What sort of Porto team will Roma face in a couple of days’ time in their most important tie of the season? Their formation is always the same, 4-3-3, which they have used in previous seasons, even after Nuno Espirito Santo took charge of the Portuguese side. But let’s look at how the rest will work.
The defence is built with Casillas in goal and two new signings in front of him: Alex Telles (ex-Inter) on the left, who has emerged as first choice ahead of Layun (the Mexican was one of their best players last season) and Felipe, a Brazilian centre back formerly of Corinthians. Completing the back four (the weakest part of the team) are Maxi Pereira and Marcano.
In midfield, Danilo plays in the centre with Herrera and Andre Andre alongside. In attack, Espirito Santo uses just one striker, Andre Silva, with two more versatile players (Corona and Ottavio) either side.
Compared to previous seasons, this Porto team has less possession and looks for quick transitions with longer balls, but this brings the risk of stretching the play and exposing the defence. The two central defenders are slow and the full backs push up too much, offering the opposition even more space. Their strong point is their midfield, which is complete and well-balanced.
Last year their most-used players were Brahimi and Aboubakar, but they are no longer in the coach’s plans (Porto are trying to sell them, the players are digging their heels in). In their places are Andre Silva and Corona, a very technically gifted Mexican who scored 8 goals last season. Then there’s Ottavio, an attacking midfielder on loan from Guimaraes who shone in pre-season with 5 goals.
The diamond is 20 year old Andre Silva, who has come up from Porto B and has scored 9 goals in 9 games at the start of this season, becoming a fan favourite and bringing himself to the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The central midfield is commanded by Herrera, a Mexican who starred last season and who has been targeted by Napoli for some time (an offer of €20m was rejected). The alternative is Ruben Neves, 19 years old, who last year became Porto’s youngest ever captain (against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League).
Lastly, the fans. The Dragao will be an impressive stage for the game, especially since in August many Portuguese who live in France, Switzerland and Germany return to Portugal. 20,000 tickets are yet to be sold, but 45,000 supporters are expected to attend – very close to a sell out. The stadium is one of Porto’s strengths, one of the most difficult places to go in Portugal – so much so that Porto have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, PSG and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
This article is a translation – the original was written by A. Morais for La Gazzetta dello Sport.