Liverpool will be back on familiar ground when they step out at the Estadio do Dragao this evening.
But for Jurgen Klopp and his players, there will be a nagging feeling the latest return has come four months late.
Defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals last season scuppered the Reds’ hopes of making a third Champions League final in four years, instead watching from home as Chelsea ousted Manchester City in the final held at Porto’s home stadium.
The first leg in Spain was not only arguably Liverpool’s worst performance of the season – the 7-2 loss at Aston Villa remains a freak aberration – but also the last time they have lost a competitive match, a run of 17 unbeaten games.
That sequence was given its first real threat on Saturday when the Reds were involved in a rollercoaster 3-3 draw at promoted Brentford, a reminder of the standards they much reach if they are to seriously challenge favourites City and Chelsea both home and abroad.
The narrow 3-2 win over AC Milan in their opening Group B game a fortnight ago gave Liverpool a solid foundation in what it is likely to a difficult group, Porto earning a meritable goalless draw at Atletico Madrid.
Klopp rotated his centre-backs that evening with £36million summer signing Ibrahima Konate given a Reds debut alongside Joe Gomez, who was making his first start since November.
Virgil van Dijk’s chastening encounter up against Brentford livewire Ivan Toney underlined the talismanic defender is not yet quite at optimum level as he continues to search for match sharpness after his own lengthy absence.
The Dutchman, then, could be primed for another start on the bench with Sunday’s blockbusting Premier League visit of champions City on the horizon.
Change could also be in the offing in midfield, with Naby Keita – a scorer against Porto at Anfield in 2019 – back available and James Milner offering a more experienced option.
Undoubtedly, Porto have been good to Liverpool in the past. The Reds have never lost to the Portuguese side and netted nine goals in two visits under Klopp, on each occasion en route to the Champions League final.
However, Porto – who tonight become only the sixth team to play 200 games in the Champions League – eliminated Juventus in the round of 16 last season and, under Sergio Conceicao, are unbeaten in their last 35 league games but stand four points behind early leaders Benfica.
Klopp, then, is taking little from Liverpool’s most recent visits.
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“Porto always changed a little bit but it’s still the same manager and it’s not an advantage at all that we won the last two games there,” says the Reds boss. “Absolutely not.
“You only have to put yourself in the position of the opponent and the first thing you would want to do is make sure a similar thing doesn’t happen again.
“We don’t think about the last two games we played there. We think about this one. We have to prepare for that.
“They are a top side. No doubt about that. They qualify year in, year out for the Champions League and they are always first or second in the Portuguese League.
“That is a top team and that is what we are preparing for. Not the team we beat in the past.”
With this the sixth of seven games during a hectic 22-day period, Liverpool have had precious little time to properly prepare as they look for the victory that would see them take a sizeable step towards the knockout stages.
“Usually they play 4-4-2 but they can switch to 4-5-1 in moments,” says Klopp, speaking on Monday afternoon. “They have different options and we have to be ready for that but we don’t have a lot of time.
“Yesterday was recovery, today was second recovery and tomorrow we cannot really train there because all the people in Porto are still Portuguese so even if we train at Boavista the information will get out.
“We cannot do shape in the morning so we have to do everything today in a live version.”
The Estadio do Dragao won’t be full this evening, with coronavirus restrictions meaning stadiums in Portugal are operating at a third of capacity.
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Around 1,200 Liverpool fans will make the journey for what will be their first European away game since the 1-0 defeat to Atletico in the Champions League last 16 first leg back in February 2020.
But Conceicao is hopeful those home supporters who are allowed in can make a difference.
“The fans give extra strength and this is very important,” he says. “I have no doubt. But if the Dragon was full, even better.”
Liverpool’s most recent visit to Porto in April 2019 saw Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane join Van Dijk by netting in a 4-1 quarter-final triumph.
Firmino’s return to fitness – he featured for 22 minutes from the bench at Brentford having been absent for a month with a hamstring problem – means the attacking triumvirate could start a game together for only the second time this season.
Diogo Jota, though, will be keen to feature against his hometown club, who he played for during the 2016/17 season when on loan from Atletico. That he was involved in the pre-match media duties indicates there may well be a starting role for him.
Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders is another with links to Porto, having spent eight years as a coach there before his first spell at Anfield began in 2014.
And the Reds could come up against former midfielder Marko Grujic, who moved to Portugal permanently in the summer after a successful season on loan but has been benched of late.
Tonight’s referee is Sergi Karasev of Russia. He has never previously taken charge of a Liverpool game and in six matches officiating this term has shown 28 yellow cards, four reds and awarded three penalties.