Football

Porto place hopes of stunning Liverpool on Moussa Marega

Moussa Marega's path to the top in football bears little resemblance to the career enjoyed by Thierry Henry, but the Porto striker does share something in common with the France legend.

"We are from the same town. We were both born in Les Ulis (in the Paris suburbs)," Marega told uefa.com.

"He was my first idol. He is also a striker, and I always dreamed of being a striker and scoring as many goals as him."

As a late arrival at the elite level, the 28-year-old Malian international centre-forward may never match Henry's statistics.

However, his goals have played a big part in his club's successes over the last 18 months, and he is set to again lead the Porto attack in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) Champions League quarter-final, second leg against Liverpool at the Estadio do Dragao.

Last week, Marega was a menace to the Liverpool defence at Anfield. But he could not prevent his side slumping to a 2-0 defeat, which meant their hopes of progressing to a first semi-final since they won the trophy in 2004 appear slim.

Marega, though, had an excuse.

"Marega spent practically the whole day throwing up," said his coach Sergio Conceicao.

Porto have won all four home games in the Champions League this season, but memories of Liverpool's last visit remain fresh - the English Premier League side romped to a 5-0 win in Portugal in the last-16, first leg a year ago.

Marega did not score then, but he was his side's top marksman with 22 league goals as they won the Portuguese title.

This season, he has 18 in all competitions, including six in eight Champions League matches, among them a precious goal in the 3-1 win at home to AS Roma in the last round.

Ahead of this week's matches, only Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski - each with eight - have scored more.

It is illustrious company to be keeping for a player who worked his way up to the French third division, where he was playing for Amiens.

In 2014, he joined Esperance de Tunis in Tunisia, but spent six months in the wilderness due to administrative problems before moving to Portugal.

An impressive spell at Maritimo persuaded Porto to sign Marega in 2016, and he has become a key player for Conceicao's side since a successful loan stint at Vitoria Guimaraes.

Marega should now team up with Yacine Brahimi and Francisco Soares in a front three against Liverpool's formidable defence.

"The whole team is playing well in the Champions League. But, if I had to pick out someone who makes the difference and gives strength and positive energy to the team, it would have to be Marega," said Porto's Brazilian left-back Alex Telles. - AFP

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