Five-star cruise control
Liverpool have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch both in the Premier League and Europe this season.
Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for maintaining a consistently high level of performance, especially since Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona.
Yet any side that can call upon an attacking triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané should be more than capable of compensating for the loss of a playmaker of Coutinho’s quality.
Aside from possessing skilful attacking players, the manner in which Liverpool killed the game once they grabbed the lead at the Estadio do Dragao should please their fans.
As evidenced in Portugal, the
industry of James Milner and
Jordan Henderson will be vital in their upcoming European ties, as will Dejan Lovern and Virgil van Dijk’s improved understanding in front of Loris Karius.
In the coming months, it is how these Liverpool players perform rather than the Salah, Mané, and Firmino triptych that will determine how far Liverpool progress in the Champions League.
Porto simply not good enough
Porto entered yesterday’s last-16 tie in decent form — undefeated
in their previous 24 competitive
fixtures. Despite that impressive record, the Portuguese side was hamstrung by the enforced absence of central defender Felipe (suspended) and defensive midfielder Danilo (injured).
Similar to Liverpool, Porto’s high-intensity pressing has become a hallmark of the current Primeira Liga leaders since Sergio Conceicao assumed the managerial hot seat.
It is debatable whether Felipe or Danilo would have made any difference considering the step up in class that Liverpool represented. Porto clearly hadn’t encountered a team of such quality in qualifying for the knockout stages.
You cannot legislate for poor defending, however. Goalkeeper Jose Sa should have done better for Mané’s opener while Porto’s defence went to sleep for their opponents’ second.
A decent team with European pedigree but Porto are clearly no longer Champions League contenders.
Klopp should fear no-one
‘Gegenpressing’ is a buzzword that gained traction during Klopp’s time at Borussia Dortmund. Simply put, pressing your opponent (in the correct manner) as soon as you lost the ball and quickly regaining possession helped Klopp build his reputation and earn a Premier League move.
Liverpool have bought in and fully adopted the German’s mantra, best executing their manager’s tactical approach when playing in Europe.
Out of the Premier League title race and the FA Cup, Liverpool can now give their full attention to the Champions League. In this kind of form, no European club will relish facing Klopp’s side.