Reds 'on fire' but Klopp wary of Porto side eyeing revenge

Virgil van Dijk says playing at home makes Liverpool the favourites in their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto today.
Virgil van Dijk says playing at home makes Liverpool the favourites in their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto today.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that while Porto were not the opponents he had hoped to draw in the Champions League quarter-finals, the same could be applied to his team.

The Portuguese champions were humiliated 5-0 on their home patch by the Reds in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie last season and they were unable to turn things around in the reverse fixture.

Asked whether he was aware that Porto, who will travel to Merseyside without banned duo Pepe and Hector Herrera, were on a "revenge" mission today, Klopp said at his pre-match press conference yesterday: "100 per cent, I understand that.

"I thought last season after we won 5-0, 'Okay, we should not come here for a while' and then we are back this year.

"It was a strange game, we were clinical, two or three goals from counter-attacks.

"The result from last year is more valuable for Porto than it is for us. We have to be strong, clear, direct in the right moments and creative.

"We didn't want Porto, to be honest... People with a proper idea about football didn't. That's the truth. But nobody (also) wanted Liverpool. It'll be tough, but we're really looking forward to it."

Dismissing claims Porto would again be rank outsiders against his team, Klopp insisted the Anfield meeting would be "a proper Champions League game" although he conceded that "we're on fire at the moment".

The German added: "It's the top team in Portugal. I don't think it's normal that a team is so organised.

"They showed it against Roma (in the previous round) and in all the Champions League games (this term). It's a different game to last year and we have to play it again. It will be tough for both."

While Liverpool will be without the suspended Andy Robertson, Klopp has few other injury worries to contend with after confirming fellow defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum are likely to shake off minor knocks to take their place in his starting XI.

He also revealed that defender Joe Gomez, who has been out since December after having surgery for a leg fracture, and midfielder Adam Lallana, who missed the St Mary's game with a muscle issue, were nearing their comebacks.

Van Dijk, who like Klopp spoke to reporters yesterday, agreed with his boss' assessment that Porto "deserve to be in the quarter-finals", but the team were still confident as "if you look at the season, the results we have at Anfield in particular, Liverpool are the favourites".

Joking that he "would not miss Robertson" at all, the Dutch international also touched on the Premier League title race, declaring "everybody is dreaming of it".

He added: "Hopefully, it can be something great at the end of the season. But we can already hold our heads high.

"It's game by game. Tomorrow is big, because we can set a base to take with us to Portugal. In the league, any slip-up can end our title dreams. It's Porto, then after that Chelsea. It's the only way we should think."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'Reds 'on fire' but Klopp wary of Porto side eyeing revenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe