AS Roma will be aiming to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, when they take on Portuguese giants Porto on Wednesday.

A spot in the Last Eight of the UEFA Champions League will be at stake when Serie A side AS Roma face off against FC Porto at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night, in the second leg of their Round of 16 contest.

Roma come into the game with an advantage from the first leg, having beaten the Portuguese outfit 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico last month, courtesy of a quickfire double from teenage sensation Nicolo Zaniolo in the second period.

Since the victory in the first leg, the Giallorossi have won two of their three subsequent fixtures and lost one, with their latest fixture ending in a disappointing 3-0 defeat to local rivals Lazio in the Derby della Capitale this past weekend. And manager Eusebio Di Francesco will be hoping that his team bounce back strongly from the loss and seal safe passage to the next round.

Porto, despite the first leg deficit, will not be completely distraught, having managed to get an away goal, courtesy of an Adrian Lopez strike in the 79th minute. Following the defeat to the Serie A outfit, Sergio Conceicao’s side have been involved in four matches across all competitions, winning three and losing one.

Last time they were in action, Porto were handed a 1-2 defeat by arch-rivals Benfica in the Portuguese top-flight. They will be aiming to produce a strong reaction and force their way through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014-15.

Team News & Tactics

Porto

Striker Vincent Aboubakar is the only notable injury-enforced absentee for Sergio Conceicao’s side heading into Wednesday’s game. Jesus Manuel Corona, who was suspended for the first leg in Rome, is back in contention for selection. Porto are expected to take the field in a 4-4-2 setup, like they did in the previous meeting.

Former Spanish international and Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas will continue in goal for Porto and will be shielded by a back four comprising of Eder Militao and Alex Telles as the full-backs, with Felipe and Pepe lining up at the heart of the defence. The full-backs will be in for a stern test, given the quality of attackers that Roma possess.

Danilo Pereira, who was benched for the Benfica game, will return to the starting XI in the middle of the park and will be paired up with Hector Herrera. Both the midfielders will be key in disrupting Roma’s rhythm and setting their team away on attacks.

Otavio, who has 5 goals and 8 assists this term, should get the nod ahead of Corona on the right flank, while Yacine Brahimi is a guaranteed starter out on the left. The duo will be Porto’s primary attacking outlets and will be tasked with creating opportunities for the strike partnership of Moussa Marega and Tiquinho Soares, both of whom have 16 goals each this term.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Casillas; Militao, Felipe, Pepe, Telles; Otavio, Pereira, Herrera, Brahimi; Marega, Soares;

AS Roma

The last season’s semifinalists have no major injury concerns heading into their trip to Portugal either. Kostas Manolas was not risked in the derby against Lazio, but could be in line to feature at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night. Cengiz Under has not been named in the squad, however, as he is being eased back into action after his recent injury.

Summer signing Robin Olsen is likely to start between the sticks ahead of Antonio Mirante who has featured in the last two European encounters for the visitors. Alessandro Florenzi is expected to start at right-back once again, ahead of Rick Karsdorp, while Aleksandar Kolarov, who was sent off against Lazio, will continue at left-back against the Portuguese giants.

Manolas is expected to return to the starting lineup at the centre of the backline, replacing Juan Jesus. Federico Fazio will partner the Greek international and look to stand tall against the physical threat offered by Marega and Tiquinho.

No changes are expected in the middle of the park, however, with seasoned campaigner and club captain Daniele De Rossi acting as the defensive shield. The 35-year-old will be supported by Bryan Cristante, while Lorenzo Pellegrini will take up the third midfield slot and look to provide the forward thrust.

Edin Dzeko is the undisputed choice to lead the line for the Giallorossi, while the goalscorer from the first leg, Nicolo Zaniolo is a guaranteed starter out on the right flank. On the left-side of the attacking trident, Stephan El Shaarawy is likely to get the nod ahead of Justin Kluivert and Diego Perotti.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Olsen; Florenzi, Fazio, Manolas, Kolarov; Cristante, De Rossi, Pellegrini; Zaniolo, Dzeko, El Shaarawy;

Key Stats

  • Porto will be looking to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014-15, while AS Roma are attempting to make it to the quarterfinals for a second consecutive season for the first time since 2007-08.
  • Roma have lost each of their last seven Champions League knockout stage matches away from home – the last time they won an away game in the knockout stages was against Real Madrid in the round of 16 way back in March 2008.
  • Porto have failed to win all of their last six Champions League knockout fixtures (D1 L5), failing to score in four of their last five matches.
  • Edin Dzeko has been involved in 14 goals in his last 11 Champions League appearances for Roma (10 goals, 4 assists). He has failed to either score or assist in only one of the 11 games during this run.
  • Porto knocked out Roma in their two previous two-legged encounters  – 1981- 82 Cup Winners Cup second round and 2016-17 Champions League play-offs.

Player to Watch

Nicolo Zaniolo

Zaniolo starred for Roma against Porto last time out (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Zaniolo starred for Roma against Porto last time out (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Italian sensation went on to become the second youngest player (19y 225d) after Kylian Mbappe to score a brace in the knockout stages of the Champions League, when he grabbed a double in the first leg against Porto. Having arrived in the last summer, Zaniolo has had quite the debut campaign with the Giallorossi, during which he has netted five times and set up three more.

The 19-year-old’s exploits with the Serie A side have seen him garner interest from some of the elite clubs across Europe, including Chelsea and Real Madrid. Following his performance in the first leg, all eyes will be on Zaniolo again on Wednesday, and he will be hoping to produce another match-winning performance in Portugal and fire his team to the next round.

Prediction

FC Porto 1-1 AS Roma

Both the teams come into the crucial encounter on the back of defeats to their arch-rivals, with Porto getting beaten by Benfica, while Roma were handed a defeat by Lazio.

Roma’s away form has been a bit dodgy this season, with Eusebio Di Francesco’s side winning just 4 of their last 13 matches on the road (D4 L5) across all competitions. Porto, on the other hand, have been near unbeatable in their own backyard, with the weekend loss to Benfica ending their 17-match unbeaten streak at Estadio do Dragao (W16 D1).

The tie hangs in the balance, with Roma having the slightest of the advantage and makes up for an intriguing affair. A 2-1 result would force the game into extra-time, but we at The Hard Tackle expect the Serie A outfit to hold the home team to a 1-1 draw and seal safe passage through to the next round.

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