Estadio do Dragao, Porto
Tuesday 29th September, 2015, 19:45 BST
Chelsea, defending champions of the Premier League, are looking anything but their usual selves. Wasteful in front, missing in the middle, and nervy at the back – the Blues have huffed and puffed through the start of the season to climb to their highest position so far, a measly 14th.
14 also incidentally happens to be FC Porto’s domestic tally in the Portuguese league, where it sits comfortably atop the competition ahead of the likes of Sporting, Benfica and Braga. In all fairness, the Primeira Liga is nowhere near as competitive and prone to upheaval as the Premier League is, but Chelsea on current form would probably struggle in Portugal too. With a capacity crowd of over 50,000 expected, FC Porto can rely on a famously partisan home crowd to rouse the team past their English opponents.
Team news and tactics
. FC Porto
Despite finishing second last season in the Primeira Liga, FC Porto are a formidable team that believes lengthy spells of possession are the best way to defend a lead. The current Portuguese league leaders, formerly coached to the Champions League pinnacle by Mourinho himself, only conceded a miserly 13 goals all season long in the 2014-15 campaign.
That alone should give Mourinho, no pushover in the defensive dark arts department himself, sleepless nights. With Chelsea’s attack looking increasingly toothless, Julen Lopetegui will rely on a traditional 4-4-2 formation to attack the Blues along the flanks ad dominate possession in midfield, betting that Mourinho’s men will be content to sit back and soak up the pressure. FC Porto will likely miss the services of Yacine Brahimi, who has turned the heads of several big clubs – Chelsea included.
Also in Porto’s squad, and with a bone to pick against Mourinho, is Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas and current FC Porto custodian. Mourinho refused to answer any queries about the Spaniard, except to say he would great his former ward before and after the game. If Casillas keeps a clean sheet, and Chelsea’s forwards go scoreless, Mourinho can be forgiven a sour mood.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Casillas(GK); Maxi Pereira, Maicon, Marcano, Layun; Herrera, RA?ben Neves, Andr Andr , Danilo; Aboubakar, JesA?s Corona
Mourinho has a selection headache on his hands; but not the kind he would like. The master tactician is likely furrowing his brow at the thought of having to pick the final eleven least likely to embarrass him on the field. The Chelsea manager likely went in with his best 11 in the game against Newcastle United, only to have them garner a rating – in his own assessment – of a minus 1, on a scale of 10.
It was his substitutes, Ramires and Willian, that sparked the Blues to life, and Chelsea would do well to feature the both of them in starting roles. Chelsea’s right flank remains a perpetual concern, not only because of Pedro’s tendency to feature more centrally these days to assist the striker, but also because Ivanovic has plunged the depths of mediocrity and has dredged up relegation-worthy performances by the truckload.
Fabregas and the Serbian, if he features, will likely be tormented by Herrera and Ruben Neves. Of particular concern will be John Terry’s fitness and form. The former England captain will likely be instructed to sit back and absorb Porto’s forays, with the more experienced Cahill partnering him. Diego Costa’s ban does not extend to the Champions League
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Begovic(GK); Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Matic; Hazard, Willian, Pedro; Costa
Mourinho has never won a game when playing against FC Porto at Estadio do Dragao
Julen Lopetegui has not won a trophy managing a club; but won the U-19 and U-21 Euro titles for Spain
Chelsea have let in 14 goals this season in the Premier League; only Sunderland have let in more (16)
Players to Watch Out For
Iker Casillas (FC Porto)
Still smarting with his relegation from demi-god to mere mortal status by Mourinho, Casillas is prone to the occasional flub. But with his old nemesis leading his team into his new den, the former Spanish hero will be keen to humble the Chelsea front-line. With Casillas manning the posts, FC Porto have conceded only four goals in the Primeira Liga season thus far. He could have an exceptionally easy day at the office with Chelsea’s unpredictable front line being what it is. But looming at the back of his head, will be a desire to prove himself to the man who consigned him to history.
FC Porto 2-1 Chelsea
The Blues will go in hoping to grind FC Porto out in a cagy, frustrating game. But the Portuguese side have it in them to hit the weakened Chelsea back-line, for more than just a solitary goal. Jesus Corona will cut in from Chelsea’s right flank to take advantage of Ivanovic’s shaky stints at the back, and will likely get on the score-sheet again. Chelsea will walk away with a precious away goal, with the midfield pitching in against the run of play.