If you want a challenge, try to look for an online gambling site that does not list Real Madrid as the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League for the third year running. The Spanish giants will have their fair share of challengers this year, but Cristiano Ronaldo and company still remain heavy favorites.
Even though that is the case, there are still a fair number of strong opponents that could thwart Los Blancos’ chances of a three-peat. Most will look to sides like Barcelona and Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side need not be taken lightly on the European stage.
The Reds managed to top their CL group over the likes of Sevilla, Maribor and Spartak Moscow in order to punch their ticket to the tournament’s knockout stages. Heading into Monday’s knockout stages draw, Liverpool were facing the possibility of drawing powerful sides like Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus or Basel.
Once the dust settled, though, Liverpool had drawn Portuguese side Porto. While Porto are a strong side with past Champions League glory on their resume, this has to be seen as nothing short of a favorable result for Klopp and company.
Porto did win the tournament most recently in 2004 under Jose Mourinho, but they have not had much European success in more recent years. While Porto currently lead the Portuguese Primeira Liga on goal differential over Sporting, they lost their group by a whopping 10 points behind Besiktas.
Since the current CL format was adopted, group winners have advanced to the quarterfinals better than 72 percent of the time. The Reds will have the additional advantage of playing the second leg of the head-to-head clash at Anfield. Should they come up short in Portugal, Liverpool will have the chance to make up the ground on their home turf.
The first leg will take place in Portugal on either February 13 or 14 (if not the following week), with the ensuing leg going down at Anfield on March 6 or 7 (if not the following week).
Getting past Porto won’t be an easy task, but the Reds still had luck on their side during the draw considering the other potential opponents. Some of their Premier League rivals are faced with some massively tough tests in the round of 16. Chelsea will have to do battle with Barcelona, Tottenham will have to face last year’s runners-up, Juventus, and Manchester’s City and United will square off against Basel and Sevilla, respectively.
Liverpool boast arguably the most lethal attack in all of Europe, so they shouldn’t have much issue getting into the quarterfinals barring a massive disappointment.
While Klopp must be secretly pleased to have drawn Porto, the manager publicly praised the Portuguese side in an interview with LFC’s official website. Klopp said, “It’s just good that we now know it. Last Wednesday, when we knew we were still involved, we didn’t care who we would get. It was clear it would be a strong side. Porto are a strong side, first in the Portuguese league and always good.”
“This year again they’re a difficult side to play. They came through in a difficult group. They kept Leipzig—a really good side in Germany—behind them. It will be interesting. It’s good that we have the first game at Porto, then in March we meet them at Anfield. We are really looking forward to it.”