Liverpool should bring Southampton game plan to Porto

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Southampton last weekend showed us the strategy they should implement in their Champions League tie versus F.C. Porto.

Liverpool bounced back from their 2-2 draw against Tottenham with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium. Roberto Firmino got things started with a one-time finish after Mohamed Salah pounced on a misplay for a defender and found the Brazilian before Firmino played provider for Salah with a delightful backheel in the box that Mo coolly slotted away.

The Reds understood some 1st half pressure from the Saints after Firmino’s fifth minute goal, but keeper Loris Karius stood tall when called upon. Things settled down after Salah’s goal doubled the lead and seemingly took the air out of Southampton, who failed to muster a strong chance in the second half.

The three points for Liverpool moved them to third place and are now two points off of Manchester United for second place. With Man United struggling to convince at times of their quality and Manchester City running away with the title, Liverpool should be aiming for that second place spot while balancing European obligations.

Speaking of their continental tournament, Liverpool begins their Champions League knockout tie against F.C. Porto on Feb. 14. The current leaders in the Primeira Liga of Portugal are a strong team that presents a difficult challenge for Jurgen Klopp’s men, but their weekend tie with Southampton gave us a preview of they could play in Porto this week.

Liverpool is at their best playing on the counter and using their speed on the flanks to capitalize on opponents driving men forward that open up spaces in the back. This strategy has success against the bigger clubs domestically and in European competitions, but the Reds brought their counter pressing style to St. Mary’s, especially in the first half.

Liverpool surrendered possession to Southampton in the first half, having their front three pressing the backline and midfield of the Saints. They lost the possession battle for the game 52 percent to 48 percent, but that number swings heavily in favor of Southampton for the first 45 minutes.

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Liverpool doesn’t mind conceding possession, as long as their press forces opponents to make rushed decisions and mistakes in bad parts of the field, which plays right into the Reds hands on the break, much like the miscue that led to Firmino’s opener.

The second goal from Mo Salah came from nice build up from Liverpool, but they created a number of chances off the counter attack in the second half that they failed to finish. They controlled much more of the ball when they went up 2-0, and went relatively unchallenged after that.

This game-plan of patience and pressing in the first half while surrendering possession against Porto on Feb. 14. They are on the road again, but will be playing a much stronger side this time around. Liverpool has a major weakness handling crosses on the back post when their fullbacks get isolated, so expect Porto to attack this aspect of Pool’s defense.

Breaking down Porto won’t be easy either with the Portuguese leaders giving up only 10 goals in 21 league matches. Liverpool is a major step up from their league competition, and they have to smart when throwing numbers forward leaving them susceptible on the counter.

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This matchup boasts two historic clubs and plenty of intrigue given how potent each is in their attack. Expect Liverpool to surrender possession at times and wait for their chance to counter attack, something we saw throughout their 2-0 win over Southampton.