We are back to Champions League action, and that means that we are back at Anfield for the return leg against Porto. We ended up demolishing them 5-0 in Portugal, with Mane bagging a hat trick. It looks next to impossible for us to lose the tie now, but you can imagine that PSG said the same thing when they played Barcelona last year. Point is, it is not over until it is over. And until it is over, we must play like it is 0-0. Bogdan is back in training but will most likely miss out, as will Wijnaldum who is day to day.
Porto may already give up on the tie themselves, but if I were a betting man I would say that they will try to go down swinging. The expectations for them are extremely low, they have zero pressure. So I would expect them to start going all out. Recently they have tried a few different formations, but four at the back remains a constant.
For us I would say that it is a good opportunity for some fringe players to get some UCL experience in a low pressure scenario, but at the same time still a knock out round European match. I would go with Karius; Moreno, Klavan, VVD, Trent A-A; Milner, Henderson, Can; Mane, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Perhaps Clyne could get a few minutes based on how the match is unfolding in the second half. Maybe Lallana can give Mane a breather as well.
If Porto do indeed try to accomplish the impossible, they may do so by setting a high line and trying to trap us in our own half. So in attacking transition and in organised attack I think we look to possess and overload the right side of the field. Vertical movements between the lines in the half spaces from the Ox will manipulate the Porto defenders on that side to follow, not just because of his movement but because of our circulation on that side of the field. We can use Trent to give us width. With over constant possession and movement of our midfielders with Alex joining in, we can hopefully draw in the Porto back line and distract them. Then we play our man out wide once he is free (more often than not Trent, but Can, the Ox and others can roam around there as well) and simply play a diagonal ball towards the middle into space for Mane to run unto. We can do this on both ends of the field but it would be best to have Mane run behind the backline towards goal more often than not, so circulating on the right side may be better so that we can eventually play that switch for him.
Defensively, a similar strategy that we normally use will do. We should go with a medium block and at first look to force play to the opposing fullbacks. From that point on we allow play towards the middle, and we swarm from all angles with our midfield three and forward three. Obviously for all six players to press we would need them to play in the middle, but the half spaces are most ideal to win the ball back. Maybe a strong emphasis on our left side since Mane is on this side and is a great threat on the counter would be the way to go.
Overall I think Porto will try to put up a fight, but if they do not have at least a two goal lead before half, then it should be over. Score wise I am not sure what we will see, but I say that Liverpool will advance.