FC Porto will be hoping to strengthen their grip on the second spot in Liga NOS when they face off against relegation battling Rio Ave on Saturday night.

With any lingering hopes of a title win over following Sporting CP’s coronation as the new champions earlier in the week, FC Porto will now turn their focus towards securing qualification for the UEFA Champions League next season by finishing second. And the next hurdle in their bid to achieve that will come in the form of Rio Ave as both teams get set to square off at Estadio dos Arcos this weekend.

Following their 1-0 defeat to Santa Clara earlier this week, Rio Ave are currently on a ten-game winless run in Liga NOS, that has seen them drop to 15th in the table, just three points clear of Farense in 17th place and one above Boavista, who are in the relegation playoff spot in 16th. Manager Miguel Cardoso will be hoping that his team is able to pick up points in the remaining two games in order to survive the drop from the Primeira Liga.

FC Porto, meanwhile, are four points clear of SL Benfica in third, firmly holding onto the UEFA Champions League group stage qualifying spot. And with their rivals facing champions Sporting on Saturday, a win against Rio Ave should guarantee Sergio Conceicao’s side the runners-up finish. They haven’t lost a single league game since October last year, most recently thrashing Farense 5-1.

The reverse fixture, played in February earlier this year, ended in a 2-0 win for Porto, with goals coming from Luis Diaz and Evanilson. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Rio Ave

Rio Ave will be missing the services of three players when FC Porto come visiting as Andre Pereira, Nikola Jambor and Junio Rocha are all sidelined with injuries. Miguel Cardoso will line his team up in a 4-3-3 formation, although the hosts could be set with a defensive outlook where they sit deep and look to hit the visitors on the break.

Pawel Kieszek will be the man in goal for the Vilacondenses and he will need to be at his best against a free-scoring Porto outfit. The goalkeeper will be shielded by the four-man defensive line comprising of Ivo Pinto and former Real Madrid star Fabio Coentrao as the two full-backs while Anderllan Santos and Toni Borevkovic pair up at the heart of the backline.

Filipe Augusto is once again likely to get the nod as the defensive midfielder ahead of 37-year-old club captain Tarantini on Saturday. He will have support from Guga and Chico Geraldes, who will have the freedom to push forward during the attacking phases.

Finally, in the attacking third, leading goalscorer Carlos Mane ought to line up on the right flank while Rafael Camacho slots in on the left, with Gelson Dala set to spearhead the frontline for the home team.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kieszek; Pinto, Borevkovic, Santos, Coentrao; Guga, Augusto, Geraldes; Mane, Dala, Camacho

FC Porto

Sergio Conceicao will have to make do without three players for the trip to Estadio dos Arcos as Jesus Corona and Mouhamed Mbaye are out with injuries while Chancel Mbemba is suspended for accumulation of cards.

As usual, the Dragoes will set up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin. Veteran defender Pepe is a certainty to feature at the heart of the Porto defence but with Mbemba unavailable, he is likely to be partnered by Diogo Leite on Saturday. Wilson Manafa and Zaidu Sanusi are pretty much guaranteed to feature as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.

The second line of press for the visitors will consist of Mateus Uribe and Sergio Oliveira, with the former tasked with breaking up attacks while the latter will look to provide the forward thrust and creativity.

The major threat, though, is likely to come from the wide areas where Luis Diaz and Nicolas Otavio are likely to get the nod. The duo will be key in supplying the crosses for the two strikers, who ought to be Mehdi Taremi and Toni Martinez, while also providing a goal threat themselves.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Marchesin; Manafa, Leite, Pepe, Sanusi; Otavio, Uribe, Oliveira, Diaz; Taremi, Martinez

Key Stats

  • FC Porto have won 26 of their last 31 games against Rio Ave across all competitions.
  • Rio Ave are without a win in their last ten league games.
  • FC Porto haven’t lost any of their last 26 matches in Liga NOS.
  • Rio Ave have failed to find the back of the net in five of their last seven home games in Liga NOS.
  • With 67 goals to their name, FC Porto are the best-scoring team in Liga NOS this season whereas Rio Ave have managed just 23 goals in 32 games so far – the least in the competition.

Player to Watch

Mehdi Taremi

As has been the case for the majority of the season, FC Porto will once again look up to Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi to deliver the goods in front of goal. So far this term, the 28-year-old has been in impressive form, bagging 22 goals and 16 assists from 46 appearances across all competitions, and is the joint second-best goalscorer in Liga NOS with 15 strikes against his name.

Taremi was in deadly form in the win over Farense last time out as he was involved in four of the five goals that Porto scored, scoring and assisting two each. Sergio Conceicao will be hoping that his ace striker is able to carry on in the same vein of form and lead the team to another victory against his former employers, Rio Ave..


Rio Ave 0-2 FC Porto

Rio Ave have been quite poor of late, struggling to get positive results, that has dragged them into the relegation muddle. FC Porto, meanwhile, haven’t lost a league game in over six months and will be high on confidence after the 5-1 thrashing they meted out to Farense last time out. Anything but a away win will be a huge surprise this Saturday.

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