Connect with us

Champions League

Porto vs Leicester City: Match preview and predicted line-ups

Published

on

For all their domestic strife this season, defending Premier League champions Leicester City have looked right at home amongst Europe’s elite in their debut season of the UEFA Champions League. Claudio Ranieri’s men have all but secured qualification from Group G and are guaranteed to top the group, but will nonetheless look to end their first ever Champions League group stage campaign unbeaten as they travel to second-placed Porto on Wednesday.

Embed from Getty Images

 

The Portuguese side are in a strong position to reach the Round of 16 but aren’t home and dry yet. They lie two points ahead of FC Copenhagen in third place going into Match-Day Six against Leicester, but have an inferior head-to-head record against the Danes. A win for Porto would be enough to progress under any circumstances, but if the Portuguese do slip up against the Foxes, they must hope that Copenhagen do not win their game away at Club Brugge, a side that the Danish champions have already dispatched 4-0 at Parken this season.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Recent form

Leicester’s Champions League campaign has been something of an anomaly this season, and the only competition in which they’ve truly replicated last season’s title-winning form. They have four wins and one draw from their five Group G matches (W2 against Club Brugge, W1 and D1 against Copenhagen and W1 against Wednesday’s opponents Porto) having only conceded one goal, and are guaranteed to progress as group winners.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Their domestic form however has been less encouraging. The Foxes are winless in their last five in the league (D2, L3) and have only taken 13 points from their opening 14 league games, the worst start to a season made by a defending champion in Premier League history. They can take heart from their excellent form in Europe however, and with the Champions League already looking to be Ranieri and Leicester’s priority, they are likely to give a better account of themselves here as they look to carry some momentum into the Round of 16.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Porto’s Champions League form has been somewhat more rocky. They have already succumbed to defeat against tournament debutantes Leicester at the King Power, and have only picked up wins in Group G against minnows Club Brugge. Two draws against third-placed Copenhagen hasn’t helped their cause, but their one defeat so far leaves them two ahead of the Danes on eight points going into their game against the Foxes. All in all, not a bad run of form.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Domestically, they aren’t in bad shape but have found wins a little hard to come by of late. They currently sit third in the Primeira Liga Nos, and Saturday’s 1-0 victory over local rivals SC Braga was their first win in four, following draws against Vitoria Setúbal, title rivals Benfica, and Belenenses.

Predicted line-ups

Miguel Layún has proved his fitness since returning from injury having featured in Saturday’s win over Braga for the hosts, and he is expected to continue at left-back in place of Alex Telles. Rui Pedro, the 18-year-old who scored a debut winner against the same opponents is expected to start on the bench, whilst Felipe and André Silva are both expected to feature despite being a booking away from suspension. Porto need victory to guarantee qualification and are expected to go all out for it. 20-year-old Diogo Jota is expected to partner Silva in attack, with danger men Óliver Torres, Jesús Corona and Otávio in behind them.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Iker Casillas and Maxi Pereira will be the seasoned veterans and familiar faces in the Porto side, having graced top-level European and international football for many years.

With Leicester already through as group winners, it is likely that Claudio Ranieri will tinker with the side that will face the Portuguese on Wednesday. Robert Huth and Islam Slimani are both one booking away from suspension, and it is likely that they will be rested to avoid any risk of them missing the first-leg of the Round of 16. Luis Hernandez is therefore expected to step into central defence, with Danny Simpson keeping his place at right-back.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Despite serving a three-match Premier League ban, Danny Drinkwater is available for selection in Europe and should return to the Leicester team for the trip to the Estadio do Dragao. Nampalys Mendy is now fit, having been an unused substitute in the Foxes’ defeat by Sunderland on Saturday, and may be the defensive midfield player to partner Drinkwater in what would be his first appearance since August.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Kasper Schmeichel is nearing a return but this game should be a little too soon for the Dane, so Ron-Robert Zieler should continue in goal. Riyad Mahrez is expected to feature out wide with Ahmed Musa on the opposite flank, with Jamie Vardy and in-form Shinji Okazaki the preferred partnership up front.

                                          FC Porto predicted starting XI                Leicester City predicted starting XI

Injuries/suspensions

Porto boss Nuno Espirito Santo has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Leicester’s visit to Estadio do Dragao, with centre-midfielder Rúben Neves the only doubt.

Kasper Schmeichel is expected to sit this one out as he finalises his recovery from a broken hand, whereas defender Ben Chilwell is a confirmed absentee.

Our prediction

Hosts Porto must beat the Foxes to be certain of qualification for the knockout stages. Even a draw will not be enough, as they will risk being leapfrogged by Group G rivals FC Copenhagen, who have a superior head-to-head record and face a trip to bottom club, Club Brugge. The ‘Dragons’ are struggling for goals at the moment however, Rui Pedro’s stoppage-time winner against Braga over the weekend was only their third goal in six outings in all competitions, and their only win in their previous four domestic matches.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Leicester’s safe passage into the last 16 as group winners will mean little interest in the outcome of the match, and with their league form a priority after a disastrous start to their Premier League title defence, their focus for now must be turning around their domestic form to avoid being pulled into the relegation mire. Changes therefore are expected to be made by Ranieri which may transpire in favour of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Porto also hold a strong home record against English opposition, having lost just three in 16 at the Estadio do Dragao against Premier League clubs. Espirito Santo will hope that run can continue here for the hosts to guarantee a knockout berth. With all that in mind, Porto should just edge it. Our call is FC Porto 2- 1 Leicester City.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Alex Hannam.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Champions League

Ranking Liverpool’s possible Champions League semi-final opponents

The draw for the semi-final stage takes place on Friday 13th April.

Published

on

Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool shocked the footballing world with a 5-1 aggregate dismantling of Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, earning themselves their first semifinal appearance in a decade.

The draw to determine who they will play in the last four occurs on Friday, and here are Liverpool’s possible opponents ranked in terms of difficulty.

1. Roma

Fresh off a superb 3-0 second leg win over Barcelona, the Serie A side are certainly high on confidence and feel as if they can beat any team in the world.

Nonetheless, the Reds will be hoping they are rewarded with a matchup against the Italian side, as they are the most inexperienced team left in the competition.

The farthest Roma have ever made it in the UEFA Champions League were back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2006/07 and 2007/08; the semifinals mark uncharted territory for the Italians in the modern era.

Roma are also in poor league form, having recently lost to Fiorentina and drawing with Bologna, and currently sit 21 points off the pace in Serie A.

Liverpool would love to play the only remaining Italian side in the semifinals, as it would pit them against an inexperienced European club.

(Photo by Christof Stache/Getty Images)

2. Bayern Munich

One of the world’s best clubs and boasting a superstar collection of top players, the Bundesliga champions are a team to fear.

They have cantered to their sixth-straight league title this spring, winning the title in customary fashion with over a month still to play.

But although it has been all smooth sailing at home, they have shown signs of imperfection in the Champions League. They failed to muster a goal in their second-leg 0-0 draw with Sevilla, and were also thrashed 3-0 by Paris Saint Germain in the group stage.

Although the Bavarian giants are still a force to be reckoned with, they have shown signs of cracking this year; a fact that Liverpool can take heart from.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

3. Real Madrid

The back-to-back defending European champions would be the last club Liverpool want to face for a spot in the final.

Real Madrid possess the most dangerous player in Champions League history in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, gifting Los Blancos the ability to win a match out of nowhere.

Ronaldo’s uncanny scoring skills were on display in the quarterfinal battle against Juventus, where he scored three goals, including an outrageous overhead kick and a stoppage-time penalty to send Real through.

Madrid simply don’t get knocked out in Europe; the Reds should be praying they avoid the Spanish side in the semifinal draw.

Continue Reading

Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo provides spectacular reminder that he remains a dominant force in world football

The Portugal captain scored a sensational goal in Real Madrid’s midweek victory over Juventus.

Martyn Cooke

Published

on

Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo: Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to the spectacular.

The Portuguese superstar has been making headlines since he made his debut for Sporting Lisbon as a 17-year-old and he has since gone on to establish himself as one of, if not the, best player of his generation.

His record at both club and international level is remarkable, both in terms of scoring goals and winning titles, and there is little that the winger has not accomplished in a career that has spanned sixteen years and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

However, on Tuesday evening he produced a moment of magic that quite simply took the breath away.

Ronaldo had already put Real Madrid in control of their quarter-final tie in the Champions League against Juventus with an early close-range finish. It gave his side a vital away goal against Italy’s dominant club and also continued his own remarkable goalscoring record in the competition.

Then came one of the most spectacular goals in Champions League history.

Dani Carvajal clipped in a lofted cross into the Juventus eighteen-yard box and there seemed to be little danger as the ball floated towards the penalty spot.

Ronaldo dynamically leapt upwards, appearing to hang momentarily in the air, before producing a perfectly struck, acrobatic overhead kick. The ball flew beyond the astonished Gianluigi Buffon and into the far corner of the net.

(Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images)

Spectacular. Astonishing. Jaw-dropping. It feels that words and superlatives can do no justice to the moment of skill produced.

The normally loud and raucous Juventus Stadium was stunned into silence. Zinedine Zidane, no stranger to creating magic on a football pitch himself, simply put a hand to his head and turned towards the bench.

And then applause broke out from the Juventus supporters – a demonstration of respect for one of the best players in the world.

The goal may have been a joy to behold, the perfect combination of technique and athletic ability, but it was also a fierce reminder that Ronald remains one of the dominant forces in world football.

At 33 years of age some onlookers have suggested that the Portuguese superstar’s powers may be beginning to wain and that his best years are behind him.

This was simply further evidence that such speculation is unfounded.

Ronaldo’s statistics this season are remarkable.

He has scored 23 goals in his last 12 games for Real Madrid and 39 goals in 36 appearances this campaign.

He has scored 43 goals in total for club and country this season.

He has scored in every Champions League tie this campaign, 14 in total, and is the first player to score in all six group games and in 10 consecutive ties.

(Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Furthermore, he is Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (446) and the all-time leading goal scorer in Champions League history (119).

You would struggle to replicate those figures if you were playing on a computer game.

There is absolutely no sign the Ronaldo’s prowess is in decline and, if anything, he looks more prominent now than ever.

In addition to this, the common accusation that he fails to produce in the ‘big games’ has firmly been dispelled this season.

In the Champions League alone, he has scored against Tottenham Hotspur (both ties), Borussia Dortmund (both ties), Paris Saint Germain (both ties) and Juventus.

Ronaldo truly is a modern genius on the football pitch and his remarkable goal on Tuesday night was a reminder that the 33-year-old intends to remain at the pinnacle of the game for a long time to come.

Continue Reading

Champions League

Liverpool fans rave after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb defensive performance

The teenager marshalled Leroy Sane brilliantly throughout the match.

Published

on

Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool delivered the shock result of the Champions League season tonight, demolishing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mane sealed the deal for the Reds in the opening half hour, but perhaps the most impressive part of the match was the exceptional performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The young fullback had been targeted by City as a possible weak link, given his shaky starts in other big matches this year. Just weeks ago against Manchester United, the 19-year-old was torn to shreds by Marcus Rashford, looking out of place and overwhelmed.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

And Pep Guardiola set up to isolate the English youngster and attacked down his wing with purpose. Diagonal balls in the direction of Leroy Sane were a constant fixture of Manchester City’s play, but Alexander-Arnold stood firm, contributing to Liverpool’s vital clean sheet.

To keep a clean sheet in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is impressive on its own, but to do it against the champions-elect, the top-scorers in the Premier League, and without one of your first choice centre-backs, is sensational.

Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of the Reds’ valiant defensive performance, and observers on Twitter rightly applauded him for his efforts.

Fans also commented on Alexander-Arnold’s tender age, a factor that made his performance even the more impressive.

The ever-popular back pocket joke also circulated on the Twittersphere, many supporters couldn’t resist the classic banter when describing Alexander-Arnold’s domination of Sane.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, take a bow son.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2018 The Boot Room.