Liverpool vs Porto preview: Virgil van Dijk plays down talk of 'dream' double
Winners play either Barcelona or Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals
Last Updated: 09/04/19 3:21pm
Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool's players are refusing to contemplate a Premier League-Champions League double, as they know one stumble could derail that dream.
It was impossible for the Netherlands international to disagree with the suggestion that Jurgen Klopp's side could win both competitions, but he stressed that lifting trophies could not be further from their minds at present.
Liverpool lead the Premier League by two points from Manchester City, who have a match in hand, and host Porto at Anfield on Tuesday (kick-off 8pm) in the first leg of a favourable Champions League quarter-final draw.
"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 Van Dijk, when asked about any potential double.
"We have to take it game by game. We know in the Premier League any points dropped or slip-up can end our title dreams.
"That's the same for them (City), so the only thing we can do is just keep going. 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.
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"I don't think there's any time for slip-ups in the Champions League either. Porto are at this stage as they deserve to be, they 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."
The way Liverpool's season has panned out, with just one defeat in 33 league matches and a number of late goals keeping their title challenge on track, has led to suggestions they are destined to finally end their long wait for a domestic title.
Victory at Southampton - secured with two goals in the last 10 minutes - coupled with Arsenal's defeat at Everton - ensured Klopp's side are already guaranteed a return to the Champions League.
Porto have failed to win any of their last 12 away knockout games in the Champions League - losing eight - since a 1-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna back in May 2004.
Indeed, the Portuguese side went on to win the trophy during that campaign under manager Jose Mourinho.
But Van Dijk rejected suggestions that should ease the pressure in Europe.
"We should play with freedom anyway, also in the Premier League, because otherwise we can't show our qualities properly," he added.
"But it's game by game. Tomorrow will be a big game because hopefully we set a base to take to Porto, we know how tough it can be over there."
Liverpool will be without suspended left-back Andy Robertson against Porto, who were beaten 5-0 at home when the two teams met in the last 16 last season
Midfielder James Milner is expected to deputise as although Alberto Moreno is Klopp's other option, the Spaniard has not featured since early January.
Adam Lallana is a doubt with a minor muscle injury which forced him to miss Friday's win at Southampton.
Porto have problems of their own, with injuries and suspensions leaving them with only 16 available outfield players.
Former Real Madrid defender Pepe is suspended, while captain Hector Herrera was booked against Roma meaning he too is banned for the first leg.
Left-back Alex Telles faces a fitness test after complaining about a bursitis in his right hip.
- Liverpool have never lost a European match against FC Porto in six previous encounters (W3 D3 L0).
- FC Porto were eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League last season at the Last 16 stage, losing 0-5 on aggregate, though the second leg at Anfield did end goalless.
- Liverpool have progressed from four of their last 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 to Chelsea.
- FC Porto have never faced an opponent more without winning in the Champions League than Liverpool (four games), also failing in four matches against Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus.
- Each 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. Indeed, each of the nine goals Porto have conceded in the competition this season have also come from inside the box.
- Porto striker Moussa Marega is looking to become just the fourth different player in Champions League history to score in seven successive matches in the competition, after Edinson Cavani, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.
- Liverpool forward Sadio 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.
Liverpool are doing the business collectively. Everyone is saying this is a cracking draw for them. At Anfield, they are creating a big noise at the moment and are getting results. I think this is another one of those nights and the Anfield crowd will spur them on.
Mohamed Salah got a much-needed goal on Friday, but he has not been playing that well. Any player in any position can be out of form and he started to rush things. He never went away Salah, he just had not been scoring. Roberto Firmino is returning to form too.
It will not be as easy as some people will think. I think a 2-0 result is a comfortable first-leg scoreline and will put them through in the end.
Charlie predicts: 2-0 (11/2 with Sky Bet)