Porto insider verdict & injury update ahead of Champions League clash with Liverpool

Liverpool are up against Portuguese giants FC Porto in the Champions League this week, for what feels like the 15th time in five years.

The historical European outfits share eight titles between them in the continent’s flagship tournament and will meet at the Estádio do Dragão on Tuesday night.

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To get an inside scoop on the opposition, we spoke to Portuguese football expert Aaron Barton, creator of Próxima Jornada…

FC Porto once again welcome Liverpool to the Estádio do Dragão in the UEFA Champions League. The two clubs have become familiar foes in the competition in recent years, the difference this time around is that the clubs meet in the group stages rather than in the knockout phase. It is only the second time Porto and Liverpool have been paired in the group stages, the first being back in the 2007/08 season.

In terms of form, Sérgio Conceição’s men come into this one flying high – particularly at home. At the Dragão, Porto have won all three games without conceding a goal (2-0 v Belenenses SAD, 3-0 v Arouca and 5-0 v Moreirense). On the road it’s been a different story, winning just two of their five games in all competitions, drawing the other three to maintain their unbeaten start.

Liverpool will of course be a tougher test than the sides Porto have faced domestically thus far, so it is best to look at how Porto fared last time out in the Champions League, a 0-0 draw away to Spanish giants Atlético Madrid on matchday one. A pretty even affair, it was a clash between two managers who like to place great emphasis on defensive structure and organisation, especially when playing in Europe. Come the final whistle, it was Porto who left the game feeling most disappointed after having an 81st-minute Mehdi Taremi goal ruled out by VAR for apparent handball.

In the last two Liga matches, Conceição has opted to bet more on the youth, giving starts to the young maestros Fábio Vieira and Vitinha – both players have embraced their chances, impressing on both occasions. For the Champions League, however, we will likely see a Porto side with a bit more experience in the side – more similar to the XI that started vs Atlético Madrid.

Luís Diaz is the main danger-man to look out for, the Colombian is currently the best player in Portugal. His talent has always been evident, but his performances have now went to another level – especially  over the past six months. He is coming off the back of finishing joint-top-scorer at Copa América and is on course to have his best domestic season yet, with six goals and one assist to his name already. For an idea of what Diaz can do in the Champions League, see his goal against Manchester City last season!

One area that could be significantly weaker for Porto is central defence. Chancel Mbemba received a red card in Madrid and is suspended, but even worse than that is his defensive partner – the effervescent Pepe is also a major doubt. Conceição spoke to the media today confirming that Pepe did not train at all and that tomorrow is his last chance to be declared fit and part of the squad.

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