After rolling out our 2019 UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal predictions, we decided to take a deeper look at each match up by putting together a combined starting XI. In theory, the team with the most representatives (and at key spots) should have the advantage.
So, Liverpool vs. Porto.
While not a pundit on the planet is picking Porto, it’s not like the Portuguese club made the quarterfinals by accident. This is a good, balanced, deep squad. What they lack is top-end talent like Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk is the likely PFA Player of the Year. Alisson is one of the best five goalkeepers on the planet and if not for van Dijk, might be top contender for Player of the Year. Sadio Mane and (an in form) Mohamed Salah, along with Roberto Firmino, are still one top 3 most potent attacking trios in any league.
If there’s an area where Liverpool could get overrun its the midfield. But do Porto have the talent there to cause Liverpool real stress?
Liverpool – Porto Combined Starting XI
Porto has played a 4-4-2 in the Champions League where Liverpool has predominantly gone 4-3-3 (with an occasional switch to 4-2-3-1). For this exercise, we’ll stick with the 4-3-3.
Liverpool are red, Porto are blue.
For Porto, only Éder Militão at center-back and Yacine Brahimi in an attacking role cracked the combined XI, and that’s somewhat by default. A healthy Joe Gomez would likely have bumped Militão, but he gets the nod today. Alex Telles is an attacking left-back who deserved consideration, but Andy Robertson has been the best attacking left-back on the planet for most of 2018-19.
Liverpool’s midfield has been the club’s weak link. However, Fabinho has been world-class as a defensive center-mid. Gini Wijnaldum has enjoyed his overall best and steadiest season. He may not jump off the screen, but he’s a critical cog into Liverpool’s stingy goals-against tally. For Porto, Yacine Brahimi has been garnering Premier League interest for years. The 28 year-old might finally make his way to England this summer (possibly to Everton).
The front three belongs to Mane, Salah, and Firmino. When just clicking at 75%, they’re better than 90% of the attacking combinations in European soccer.
For manager, the advantage goes to Liverpool as well. While Jurgen Klopp has made some questionable decisions this campaign (particularly recently with the juggling of his midfield), Liverpool are still atop the Premier League table, in the Champions League quarterfinals, and likely advancing to the semis.