FC Porto are hoping to maintain pressure on league leaders Sporting CP when they take on Vitoria Guimaraes on Thursday.
As we head to the final stretch of the campaign, there could yet be a final twist in the Liga NOS title race as FC Porto hope to make a last push and pressurise league leaders Sporting Lisbon.
The Dragons are currently trailing their league rivals by a margin of six points with just seven games remaining until the end of the season. They are the most in-form team in the division, though, while Sporting have failed to win in two of their last three matches – making the title chase all the more enticing.
Porto could stand an excellent chance of pulling off a heist should they manage to keep up the pressure, which makes their upcoming Thursday night clash against Vitoria Guimaraes all the more important.
Although certainly not a title contender, Vitoria is considered as one of the top clubs in Portugal and are currently standing sixth in the league table. Their season was hampered by an awful run of form recently but a narrow win over Santa Clara on the weekend did help them get back on track.
Vitoria coach Bino will be hoping to capitalise on that momentum and secure a surprising result that could be hugely consequential in the context of the title race this season. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these ahead of their important match-up at Estadio do Dragao.
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Sergio Conceicao opted for an interesting 4-3-3 formation in the club’s recent win over Nacional and we are expecting him to maintain a similar shape despite the fact that Porto were not able to create too many opportunities.
In fact, the Dragao may even remain unchanged in the attacking unit, with Mehdi Taremi spearheading the frontline with additional support from the two wide attackers in Jesus Corona and Luis Diaz, although Conceicao does have firepower in Moussa Marega and Toni Martinez.
As for the midfield department, the combination between Marko Grujic, Matheus Uribe and Sergio Oliveira has offered some good dynamism in Porto’s pressing and offensive display. Conceicao, as a result, has very little reason to tinker with his setup that will play an essential role in helping his side gain more assurance in possession and dominate the game.
Defensively, Conceicao is likely to retain the backline that started against Nacional, with Chancel Mbemba set to get the nod ahead of Diego Leite at the heart of the four-man backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Marchesin; Manafa, Mbemba, Pepe, Sanusi; Uribe, Grujic, Oliveira; Corona, Taremi, Diaz
It is difficult to predict Vitoria Guimaraes’ starting lineup given that they had sacked their coach Henriques at the start of the month. Interim coach Bino, though, will have good reasons to retain most of the players that started in the recent win over Santa Clara as well as the 3-4-3 formation that should offer his side more balance in defence.
Andre Amaro, Jorge Fernandes and Abdul Mumin, therefore, are hoping to continue forming the three-man backline, with additional support from the wing-backs in Falaye Sacko and Gideon Mensah. They are all expected to operate closely alongside each other, in an attempt to minimise space in between the lines for Porto.
Speaking of which, Vitoria’s midfield unit should comprise of Pepelu and Andre Andre, who are well versed in their natural gameplay that should offer protection to the backline. However, it will be interesting to see whether or not they can use the 3-4-3 shape to their advantage by finding more passing options during possession.
In attack, Vitoria will certainly miss out on the services of the injured Ricardo Quaresma, but in Oscar Estupinan, they have a striker who has netted eight times this season. He will undoubtedly spearhead the line for the visitors, with wide attackers in Marcus Edwards and Rochinha acting as runners that could be useful on the counter.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Varela; Amaro, Fernandes, Mumin; Sacko, Pepelu, Andre, Mensah; Edwards, Estupinan, Rochinha
- FC Porto are the most in-form team in Liga NOS, having won all of their last seven league matches.
- Vitoria Guimaraes have the joint-worst defensive record in the top half of the Liga NOS table, conceding 35 goals in 27 matches – same as eighth-placed Moreirense.
- Having scored 56 goals in just 27 league matches, FC Porto boast the best attacking record in the Portuguese top-flight this season.
- Vitoria Guimaraes slumped to a narrow 3-2 defeat to FC Porto when these two sides last met against each – in the reverse fixture back in late December.
- A 2-1 win over Santa Clara on the weekend was Vitoria SC’s first win in the league since late February when they had beaten Boavista 2-1.
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A hero of Porto’s Champions League campaign that saw them reach the quarterfinal this season, Mehdi Taremi is going to play a key role in the club’s hopes of a late push for the tile. However, the striker was underwhelming in his most recent game against Nacional, struggling to cause too many problems for the opposition defence, although he did eventually score the winner.
The Iranian international, therefore, will be desperate to get back on track with a solid performance against Vitoria Guimaraes, who haven’t enjoyed the best of form recently. Taremi’s work ethic, in particular, is set to play a key role in this encounter, although the player himself is indeed in need of a redeeming display, especially with Moussa Marega also pushing for a start.
FC Porto 1-0 Vitoria Guimaraes
FC Porto defence has improved considerably since the turn of the year and it is hard to imagine them getting exposed by a Vitoria side that has struggled with form in recent months. Offensively, they may not have found a lot of freedom against Nacional and they could be given a similar treatment this time around, which is why we are predicting only a narrow victory for the Portuguese giants.