Steven Gerrard, Miroslav Klose, Lionel Messi – FC Porto striker Lisandro is keeping illustrious company this season. The 26-year-old Argentinian international's six UEFA Champions League goals put him second only to the Liverpool FC and FC Bayern München stars in the competition's scoring chart and level with his compatriot Messi ahead of next week's quarter-final first leg against Manchester United FC.
A star in his own right in Portugal, Lisandro is now rubbing shoulders with the players he admires most on the European stage. "The team I like to watch play most is Barcelona," he said. "They play a very beautiful game – and it's effective, which is even more important. That has impressed me, and I believe Messi is the player who makes the difference." The same can be said of Lisandro who scored both Porto goals to eliminate Club Atlético de Madrid in the first knockout round. The message is clear for United – give him space at your peril.
The former Racing Club star, now in his fourth season with the Portuguese league leaders, may have some way to go to emulate the impact Messi has made on the competition, but his success comes as no surprise to Porto supporters who cannot get enough of his boundless energy and tireless work-rate. Whether playing a cup match against a Portuguese third division side or Europe's best in the UEFA Champions League, Lisandro chases down every ball as if his life depended on it and will never give up on a lost cause.
Lisandro epitomises the never-say-die attitude of this Porto side. Like in 2004 when Costinha's added-time goal earned Porto an aggregate triumph at Old Trafford in the first knockout round, Jesualdo Ferreira's team push until the final whistle. After collecting three points from their first three matches in Group G, Porto looked to be on their way out of the competition as they trailed FC Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 4. Late goals that night, including Lucho's winner deep into added time, turned that game and Porto's campaign on its head.
Having now gone five games unbeaten in the competition and built up a head of steam, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be on his guard as Porto visit Old Trafford on Tuesday. Even so Lisandro knows his side now face their biggest test by far. "Manchester United are, for me, one of the two best teams in this competition along with Barcelona," he said. "I know Manchester United are the favourites, but we're not at this stage for no reason. We were knocked out at the Round of 16 in the past two years, and for me personally it was important to go one step further in the competition. I'm happy we managed that. We have lots of confidence, also because we're doing very well in our league, so we're ready for this tie."
The last time Porto met United in the UEFA Champions League they went on to win the competition and according to Lisandro "the memory of that victory in 2004 is still very current in the club and city. People still talk about that success and have it in their minds." Comparisons with José Mourinho's side of 2004 are inevitable, with the burning question: Can they repeat the feat? "We know it's very difficult, because there are a lot of strong teams in the Champions League. It's a difficult task, but not impossible. We also have to consider we have a very young team that doesn't have a lot of experience in this competition. I think it's great what we have achieved so far, but for us this quarter-final will be like a final."
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