Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Champions League
last-16 first-leg tie between Porto
at the Estadio do Dragao. This fixture may not quite boast the glamour of Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain taking place elsewhere this evening, but this is one of just two fixtures at this stage of the competition to feature two of the previous winners.
Both sides have a long way to go before they can consider lifting the famous trophy again, though, and this should provide us with one of the more entertaining ties of the round. Liverpool are considered the favourites, even if their results have been a little hit-and-miss in this year's competition, but Porto will certainly not go down without a fight and do not have a bad record at home to English opposition.
LIVERPOOL TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino
SUBS: Mignolet, Gomez, Moreno, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Ings, Matip
Starting with a look at the visiting team, manager Jurgen Klopp
has made three changes to the side that rather comfortably saw off Southampton 2-0 at the weekend. One of those is enforced, as central midfielder Emre Can is suspended and therefore replaced in the middle by skipper Jordan Henderson. Elsewhere, James Milner takes over from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dejan Lovren is preferred to Joel Matip at the back.
Klopp going with a Lovren-Van Dijk partnership at the heart of his defence this evening, then, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are given the nod at full-back. Alberto Moreno is a more attacking option, but is only among the subs tonight, as is versatile defender Joe Gomez following a couple of weeks out with a knee injury. No Nathaniel Clyne in the squad, though, with his wait for an injury return ongoing.
A slightly conservative approach taken by Klopp in the middle of the park, where Henderson, Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are tasked with keeping things ticking over. It is further up the field where this Liverpool side truly comes alive, of course, as Mohamed Salah
and Roberto Firmino
have been in superb form all campaign, while Sadio Mane
also has goals in him. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are among the midfield back-ups on the bench.
PORTO TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Jose Sa; Ricardo, Reyes, Marcano, Alex Telles; Herrera, Sergio; Otavio, Brahimi, Marega; Soares
SUBS: Casillas, Pereira, Osorio, Oliver, Corona, Waris, Paciencia
In terms of the visitors, Sergio Conceicao
appears to be going with a 4-2-3-1 formation that is spearheaded by Francisco Soares, who netted the first couple of Porto's four goals against Chaves at the weekend. Yacine Brahimi and Alex Telles will provide support down the left-hand side, boasting six and eight assists respectively in the Portuguese top flight so far this campaign.
Vincent Aboubakar misses out for the Portuguese giants, however - a major blow, considering that he has netted 20 goals in 28 matches this season. Aboubakar had been enjoying his most prolific campaign to date prior to picking up a knock, having contributed with five goals and a couple of assists on the European stage this term. In his absence, Moussa Marega will be confident of stepping up after scoring 16 of his side's 53 goals in 2017-18.
There is also no place in the squad this evening for Felipe, who like Can for the hosts misses out through a one-match suspension. Andre Andre and Danilo are one caution away from a ban, meanwhile, and the benched Alberto Moreno is walking a tightrope as far as Liverpool are concerned. You may also have spotted that Iker Casillas is only among Porto's subs these days, as the younger Jose Sa is instead preferred.
James Milner and Jordan Henderson have been given the nod in midfield this evening over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Emre Can, the latter of whom misses out through suspension. Oxlade-Chamberlain and the benched Adam Lallana would have provided a little extra drive, it is fair to say, but boss Jurgen Klopp is clearly fully aware that this is a two-legged match - he does not have to go chasing victory tonight.
Porto boast more Champions League experience in the knockout stages of the Champions League than Liverpool in recent times, having progresses through the groups two years running and made it as far as the quarter-finals a few years ago. In comparison, you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the Reds made it to this advanced stage, famously overcoming Real Madrid en route to the last eight.
The Dragons are now under the management of Sergio Conceicao
, who replaced Wolverhampton Wanderers-bound Nuno Espirito Santo at the beginning of the season. The big goal for Porto this team is wrestling the Primeira Liga crown back from Benfica following their rival's recent dominance, while also making an impact on the continent. After progressing from a rather mediocre-looking group, they will now be targeting a big victory over Liverpool in the last 16.
Porto finished behind Besiktas in Group G, earning 10 points to edge out RB Leipzig and Monaco. Defeats to Leipzig and Monaco in two of their first three games left the Dragons with some serious work to do, but they beat Monaco home and away and then took points off Leipzig and Besiktas in the reverse fixtures to secure that second spot. While Conceicao's men have experience in the last of 16, though, they have just one win in their last four games at this stage.
Most recently, Porto went down 3-0 to Juventus over two legs 12 months ago, losing by a couple of goals here in the first leg and then by another goal in the reverse fixture against the beaten finalists. Their record against English opposition on home soil is not bad at all, however, as the Blue and Whites have won eight and drawn six of their 17 previous meetings, including a 5-0 win over Leicester City in last year's competition.
Porto have won four and lost four of their last 10 European ties overall, meanwhile, which is pretty mixed to say the least. Not since 2009-10 have they progressed through to this stage in successive seasons, having crashed out at the group stage in three of their last six participations, and not since 2004 when going on to win the competition under Jose Mourinho have they defeated an English side across two legs.
That record in full against English sides in two-legged affairs stands out won three and lost seven. All-in-all the omens are pretty good for Liverpool, then, as while Porto are no strangers at this stage of the competition, they do not boast pedigree of making it much further beyond that famous run in 2004. The Dragons head into this match feeling confident, though, sitting as they do two points ahead of champions Benfica with a game in hand to play.
Porto have yet to lose a game in the Primeira Liga, in fact, and have dropped points in just four of their 21 outings. They did crash out of the Portuguese Cup at the hands of arch-rivals Benfica last month, although in normal time they have gone 24 matches without a defeat in all competitions. In terms of their home record, it is just one defeat in 18 this season in front of their vociferous supporters.
Liverpool may have lifted the European Cup on five previous occasions, but they do not exactly boast major pedigree in the competition over the past decade or so. Not since 2009 have they made it this far, when crushing Real Madrid to progress through a stage further, and their group-stage form was pretty mixed - albeit boasting an unbeaten record after six matches.
The Reds are one of four teams to have gone through the group phase without tasting defeat, along with Besiktas, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. A record of three wins and three draws saw them through, but that does not tell the complete story as their fate came down to the final matchday when welcoming Spartak Moscow to Anfield. In the end, a 7-0 thrashing left many wondering what all the fuss was about - it was plain sailing!
Liverpool started their campaign with a disappointing return of two points from six, before recovering with a 7-0 win away to Maribor and finding themselves on the brink of qualification when three goals to the good at Sevilla. In trademark Liverpool style, though, they would end up drawing 3-3 and required that final-game win at home to Spartak. The bottom line, of course, is that Klopp's men made it through and now have a favourable draw.
Klopp's charges have scored an incredible 29 goals in eight European ties this season when taking their playoff against Hoffenheim into equation, while conceding nine up the other end. Three clean sheets in their last four suggests that there had been signs of improvement pre-Christmas, before bringing in Virgil van Dijk for a club-record fee. Whether the Dutchman will help truly solidify the Reds at the back remains to be seen.
Nine years since Liverpool last competed at this stage of the Champions League, then, and they would beat Real Madrid comfortable to leave them with a round-of-16 record that reads four victories and one defeat. That solitary loss, it is worth pointing out, came against Benfica in 2006 - their only home defeat at home to Portuguese opposition in nine encounters.
On Portuguese soil it is a slightly different matter, however, having won two, drawn three and lost four of their previous trips here. The Reds won on their first couple of visits, but have since failed to win any of their last seven in this part of the world. Liverpool may have thrashed Maribor 7-0 in the group phase, though it should also be pointed out that they have won just three of their last 16 European away games.
As well as winning away at Maribor, Liverpool were held at Spartak and Sevilla - the latter after racing three goals ahead - so there is plenty of room for improvement on their travels. Domestically speaking, Liverpool look far more consistent these days as they have lost just one of their last 18 Premier League matches; that coming by a 1-0 scoreline at strugglers Swansea City in a shock result.
The positive run has lifted Liverpool up to third place in the table and just two points adrift of Manchester United directly above them. The Reds are out of both domestic cup competitions, having recently been beaten 3-2 by West Bromwich Albion in the early stages of the FA Cup, so they can now fully focus on this European tie. Klopp will take his side on a mid-season break immediately after this game, before facing West Ham United and Newcastle United at Anfield.
DID YOU KNOW? Porto scored more set-piece goals (8) than any other side in the group stage of the Champions League and, given Liverpool's shaky defensive record in this competition - nine conceded in eight games - that could prove a key asset this evening. Meanwhile, more goals were netted at the Estadio do Dragao (15) than any ground other than the Parc des Princes (18).
With kickoff now a little over five minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Sergio Conceicao: "I take this opportunity to congratulate Carlos Carvalhal for what he is doing in the Premier League, and also Nuno Espirito Santo for what he is doing in the second tier. They are prestige to Portuguese soccer. All the Portuguese coaches working in England are doing a great job but it's a different context and game - this is the Champions League. Often the key is the defensive consistency of the team. Not conceding goals, we are always closer to winning the game, no doubt."
Jurgen Klopp: "Usually last 16 doesn't sound too good in a lot of competitions but in the Champions League it's quite a message already. There are so many good football teams around who want to be in the competition still and we are in it so that's cool. Now we have to show we don't only want to be part of the competition, we are quite ambitious. That's how it is. You have to take it round by round. Probably the strongest team in Europe at the minute is Manchester City."
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Liverpool are unbeaten against Porto in four previous encounters, winning two and drawing two - both draws coming on Portuguese soil. The only previous meeting between the sides in knockout competition came in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup, which the Reds came out on top in on aggregate en route to lifting the trophy in a famous season for the club.
Liverpool have kept just five clean sheets in 19 away matches this season, so you would fancy Porto to bag a goal at the very least tonight. At the other end is where the Dragons may struggle, though, as the Reds are just about the most fluid side on the continent right now and when on song - as they have been numerous times in recent weeks - they are a joy to watch. Still, with a second leg to come, they may well be a little more cautious tonight.
KICKOFF! Liverpool, in that infamous high visibility orange strip, get us under way at the Estadio do Dragao. Terrible weather in Portugal, where the home side - leading the way in the Primeira Liga - will look to make a fast start.
Brahimi, such a threat down the left, shows strength and pace aplenty to get into the final third and win his side a corner. Telles, another great talent down that flank, sends in a dangerous cross that is headed straight back towards him.
Marega is picked out on the edge of the box and, after initially holding it up, feeds it into the path of one of his teammates to win another set-piece. Porto looking by far the more dangerous side in the early exchanges here.
Liverpool remaining pretty compact and quite content to take their time. Was always going to be interesting to see the approach Klopp deployed tonight, and it appears to be a more defensive one than we have become accustomed to.
This is one of just two last-16 ties to feature two former European champions, remember, along with Chelsea vs. Barcelona. The Reds now the side seeing more of the ball in the opposition half, but they are struggling to bring it into central positions.
CLOSE! The closest we have come to a goal so far as Moussa Marega keeps hold of the ball and then sees Otavio take over. Liverpool cannot get anywhere near the ball, and the midfielder's shot deflects off Lovren on to the roof of the net.
Even with record defensive purchase Van Dijk thrown in there, Liverpool still look so shaky at the back when teams get at them. Mane picks up the ball inside the box but cannot find Salah or Firmino, the latter of whom was free at the back post.
Andrew Robertson with Liverpool's first shot of the contest, which flies high over the crossbar. A fairly even game on the whole so far, but the home side have come the closest to opening the scoring at an atmospheric Estadio do Dragao.
The Reds - or oranges, as they are tonight - now starting to keep a hold of the ball a little more. Sixty-eight per cent of the ball seen by the visitors so far, in fact, without Salah or Firmino seeing too much of it in these opening 17 minutes.
Nearly a quarter of the first leg played and still not a great deal between the sides. Interesting to see how the Reds' style alters between the two legs, though in this away tie they are clearly happy to remain patient in their build-up.
Otavio and Robertson with a shot apiece so far; the former coming far closer with his deflected attempt. 'Reserved' is the best word to sum up this first leg so far, but that nearly changed as Salah was in behind but could not find a teammate.
Salah tends to pick out either the net or Firmino nine times out of 10 from that position, but on this occasion it was a Porto player who cut out the ball. Superb cross from Robertson, meanwhile, which Marcano got to in front of Firmino.
The match well and truly opening up now as, after those two Liverpool attacks, Porto break up the other end and win another corner. It goes deep to Herrera, who rather threw himself at the ball and could not make the desired contact.
GOAL! PORTO 0-1 LIVERPOOL (SADIO MANE)
Liverpool open the scoring at the Estadio do Dragao through their first effort on goal, and it is Mane - the most unheralded of Liverpool's front three - who scores it. A shocker from Jose Sa, with Mane's sweetly-struck shot creeping under his body.
GOAL! PORTO 0-2 LIVERPOOL (MOHAMED SALAH)
Liverpool have a quickfire second! Milner created it, firing in a decent shot that came back off the post and into the path of Salah. How about this for composure; the in-form forward took three touches and helped the ball over the line with his fourth - the ball touched the floor just once between Milner's shot and Salah's goal.
So after a tight opening quarter to the contest Liverpool all of a sudden in complete control of this tie. Harsh on Porto, but they will know full well that the Reds have a habit of switching off in games - they do so in their last away outing on the continent at Sevilla.
Two shots on target at both ends of the field combined and two goals - efficient as you like from Liverpool. Porto enjoying a spell on the ball but, almost inevitably, Liverpool already starting to find gaps to break into.
Klopp could not have asked for much more than this, as his side are two goals up - two away goals, at that - and are able to relax and sit back. You would fancy the Reds to add to their tally if Porto start overcomitting bodies forward.
Half time now around seven minutes away and Liverpool as close to cruising as you can imagine. The game was very tight early on and Porto looked the more likely to open the scoring, but thanks to Mane and Salah they are two to the good.
The visitors looking more likely to score a third of the evening than Porto at the moment. Passes galore at the moment, without really having to move through the gears. Porto being left incredibly frustrated at the moment.
Liverpool with 66% of the ball in this first half, though it is probably closer to 90% over the last five minutes or so. The heavy rain continues in Portugal and it has already had an impact on the game, with the wet surface catching out Jose Sa.
CHANCE! Big, big chance for Porto to drag themselves back into the tie. Brahimi with a nice first touch to set himself for the shot, but he sent it wide of the opposition goal. Under a bit of pressure but should have been testing Karius from there.
HALF TIME: PORTO 0-2 LIVERPOOL
The half-time whistle sounds at the Estadio do Dragao, where Liverpool hold a two-goal advantage. Following a tight opening quarter to the match the Reds were given a helping hand by the west surface, as Sadio Mane's opener was followed up by a second of the night from Mohamed Salah.
Porto looked the more likely to score in the opening quarter of the contest and came closest to doing so when attacking midfielder Otavio sent a deflected shot on to the roof of the net. The visitors appeared happy to sit back early on, with a more reserved three-man midfield than normal, but it was they who took control of the tie in the space of four first-half minutes.
First, Sadio Mane used the wet surface to his advantage by sending a shot from inside the box skidding under the body of Jose Sa - preferred to the more experienced Iker Casillas - before Mohamed Salah added a second. Salah's was more about composure on the ball, somehow controlling a James Milner shot that crashed back off the post and helping it over the line after some close control.
Liverpool were in their element for the remainder of the first half, racking up the passes and finding gaps to break into once their opponents took back control of the ball. Porto should have changed the complexion of the tie on the brink of half time, though, only for Yacine Brahimi to drag his shot wide after setting himself up nicely inside the box.
Liverpool well in control at this stage, then, but as we know from past experience it is not over just yet. Here is a reminder of both teams' benches at this midway stage...
PORTO SUBS: Casillas, Pereira, Osorio, Oliver, Corona, Waris, Paciencia
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Mignolet, Gomez, Moreno, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Ings, Matip
RESTART! We are back up and running in Portugal and there is news of a change to bring you. Jose Corona has come on for the second period, taking over from Otavio. The home side seeing more of the ball early on here.
Wijnaldum is put under pressure and in turn puts Lovren under pressure, with the centre-back skewing his attempted clearance in the direction of Salah. Fairly shaky start to the second half for the home team, who hold a two-goal lead.
Salah so nearly picks up a loose ball but Reyes just about go across and reached the ball first. Such a pivotal point in the two-legged tie; a third Liverpool goal ends it but one for Porto and it really is game on at Anfield.
Home boss Conceicao will be relatively happy with the opening seven minutes of this second half. Porto in desperate need of a goal, but know at the same time that they are at risk of shipping a third, fourth and fifth if they push bodies forward.
GOAL! PORTO 0-3 LIVERPOOL (SADIO MANE)
Liverpool at their counter-attacking best to surely seal progression to the quarter-finals. Firmino instigated the move with a superb backheel and, five seconds or so later, Salah slotted the Brazilian in on goal. The shot was saved but Mane was not going to miss the rebound.
Unfortunately for Porto, and indeed the neutral, this tie is as good as done. The Dragons in need of three goals at Anfield as things stand just to force extra time, and as things are going that deficit is only likely to grow further.
Porto trailing by three goals on home soil and unable to muster any sort of response. The home side with two good chances in the first half, the latter of which was squandered by Brahimi moments before the half-time whistle sounded.
An hour played of this first leg - around the point in the match that Klopp and Conceicao will be considering some changes. The hosts have already made one, bringing on Corona for Otavia, and Majeed Waris is now being readied to come on.
PORTO SUB! Majeed Waris is on for Yacine Brahimi for the final 28 minutes of the match. Porto need a goal to give their opponents just a little to think about, or else the Reds could field a mixed XI in three weeks' time.
A reminder that Porto have lost just one of 18 home games this season. This is as close to a fortress as you will find, but they have been rather comfortably taken apart tonight by a rampant Liverpool side, who will fancy bagging a fourth.
Porto enjoying arguably their best spell of the game over the past few minuted, but a weak shot on goal aside they do not really look worthy of pulling one back. Still, if they do find a way back then a second could so easily follow soon after.
A little over 20 minutes to go now and Liverpool need to decide whether to stick or twist. It is not quite tie over - a fourth will make certain of that - but there is no real need for them to go all out in search for it at this point.
GOAL! PORTO 0-4 LIVERPOOL (ROBERTO FIRMINO)
That will certainly settle it! Liverpool have a fourth of the evening through Roberto Firmino, who picked his spot 12 yards out after being picked out by a James Milner cut-back. The Reds just making it look so incredibly easy at the moment.
Soares with a shot that is blocked aside by Van Dijk, who has looked very solid following a shaky start. Klopp yet to make any changes, with just 17 minutes now left to play, but with more than a week off he will not be concerned about fatigue.
PORTO SUB! A final change of the evening for the outclassed home side, as Goncalo Paciencia comes on for Soares in attack. Looks as though Liverpool are ready to make their first change, too, with Matip stripping down.
LIVERPOOL SUB! Klopp opting to change things around slightly by bringing on Joel Matip for Jordan Henderson - a central defender for a central midfielder. Liverpool will therefore see out the match with three across the back.
Fair to say that Porto's supporters have accepted defeat at this point. Even at 3-0 you are never certain, especially when it comes to Liverpool, but that fourth has completely killed the tie off for good ahead of next month's return match.
Klopp possibly tempted to throw on a couple more players, with Gomez and Lallana in need of some game time. A nice break for the Reds after this one, with their next league outing not for another 10 days. Telles unhappy after a decision goes against him.
LIVERPOOL SUBS! Alexander-Arnold has done well on what could have been a tough night against Brahimi and Telles, and he now makes way for the returning Joe Gomez. Striker Danny Ings also on, with Roberto Firmino the man to make way.
Now into the final five minutes and both managers will be happy to hear the full-time whistle. All six changes made so the match will now be played to its conclusion, with a few minutes likely to be added on at the end. Great display from the Reds.
GOAL! PORTO 0-5 LIVERPOOL (SADIO MANE)
Three for Mane and five for Liverpool - they have truly run away with this last-16 tie. The Senegalese was allowed to run at the opposition and unleashed a bullet shot from 19 yards that flew into the bottom corner. Hat-trick complete in some style.
The worst part of all this for Porto is that they have to do this all over again in three weeks' time. Liverpool at their attacking best today, while also standing firm at the back - that will probably please Klopp more than the five goals netted!
Just the two minutes of added time to be played - the referee clearly happy to put Porto out of their misery. With 60 seconds left on the clock there is still time for another Liverpool goal. Not that they need it ahead of the second leg!
FULL TIME: PORTO 0-5 LIVERPOOL
And that is that. Liverpool, competing at this stage of the competition for the first time since 2009, are as good as in the hat for the quarter-finals after running riot in Portugal. Sadio Mane scored three times, while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also registered, giving Porto little to play for in three weeks' time.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events at the Estadio do Dragao. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while updates from the Liverpool camp can be found elsewhere on the site in due course. Thanks for joining!