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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says “the future could be ours” as they prepare for Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto at Anfield.
They beat Porto 5-0 on aggregate in the last 16 last season, before losing the final to Real Madrid.
The Reds are top of the Premier League with five games remaining.
“We feel in a good moment. We feel that each of our players is fantastic. We are on fire,” said Klopp.
“In training you can see we are really in a good moment, but other teams are as well. We all play for a lot.
“The future could be ours – maybe not ours alone, but we could have a hand.”
Since he took over in October 2015, Liverpool have reached the Europa League and Champions League finals. They have not won the league title in 29 years.
Klopp said Liverpool hoped to write a “few things in our record books” this season.
“Our development is incredible, especially in this tournament,” said Klopp.
“We used every little step we made in the last years to improve. The boys grew with the challenges they were facing.
“The Europa League ride was brilliant until Basel, and the Champions League was exactly the same until Kiev. We have much more positive moments in these competitions than negative, and of course that helps the team.
“It doesn’t mean anything for Tuesday night, other than that we are more experienced.
“It’s such a good time. We have to use the situation. We have not finished the season; we have not finished our development.”
‘We didn’t want Porto’
Liverpool drew 0-0 with Porto on their most recent meeting, after the Reds had won last season’s Champions League last-16 first leg 5-0 at the Estadio do Dragao.
Defending Portuguese champions Porto are second to Benfica only on goal difference with six games left this season.
Despite Liverpool being regarded as favourites to reach the semi-finals, Klopp said: “People around said so many things. Everybody wanted Porto until you have Porto. We didn’t want Porto, to be honest.
“They only look at numbers, names and stuff like that. People with a proper idea about football didn’t want to have Porto, that’s the truth. But nobody wanted Liverpool as well.
“We don’t want to give them the feeling it’s an easy place to come, and for most of the teams in the Champions League, it’s been a tough place.”
‘No time for slip-ups’
Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk is expected to be fit after suffering a minor knock in Friday’s 3-1 league win at Southampton.
Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum could also feature despite a minor back injury, but Adam Lallana is likely to miss out with a muscle issue.
Klopp said defender Joe Gomez, who has been sidelined since December, “won’t play unless he has to”.
Liverpool will also be without left-back Andy Robertson through suspension. James Milner is expected to replace him, but Alberto Moreno could make his first appearance since early January.
Van Dijk said it is too early to be talking about a potential Double-winning season for Liverpool, who entertain Chelsea in the league on Sunday.
“We are still in the race, so it’s possible. But I think it’s still a bit too far to think about it,” said the Dutchman.
“The only thing we can do is focus ahead of us, first Porto and after that Chelsea. It’s the only way we should think.
“I don’t think there’s any time for slip-ups in the Champions League either.
“Porto are going to be coming for revenge as well. We just need to keep doing what we have been doing all season: playing well, defending well and enjoying every bit of it as well.”
- Liverpool have never lost a European match against Porto in six previous encounters (W3 D3 L0).
- Porto have never faced an opponent in the Champions League more often than Liverpool without winning (four games), also failing to win in four matches against Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus.
- Mane has scored 69% of his Champions League goals in the knockout stages of the competition (9/13); of players with at least 10 goals, only Ivica Olic (7/10 – 70%) has a higher such percentage in Champions League history.
- Should he appear, Mane will make his 20th Champions League appearance, scoring 13 goals in 19 games. Only five players have scored more than 13 goals in their first 20 matches in the competition’s history: Alessandro del Piero (14), Ruud van Nistelrooy (16), Andriy Shevchenko (14), Jari Litmanen (14) and Roberto Soldado (16).
- Milner has recorded 10 Champions League assists since the beginning of last season, more than any other player. Since 2003-04, only three other Englishman have registered double figures for assists for a single side in the competition: Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) and Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).
- All of Liverpool’s 12 goals in the Champions League this season have come from inside the box, the only side left in the competition yet to net a goal from outside the penalty area. The nine goals Porto have conceded in the competition have also come from inside the box.
- Liverpool have progressed from four of their past five quarter-final appearances in the Champions League between 2004-05 and 2017-18 – only in 2008-09 did they fall out at this stage after a 5-7 aggregate defeat by Chelsea.
- Porto striker Moussa Marega could bceome the fourth player in Champions League history to score in seven successive matches in the competition, after Edinson Cavani, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.
- Porto have failed to win any of their past 12 away knockout games in the Champions League (D4 L8) since a 1-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna in 2004. Porto won the competition that season under manager Jose Mourinho.
‘12% chance of winning the Champions League’
Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis, Gracenote
Liverpool have risen into the Euro Club Index top five this season and should be too strong for FC Porto, who are ranked 14th, very close to Arsenal.
Liverpool have a 70% chance of making it to the semi-finals, according to the ECI, and their chance of winning the Champions League has risen to 12%.