Chelsea will be looking to take a step closer towards the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League when they face off against FC Porto on Wednesday.
The first-leg quarter-final ties of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League continue on Wednesday with two exciting clashes set to come our way. While champions Bayern Munich lock horns with last season’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain, Premier League giants Chelsea will take on FC Porto in Sevilla.
Essentially the home tie for Porto, the game will be played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Spain owing to travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Porto finished second in Group C quite comfortably, losing just one game in six, before they pulled off a huge upset to knock Juventus out in the Round of 16 stages on the away-goal rule.
Sergio Conceicao’s side come into the game on the back of a three-match winning run, most recently beating Santa Clara 2-1 and will be hoping to build on that against Chelsea, who will be itching to bounce back to winning ways after their weekend debacle against West Bromwich Albion.
Indeed, the Blues lost their first game under Thomas Tuchel this past weekend, as they were hammered 5-2 by the Baggies. But their form in the Champions League this term has been impressive as they are unbeaten in the competition so far. Chelsea topped Group E before eliminating Atletico Madrid 3-0 on aggregate in the previous round.
The last time these two sides clashed was in December 2015 in the UEFA Champions League, with Chelsea beating Porto 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— FC Porto (@FCPorto) April 6, 2021
Sergio Conceicao has a few headaches with regards to his roster as key man Sergio Oliveira is suspended for accumulation of cards while Mehdi Taremi also misses out after being sent off against Juventus. In addition, Mouhamed Mbaye and Ivan Marcano are out with injuries for Porto.
The Dragoes usually set up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin and that should not change on Wednesday night. Wilson Manafa and the fit-again Zaidu Sanusi should be the two full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with the duo aiming to keep a check on the output of the Chelsea wing-backs.
At the heart of the Porto defence will be veteran centre-back Pepe, who will be supported by former Newcastle United centre-back Chancel Mbemba – a player that is said to be on the radars of Liverpool. Malang Sarr, who is on loan at Porto from Chelsea, is also an option but is unlikely to feature.
Mateus Uribe will slot in as the holding midfielder to provide further protection to the backline. He could be joined by Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic in the centre of the park as they look to stifle the threat posed by the likes of Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech.
Jesus Corona and Otavio will provide the attacking outlet from the wide areas and will act as the chief supply line of chances for the two strikers who should be Moussa Marega and Toni Martinez. The latter scored the winning goal in the last game against Santa Clara and should come in for the suspended Taremi.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Marchesin; Manafa, Pepe, Mbemba, Sanusi; Corona, Uribe, Grujic, Otavio; Marega, Martinez
Chelsea have been handed a double injury boost as N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic are fit and available for the game, although Thomas Tuchel insisted that the former can only be an option from the bench. Tammy Abraham is also set to return to the matchday squad after being left out for the West Brom game.
Thiago Silva had a torrid outing last time out against West Brom and is unlikely to feature on Wednesday. Kurt Zouma is also set to drop out, with Tuchel confirming in his pre-match presser that Antonio Rudiger will be starting despite his recent training ground bust-up with Kepa Arrizabalaga.
🗣️ "It was serious…"
Thomas Tuchel opens up on Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga's training ground incident after shock defeat to West Brom pic.twitter.com/dqJg8hu3TP
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 6, 2021
Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta will be the other two central defenders shielding Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal. Ben Chilwell was overlooked for Marcos Alonso in the last game but they could switch places against FC Porto with the England international getting the nod at left wing-back. Reece James should continue on the right.
Mateo Kovacic, who was one of the few positives for Chelsea against West Brom, is a certainty to feature in midfield. His driving runs from the centre will set the tone for the Blues’ attacking moves. Jorginho will be the Croatian international’s partner in the middle of the park.
Mason Mount, who did not start the last game, and Hakim Ziyech, who was subbed off in the first half, ought to be the two attacking midfielders for Chelsea. The duo will be key in creating the chances for the striker, where Kai Havertz could be preferred over Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Chilwell; Ziyech, Mount; Havertz
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their eight games in the UEFA Champions League this term, winning six of the last seven. They have also kept a clean sheet in six of the eight games in the competition so far.
- This will be the ninth meeting between the two teams. Of the previous eight encounters, all of which have taken place in the Champions League, Chelsea have won seven while Porto won just two (D1).
- Since winning the UEFA Champions League in 2003/04, FC Porto have won only one of their six games in the competition at the quarter-finals stage (D1 L4).
- Following victories in both legs over Atletico Madrid in the previous round, Thomas Tuchel could become just the second Chelsea manager to win his first three Champions League knockout matches in charge – the previous one being Roberto Di Matteo, who took the Blues all the way to the trophy.
- Should he feature in this game, Porto defender Pepe (38y 40d) will be the oldest outfield player to appear in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final since Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs back in April 2014 (40y 123d).
Player to Watch
There will be plenty of eyes on Mason Mount, who has become a key player for Chelsea, as well as Kai Havertz, who could once again essay the No. 9 role. But Wednesday’s game could be a crucial one for a certain Hakim Ziyech, who was unfortunately taken off in the first half by Thomas Tuchel last time out following Thiago Silva’s sending off.
The Moroccan has had a mixed bag of a debut season with Chelsea since making his move to the club from Ajax last summer. Injuries have played a spoilsport for the attacking midfielder while the change of managers and system midway through the season has done little to help his adjustment at the club.
As a result, Ziyech has struggled to make the kind of impact he has shown he can make in bits and parts. But the Moroccan’s quality is undoubted. Indeed, he has been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 17 UCL starts for Ajax and Chelsea combined. The Blues will need that quality to ooze through on Wednesday as they look to ease past Porto.
FC Porto 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea had shown some marvellous defensive resilience under Thomas Tuchel, which more than made up for their lack of goals at the other end. However, this past weekend saw them get exposed by West Bromwich Albion. And Porto, having eliminated Juventus in the previous round, will back their chances and take the game to the Blues.
Despite the quality of players that Chelsea possess, they are yet to hit top gear in the attacking department in the Tuchel era, which could prove to be their undoing on Wednesday. A closely-fought battle is expected at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, one that could very well end in a scored draw, which does leave Chelsea with the away-goal advantage.