Liverpool v FC Porto
Tuesday March 6 19:45
Live on BT Sport 3
Forward trio keep firing
Liverpool put in one of the great away Champions League performances when they beat Porto 5-0 a few weeks ago. People can say what they like about the Portuguese Superliga being a weak competition but that was the same Porto who knocked out two pretty good teams in Monaco and RB Leipzig in the Group Stages. Sadio Mane was the star of the show that day with a hat-trick and he added another goal to his season tally at the weekend thanks to a smart run and cool finish.
The other two members of the famed forward trio also did their bit for the cause in that 2-0 win over Newcastle. Roberto Firmino set up Mane's goal and Mohammad Salah was the one who opened the scoring.
Opta tell us no side has ever recovered from a 5-0 home win to progress to the next stage of the Champions League. Hardly surprising.
Excellent result under the Friday Night lights
Porto are all but out of Europe but ask any fan and they'd tell you they'd rather take winning the league title over making the quarters of the Champions League any day. They've pretty much made sure of the former after beating Sporting Lisbon 2-1 on Friday night, with the home win and at least three goals in the match being an outcome I tipped up here on this very site.
It was a somewhat strange display by Porto in the second half, opting to sit back and defend what they had rather than trying to bully their opponents but in the end they got what they wanted, even though they needed an excellent late save by veteran Iker Casillas to be assured of the three points.
Vincent Aboubakar, a monster of a man who has had a fine season so far, was only fit enough to get 20 minutes at the end of that one and is likely to play from the start here.
Look at the circumstances, not the stats
If you go away from home and beat someone 5-0 then you're almost sure to go and get a similar result at home, right? If only football worked that way.
The 5-0 outcome was a bit of a freak result in the first place and of big relevance ahead of this tie is what matches each side have coming up. Porto have a relatively easy-looking trip to Pacos Ferreira up next while Liverpool have a far less enviable task- a Saturday lunchtime trip to Old Trafford.
Is it that unlikely that with that game coming up Jurgen Klopp rests two from that Mane/Salah/Firmino trio plus maybe a couple of other regulars who have been known to get the odd yellow card and which could cost them a bit later on in the tournament? Say...Emre Can and Virgil van Dijk?
How much weaker would Liverpool be without four of five regular starters? Their squad isn't that brilliant. That may just be the way Klopp goes, knowing it's virtually impossible he can go out.
Sergio Conceicao on the other hand will be desperate to save face here. He'll want to prove that was just a really bad day at the office in Porto and that his side can compete with Europe's elite rather than just beat up Superliga teams. I'd expect him to field his best side here and in addition to the personnel, the levels of motivation could very well be different on the night. Liverpool seeing this match as little more than a case of going through the motions, Porto as an opportunity for revenge.
All enough reasons to think that in the circumstances Liverpool look a little short at 1.584/7.
Even if Liverpool go on to win this game, there are good reasons to think Porto should get at least one. Just to show what a strange result that 5-0 was: they'd scored 15 goals in their six Group matches.
Aboubakar (11/4) is a good place to start for a goalscorer but it's likely he'll either start on the bench or start and not play the full 90. Moussa Marega (11/5) is another candidate with a good chance of getting one. He missed out on Friday night but has 19 goals in all competitions this season.
But at a far bigger price and with 10 goals already this campaign and with one in each of his past two games you can back the uber-talented Yacine Brahimi at 9/2. The Algerian won't be at the World Cup as they failed to qualify so with few opportunities to showcase his talent on the biggest stages with a view to a possible move to a bigger European club, he might be looking to put in a big performance here and cap it off with a goal. It's certainly worth a dabble.
As far as Liverpool are concerned, you're best off waiting for the starting line-up before going in on the usual suspects like Salah and Firmino. Adam Lallana may well get a game after reaching something near full fitness and could be worth a second look. He's 10/3.