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AFC Bournemouth
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 By Steven Kelly

Jurgen Klopp has Liverpool in strong position thanks to patient approach

Liverpool's second leg against Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday is as close to a foregone conclusion as football will ever get.

Up 5-0 from the first game with a home fixture to come; there might be some fans who even now don't trust Jurgen Klopp's men to finish the job but they'll be very few and far between.

The game has nostalgic resonance in that this was how Liverpool's magnificent European journey began back in 1964 when they beat Reykjavik in Iceland 5-0 for their first ever European Cup tie.

They also beat Haka of Finland 5-0 away in 2001, although that was a qualifier, and both ties were wrapped up at Anfield with another big scoreline.

Porto aren't Reykjavik or Haka, they're seasoned Champions League campaigners, but what they're being asked to do at Anfield is unprecedented and must surely be beyond them?

Liverpool were professional, patient and methodical in their last game. A 2-0 win against safety-first Newcastle doesn't look like much, but theirs was the kind of approach that's stymied the Reds too often for comfort.

Biding their time and waiting for opportunities to finally present themselves, coupled with diligent performances at the back, meant Newcastle were less of an obstacle than other spoilers have been previously.

Klopp wants the same professionalism against Porto. Even the pessimists think this tie is over. That's because they expect the Reds to finish the job and not give opponents any sign of weakness or complacency to bolster their confidence.

Some will snort in derision at the mere idea of Porto doing anything at Anfield. Some have short memories if they can't even think back to Liverpool's last defeat.

The worst team in the Premier League, West Bromwich Albion, scored four goals in one half at Anfield although one was eventually cancelled out by VAR.

In fact Liverpool's defensive woes all season have mostly come against teams who decided to throw caution to the wind because they had nothing to lose.

Jurgen Klopp during Liverpool's Premier League game against Swansea.
Some lineup changes by Jurgen Klopp can be expected for Liverpool's match against Porto.

Albion's three first-half goals at Anfield, Arsenal's three goals in five minutes at the Emirates, Sevilla's three goals in the second half -- all against Liverpool this season in precarious situations.

The Reds have such deadly attacking prowess within their own front three that it's almost inconceivable any team outside the European elite would consider taking them on in a no-holds-barred game of attack vs. attack.

The only other teams that have done so are ones that decided they'd nothing left to lose anyway. Porto fit that description, but certainly didn't look capable of such an assault from the first-leg evidence. They're still top of the Portuguese league with well over two goals per game, though.

Far-fetched certainly, but that is why Klopp will want consummate professionalism from his men from the first whistle.

He chose a very strong side for Newcastle and changes will be expected for the Champions League. Nothing too reckless, and some stars might be dropped to the bench just in case things go spectacularly wrong.

The way Klopp usually operates, he might not show caution at all and simply ask for more goals and another big win.

In the background lies a huge Premier League clash with Manchester United next weekend.

Although energy levels will be a factor, it's hard to believe that United's extra day's rest -- they face Crystal Palace on Monday -- will afford them so much advantage against their rivals from Merseyside.

Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum will be fresh for Porto and shouldn't alter Liverpool's style too much should Klopp want to rest some players.

He's persisted with Loris Karius in goal and been rewarded with improved performances. He's kept Liverpool in the lead at half-time in their past two games with quality saves that were more eye-catching than difficult, but no less important for that.

Do goalkeepers need to be rested anyway? It's more about keeping others in the loop and motivated, although judging by Simon Mignolet's performance against West Brom in the aforementioned cup defeat that boat seems to have sailed.

Superstitious supporters will never take any game for granted, but even they must be tempted to look forward to the rest of the season in anticipation.

Manchester City are casting a shadow over everybody, but that cannot completely dim the light emanating from Anfield these days.

Strongly placed for both a top four league finish and a Champions League quarterfinal, the current position would have been welcomed by everybody had they been asked last August.

Now they need to keep going and see what this team can achieve. There should be a lean towards pragmatism in upcoming weeks as things get tense, but Klopp might tear up the rulebook as he has for his entire coaching life. It won't be dull, that's for sure.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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