Liverpool at Porto
7:45pm (2:45pm EST) Tuesday, September 18
The Lowdown: Liverpool kick-off the group stages by traveling to Porto to take on the Portugese champions. The two clubs have only met once before (in a competitive game); in Liverpool’s successful 2001 UEFA Cup run. Interestingly, the Dragons have never lost to an English club at home although four of those games were scoreless draws. And, as I’m throwing fun but ultimately pointless stats out, the Portugese have not opened the group stages with a win in their last five CL campaigns. But, lest we forget, this is Mourinho’s old team and they won the competition in 2004.
Porto have started their season strong with four victories, including this weekend’s 1-0 win over now second-placed Maritimo. Injury-wise, the club were missing GK Helton (knee), ST Adriano (thigh) and their captain, centerback Pedro Emanuel (ankle). Adriano is back in training and defender Jorge Fucile is expected to return after being held out, rested because of international action. Helton will definately miss the match, but right back Jose Bosingwa is questionable with a knee problem.
This is a Porto squad that sold some real talent over the summer (Pepe, Anderson, Hugo Almeida, and Ricardo Costa), but have in turn added even more numbers. CB Milan Stepanov, ST Farias, MF Leandro Lima, ST Edgar, MF Przemyslaw Kazmierczak (bless you), MF Mario Bolatti and ST Mariano Gonzalez (loan) were all brought in with hopes of securing the fifth league title in six years. And, still wearing the blue and white stripes are recognizable names like Ricardo Quaresma and Helder Postiga.
For LFC, Auriello and Kewell are still working their way back to you, babe (with a burning love inside), with the Brazilian now actually a viable option (but not a likely starter) at left back. John Arne Riise won’t be available after picking up a groin injury while off with Norway this past week. Momo Sissoko will not be available either (I have yet to read exactly why), with Mascherano likely stepping into his place after being rested this weekend. (Edit: Alonso pulled up during Monday’s training session and may not be fit for the game)
Rafa likes our chances in the group and even sounds confident on our chances of taking points back to England:
After an international break it’s always a problem because you can’t train properly with the players. Mentally the players are ready but physically they are not so I will be changing some players for this game.
If you analyse the Porto team they are a club that sells players every year but they still always have a lot of quality in their squad like Quaresma. They are a very good team and they have experience in Europe. They have pace in the team and it will be a difficult game but we have a lot of confidence in Europe. We are going to Portugal with the same idea we have for every game and that is to win the match.
I think at least 12 points will be enough for us to qualify for the next stage. If we can win our home games then one victory away could be enough and hopefully we can do that against Porto.
Per usual, the constant of change should prevail as Rafa will likely restore Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt and possibly Pennant to the starting line-up.
For my American readers who don’t have jobs that would prevent them from sneaking off to watch a match (or a job at all), the game is LIVE on ESPN2. You can also catch the replay of the US Women’s game on ESPN Classic directly after the Liverpool-Porto match.
5 Questions TBA:
- Can Liverpool take advantage of Porto’s back-up goalkeeper?
- Will Quaresma be the difference-maker for his side?
- If Crouch doesn’t feature, how many more ‘Crouch is unhappy’ reports will we be subjected to this week?
- How fit is Auriello and how much action will he see?
- Is there any chance Tommy Smyth won’t be doing the commentary for ESPN?
In non-match related news, Rafa is about to add another youngster to the ranks. Highly-rated 17-year old Spanish defender Daniel Sanchez Ayala will make the move over from Sevilla. Apparently, he’s quite the talent and the Spaniards are not happy to lose him. But, they are due some compensation, so they’ve got that going for them… which is nice.
Rafa has also warned our league rivals off of Paco Ayesteran. There are unfounded reports that the Liverpool number two is being targeted by Chelsea and United, but the Gaffa is having none of it.
His contract is very clear. When you talk about this level (of football) you cannot move from one side to another with all the information you have. The contract is very clear about that. We don’t need to worry about these issues because the contract is clear. I don’t know the exact situation right now because the lawyers are working with it.
I wonder if Rafa constantly adds attorneys to the staff like he does youth players?