Drawing FC Porto is being lauded by many Roma fans, including myself, as Roma’s best possible scenario. However, history reminds us that the Portuguese champs will be present a trial by fire for EDF’s men. This will be especially true when Roma enter the inferno that is the Estádio do Dragão.
The Ghosts of the Past
Roma have faced Porto four previous times in European competition and won a grand total of none of those matches. The Giallorossi are 0-2-2 all time against Porto in Europe; scoring just once and conceding six. Roma last faced off with the Portuguese side just two seasons ago. The 2016 match up occurred in a play-off to qualify for the Champions League group stage. As you may recall, things didn’t go so well in the return leg in the Olimpico after a 1-1 draw in Portugal.
Running Through the Competition
Porto currently sit top of a very competitive Portuguese Primiera Liga on 33 points through 13 matches. They boast the top defense in the league having conceded just eight times. They also lead the league in goals scored with 20.
Meanwhile, Porto comfortably won Champions League Group D with 16 points; ahead of Schalke, Galatasaray, and Lokomotiv Moscow. That point total was the most of any group winner this season. The Dragões only dropped points came in an opening match day draw at Schalke before they ran off five straight wins. En route to its unbeaten record, Porto scored 15 goals and allowed only six.
How They Set Up
Led by former Lazio man Sergio Conceição, Porto mainly employ a 4-3-3 formation. However, at times Conceição will use a 4-2-3-1 and the team is known for being able to change roles over the course of a match.
Who to Watch Out For
The name of Porto’s captain, Hector Herrera, should be well known to Roma fans by now. The Mexican midfielder has an expiring contract and has been linked with Roma many times since the last transfer window. Herrera can be decisive in the midfield with his two goals and an assist in the Champions League. With his strong passing and tackling ability, Herrera is an asset in both the offensive and defensive facets of the game.
In terms of putting the ball in the back of the net, there is no greater threat on Porto than Moussa Marega. The Mali international has 11 goals in all competitions thus far, and has scored five times in the six group stage matches. The 6’1” forward is strong in the air and a clinical finisher; something that could be an issue for Roma’s struggling back line. If Roma expect to progress they will have to slow Marega.
Herrera isn’t the only Mexican danger man on Porto, as winger Jesus Corona also brings quality to the Porto XI. Corona is generally employed on Maerga’s right when Porto go 4-3-3 and even though he’s not know for his goal scoring, Corona is a very strong passer and dribbler of the ball. Roma will remember him for hammering the final nail in the coffin of Roma’s 3-1 defeat to Porto in 2016.
Even at the advanced age of 37, you can’t neglect to mention Porto’s Spanish World Cup winner between the pipes. Casillas still is a quality shot stopper and boasts plenty of experience in organizing the Porto defense; his 173 appearances are the most in UCL history. His leadership and winning pedigree add another element to a quality defense. To beat Porto, Roma will have to get a few shots past Casillas.