Out Clash in 9 Years

Porto

Team News

FC Porto head into the tie with some talented players missing through injury or suspension. Defensively Porto will be without Felipe, their best centre-back, through suspension and midfield enforcer Danilo Pereira may not return from injury in time for the first-leg. He is ordinarily crucial in allowing other players around him to venture forward as he covers for them. In attack they could be missing their greatest weapon as well, Vincent Aboubakar will be assessed before the game to see if he is fit enough to feature.

Predicted Lineup

porto

Despite these difficulties, Sergio Conceicao will still have a wealth of talent to chose from as he plots to head to Anfield in a strong position. Much like Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet at Liverpool, Iker Casillas and Jose Sa have had to share the goalkeeping position this season. Given the spectacle of the match though, Conceicao will likely rely upon the experience that Casillas possess to protect and organise a potentially makeshift back-line. Alex Telles and Ricardo Pereira will be the starting fullbacks, with Diego Reyes and Ivan Marcano in the middle. Marcano is also under an injury cloud though, so if he is also unable to play, then Porto’s defensive solidity will suffer greatly. In the midfield, Yacine Brahimi and Jesus Corona will flank Hector Herrera and Sergio Oliviera. Moussa Marega and Tiquinho Soares will spearhead the Porto attacking line.

Liverpool

Team News

Jurgen Klopp also has a couple of absences to deal with when deciding on his lineup. Emre Can is suspended, while Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan and Nathaniel Clyne have only just returned to varying degrees of training.

Predicted Lineup

portvsliv

Klopp all but confirmed that Karius would retain his place ahead of Mignolet, despite the fact that Karius played in most of the cup games when he was second-choice behind Mignolet. Dejan Lovren will likely be the only change to the defence that saw off Southampton. Joel Matip didn’t do enough to retain his place in my opinion, and it’s entirely possible the Klopp was either resting Lovren for this game or merely protecting him from a potentially volatile return to his former club. In the midfield, Jordan Henderson will replace Can while Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will probably retain their places mainly due to a lack of serious competition. James Milner is the only other realistic alternative as Adam Lallana is still toiling for fitness. The front three will, of course, remain the same.

Analysis

Porto are not a team to be underestimated by any stretch of the imagination. They’re quick, strong, well-organised and have a habit of winning. Most worryingly of all though, they excel at the very tactics that Liverpool struggle with, they can sit back comfortably and then destroy teams on the counter. They also have a few players who are dangerous from set-pieces, another weakness for Liverpool. Luckily though, some players who are integral that that system may be absent, or at least not operating at 100% for the game. It will be intriguing to see how Porto approach this game as they will surely feel that they must not head to Anfield in the second-leg at a deficit. Acknowledging that, they will either double-down on their defensive efforts to cover their lesser replacements and try to nick a narrow victory on the counter, or they will try and ambush Liverpool’s inconsistent defenders by playing far more aggressively in attack then they usually do. The first option seems far more likely though, as the latter would be playing right into the Reds’ hands, as long as they remain focused.

Liverpool on the other hand will undoubtedly approach this game in their usual, high-press, counter-attacking style. It is essential for the defenders to concentrate for the full 90 minutes as Porto certainly have the talent to punish any lapses from open play or from set-pieces. The midfield battle will be as crucial as ever, but even more so if Danilo Pereira is missing for Porto. If Liverpool can dominate the middle of the park, it will make Porto’s chances very few and far between. Liverpool’s attack is clearly their greatest strength, with Salah and Firmino in great form and even Mane is still dangerous despite being in somewhat of a slump. Salah in particular can turn one of Porto’s strengths, overlapping fullbacks, into a weakness. Telles, while being excellent going forward, is regarded as being occasionally suspect in defence and will undoubtedly leave space in behind for Salah to exploit at some stage. This will have the double effect creating chances for Liverpool, and pinning back one of Porto’s best attacking outlets.

Prediction

Porto’s missing players may prove to be too big a hurdle for them to overcome as an in-form Liverpool could tear them to shreds on a good night. Salah and Mane should find plenty of space behind their attacking-minded fullbacks, which could spell disaster for Porto if they turn the ball over. The big questions in this match will be: Can Liverpool’s defenders remain error-free over 90 minutes, and can Porto balance their tactics so they are not entirely exposed every time they attempt to attack? I believe Liverpool have the upper hand in this regard and, providing they all play to near their best, will return to Anfield ahead in the tie 3-1.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 14/02/2018.

https://www.facebook.com/redordeadblog/home

https://www.instagram.com/red_or_dead_blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/redordeadbloglfc