The UEFA Champions League is back with some absolutely mouth watering ties as we enter the quarter-final stage of the competition.
The biggest opportunity for an upset comes in this fixture as the champions of Portugal FC Porto take on 2012 European champions Chelsea in the last eight of the competition, with the Premier League side heavy favourites to make it through to the next round.
Porto pulled off a huge upset in the last 16 when they took on Juventus, defeating them 2-1 at the Dragao Stadium in the first leg before securing a stunning away goal in extra-time at the Allianz Stadium to eliminate Cristiano Ronaldo and co from the competition with a 4-4 aggregate win thanks to the away goals rule. Chelsea on the other hand were solid and pulled off an upset of their own in some ways, beating Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid both home and away without conceding a goal for a 3-0 aggregate win.
Both teams have had interesting campaigns domestically too, despite their successes in Europe.
Porto currently sit in second place in the Primeira Liga, seven points behind league leaders Sporting CP having played a game more than their rivals. Chelsea on the other hand find themselves outside of the top four following a humiliating 5-2 defeat to West Brom at the weekend, the first time they’ve tasted defeat under Tuchel since he joined in January.
The result at Stamford Bridge seemed to undo a lot of Tuchel’s good work at the club since his arrival. The team had conceded only twice before then and only once by an opposition player with Takumi Minamino standing alone in that regard.
Despite taking the lead, when Chelsea went down to 10 men Tuchel seemed to show a stubbornness defensively by refusing to change his system away from five at the back throughout the entire game. It’s also worth noting that Chelsea have hardly been peppering their opposition with goals either, with the Blues failing to score more than two in any game under the German coach.
Porto will take great encouragement from that, with their tremendous defensive record this season the cornerstone to their success. They were able to hold Juventus off for much of the first leg before a fine wonder goal from Federico Chiesa, while in the second leg most of the Serie A side’s chances came from crosses into the box with Alvaro Morata scuffing them.
Olivier Giroud could be the most useful option in the sense, but Tuchel seems to favour using his German counterparts in Kai Havertz and Timo Werner in the most attacking role on the pitch.
Being possession heavy as they are, Porto will be happy to sit back and invite the pressure from Chelsea and look to hit them on the counter attack with influential playmaker Sergio Oliveira likely to have a big say if they are to be successful.
For Chelsea, Mason Mount continues to be their best and most influential player this season and his performances tend to have a big say on the Blues’ performances. He was rested for the West Brom game at the weekend and only came on at half-time, with the side already 2-1 down and playing with only ten men.
His energy, drive and use of the ball are his best attributes and if he can become more polished in the final third then he could really elevate his game to become a top attacking midfielder. For now though, he is the man who is in charge of getting the ball from midfield to the most attacking players who can make things happen.
Porto will need to shut him down to stop Chelsea and with the likelihood of Tuchel continuing to play with a three-at-the-back system, they will need to be clinical once again with any chances they get.
Overall, Chelsea’s quality should shine through. Juventus had been horrendous all season and while they were still favourites it wasn’t the biggest surprise when they struggled. It would be a shock if Chelsea were unable to eventually break Porto down considering Juventus scored four over the two games and extra-time, while defensively they have been solid for the most part under Tuchel taking last weekend’s game off the table.
I think both games will end up being quite tight affairs with minimal chances, but the Blues’ added quality in the attacking third and fact they’re so dominant in possession should see them be successful.
FC Porto 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-1 FC Porto
(Chelsea to progress 3-1 on aggregate)