PORTO, Portugal, Feb 14 – Forward Roberto Firmino has vowed that Liverpool’s deadly strikeforce will make Porto suffer when they meet in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were rampant on the way to winning their group, scoring 23 goals with Firmino scoring six and Mohamed Salah five.
Although Philippe Coutinho, who weighed in with five goals in the group stage, has since moved to Barcelona, Salah in particular has stepped up his goalscoring, notching his 29th of the season in all competitions in the win over Southampton at the weekend.
And Firmino’s Champions League goal tally has moved him into rarefied territory inhabited by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
“We’re going to make Porto’s life difficult and make them suffer,” said Brazilian Firmino.
“If I play a good game then the goals will appear. I am trying to give my maximum for the team and trying to be alongside these great players in Europe.”
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao is hoping his stingy defence can thwart the Liverpool offensive — they have conceded just once in the last six league and cup games.
“The defensive consistency of the team is the key,” Conceicao added.
He said he took pleasure in a meeting of two “historical” clubs — Porto have won Europe’s top club competition twice and Liverpool have lifted the trophy five times, most recently in Istanbul in 2005 when Rafa Benitez was in charge.
“We will face a very strong team, with a budget of over 200 million euros, but two historical clubs are playing each other and the players give me the confidence to think we can get through this tie.”
His opposite number Klopp meanwhile scoffed at suggestions that his side were one of the underdogs of the 16 remaining clubs.
“I don’t think the 2005 side thought about winning the Champions League before the last 16,” he said.
“I’ll ask Rafa (Benitez) but that would surprise me because it makes no sense.
“If we are in the final then I’ll say we will try to win it but that is too far off.
“I don’t like talking about the round after the round you are playing, in fact I hate it.
“I only answer nicely now because I am friendly and we are in public but if someone asked me about the round after the round in private I would leave the room.”
Klopp confirmed that Loris Karius will start on Wednesday, confirming his newfound status as first choice, after a season of chopping and changing his goalkeeper, but he refused to be drawn on the future of Simon Mignolet.
“No-one knows about the future. It is not for me to think about these things, I have to make a decision for tomorrow night,” he said.