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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

Jurgen Klopp hails Liverpool's European progression ahead of Porto Champions League tie

'We have much more positive moments in these competitions than negative'

Jurgen Klopp says he is wary of the threat Porto carry, despite Liverpool knocking the Portuguese side out of Europe last season. Reuters
Jurgen Klopp says he is wary of the threat Porto carry, despite Liverpool knocking the Portuguese side out of Europe last season. Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed his side's development in European competition ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Porto.

Speaking at a pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday;'s first leg at Anfield, he said: "Our development has been incredible. The Europa League ride was brilliant until Basel [2016 final loss to Sevilla] and the Champions League was exactly the same until Kiev [2018 final loss to Real Madrid].

"We have much more positive moments in these competitions than negative. And that helps the team but that doesn't mean anything for the game tomorrow night, only that we are now a bit more experienced and we saw that in the second game against Bayern [in the last 16].

"Everyone was like, when we drew here in the 0-0 first leg that 'that's not enough'. We didn't even think it. It was clear we had a chance in Munich and we used that chance. Now we have to face Porto with exactly the same respect, nothing is different."

Liverpool's place in the last 16 was secured largely down to two goals from Sadio Mane in the last month's 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.

Mane's opener, in particular, will live long in the memory. The Senegalese attacker gave a demonstration of his pace, skill and calmness in front of goal as he controlled a raking long pass from Virgil van Dijk, rounded Manuel Neuer and then dinked the ball into an unguarded net.

As Mohamed Salah's goals dried up in an eight-game drought prior to Friday's 3-1 win at Southampton, Mane assumed the mantle as chief goal getter with 11 in his last 13 Liverpool appearances taking his tally for the season to 20.

Porto are already very aware of the threat Mane poses.

When the sides met in the last of the Champions League last season, he scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 first leg rout in northern Portugal that killed the tie as a contest even before it even returned to Anfield.

This time round, Liverpool will be keen to get the job done in the first leg on home soil.

Despite having already conquered Tuesday's opponents over two legs last season, Klopp is wary of the threat of Porto.

"They are a very experienced team, they are together with Benfica first in the table in Portugal," Klopp added. "Really strong side, more experienced than last season, so it's a different game to last year. We have to play it again and we want to play it again.

"We were very clinical that night [the 5-0 win]. But they can use the game last year as a motivational thing, we cannot do that.

"When we analysed them last season no-one thought it would be 5-0 but in that situation we were difficult to deal with. It can be a bit of a wild game as they are good at counter-pressing, creative in midfield and full-backs are good crossers."

Liverpool defender Van Dijk readily admits his side are favourites to reach the semi-finals.

"I think Liverpool as a club, if you look at the whole season and results at Anfield especially, we will go into tomorrow as favourites," the Dutchman said. "We have to enjoy it and perform.

"We know it will be tough. They don't want to experience what they experienced last year."

Van Dijk added on a potential Premier League - Liverpool are two points clear of second-placed Manchester City - and Champions League double: "We are still in both races so it's possible.

"It's game-by-game. Tomorrow we hopefully set a base to take with us to Porto. In the Premier League we know any slip can end our title dreams.

"We should play with freedom otherwise we can't show our qualities properly. But I don't think there's room for slip-ups in the Champions League either.

"Hopefully it can be great at the end of the season."

Updated: April 8, 2019 07:20 PM

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