Juventus will travel to Portugal this week as they gear up to take on FC Porto in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.
The 2020/21 UEFA Champions League returned to action this week, with the first leg of the Round of 16 stages set to be played out across Europe. And Italian champions Juventus will be in action on Wednesday night when they face off against Portuguese giants FC Porto at Estadio do Dragao.
Juventus ended their group stage as leaders of Group G, finishing above La Liga giants Barcelona due to a superior head-to-head record. While Andrea Pirlo’s men have been in good nick since the turn of the year, they head into Wednesday’s game desperate to win, having failed to do so in their last two matches in all competitions, most recently losing 1-0 to Napoli in Serie A.
Porto, meanwhile, finished as comfortable runners-up in Group C behind Manchester City, losing just one of their six games in the first round. Sergio Conceicao’s men have not won any of their last four games across all competitions, with each of them ending in draws, the most recent one being a 2-2 stalemate against Boavista. They will be hoping to end that run against Juventus.
Ahead of what promises to be an exciting match-up at Estadio do Dragao this midweek, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
FC Porto manager Sergio Conceicao does not have a whole lot of injury issues to contend with ahead of Juventus’s visit, with the home team set to be just without the services of right-back Nanu. Apart from the 26-year-old, the Portuguese giants have a fully-fit squad to select from and will set up in a 4-4-2 formation on Wednesday.
Argentine international Agustin Marchesin ought to be the man in goal for Porto, where he could be in for a busy night against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo & co. He will need all the protection he can get from the centre-back partnership of Chancel Mbemba and veteran defender Pepe.
Wilson Manafa ought to continue at right-back while Zaidu Sanusi, who returned from injury last time out, should return at left-back. The duo is likely to tuck in and stay compact alongside the centre-backs to try and ensure there are little spaces for the Juventus attackers to exploit.
Mateus Uribe will be in charge of breaking up play in the middle of the park, with support coming from Sergio Oliveira, who will also look to push forward whenever an opportunity presents itself.
The chief creative threat for Porto will come from the wide areas with Jesus Corona and Otavio posing a serious threat with their pace and directness. The two wingers will look to create chances for the strike partnership of Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Marchesin; Manafa, Mbemba, Pepe, Sanusi; Corona, Oliveira, Uribe, Otavio; Marega, Taremi
Juventus have been hit with a fresh injury concern ahead of their trip to Porto as Juan Cuadrado could miss out after picking up a muscle issue in the game against Napoli. However, there is some good news on the team news front for manager Andrea Pirlo as Aaron Ramsey is fit again and travelling with the squad.
Both Leonardo Bonucci and Paulo Dybala have also made the trip, but neither will be available for selection due to fitness issues while Arthur Melo remains sidelined. The Bianconeri will also set up in a 4-4-2 formation, although it will take a 3-5-2 shape during the attacking phases, with the left-back pushing forward and the right-back tucking in centrally.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 16, 2021
Wojciech Szczesny is the undisputed starter in goal for Juventus where he will be shielded by the centre-back partnership of Matthijs de Ligt and captain Giorgio Chiellini. Danilo and Alex Sandro ought to be the two full-backs on the right and left sides respectively.
Federico Chiesa should start on the right flank from where he will provide the creative outlet while Weston McKennie gets the nod on the opposite wing. The USMNT international will veer in into central positions regularly, freeing up space for Sandro to rampage forward. Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot should be the two central midfielders.
Up ahead, with no Dybala, there is no looking past the partnership of Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo, although Dejan Kulusevski could be an option for Pirlo to consider.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, de Ligt, Chiellini, Sandro; Chiesa, Rabiot, Bentancur, McKennie; Morata, Ronaldo
- Porto and Juventus’ only previous encounter in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages came in the Round of 16 back in 2016/17. The Bianconeri won the tie 3-0 on aggregate.
- Juventus have reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the seventh consecutive season, their longest streak in the competition.
- Porto are the only team yet to concede a goal at home in this season’s UEFA Champions League. They have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last five Champions League clashes.
- Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado delivered more assists (5) than any other player in this season’s Champions League group stages. His absence on Wednesday will be a blow for the visitors.
- Juventus have won 11 of their last 13 games in the UEFA Champions League (L2). They are also one of only four teams to win all three of their away games in this season’s group stages alongside Atalanta, Barcelona and Chelsea.
Player to Watch
Most #UCL KO goals in the last 4 years:
Cristiano Ronaldo- 23
Mind the gap. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/q8Q30LqQpa
— Everything Cristiano (@EverythingCR7_) February 16, 2021
The Portuguese maverick turned 36 years old earlier this month, but despite his advancing age, he remains Juventus’s most important player. Ronaldo, so far this season, has already found the back of the net on 23 occasions in 26 matches in all competitions while setting up three more.
The veteran forward always seems to step his game up a notch when the knockout stages of the Champions League come around, having plundered 62 goals in 66 games in the knockout phase of the competition. And the Bianconeri will be hoping that will be the case again when Ronaldo returns to his homeland this week.
Porto 1-2 Juventus
Porto had a pretty solid run during the group stages of the Champions League, but have struggled to pick up victories in recent matches. Juventus, meanwhile, have shown signs of improvement under Andrea Pirlo following a slow start to the season, even though they did lose their most recent fixture against Napoli.
The visitors also have a couple of key players in Juan Cuadrado and Leonardo Bonucci missing with injuries. But, given Cristiano Ronaldo’s track record in the Champions League, he is bound to make a decisive impact on Wednesday night, which is why The Hard Tackle is predicting a narrow win for the Serie A champions.