No surprises, please - Chelsea to sail through
Porto head into their Champions League quarter final second-leg showdown with Chelsea (on neutral ground once more) at a massive disadvantage, having lost the 'home' tie 2-0. This leaves them in a strategical quandary, knowing that they must keep things tight at the back at all costs to avoid having an even larger mountain to climb at the other end. Their opponents meanwhile have sandwiched the opening fixture by scoring six and conceding the same number in just two Premier League games. Thomas Tuchel's men are in the driving seat, and are probably the most assured to go through of any side on paper. Read our preview here:
Tuchel will have the luxury of a full 25-man squad from which to pick from, following the return from suspension of Brazilian stopper Thiago Silva. The veteran centre back is a key component at both ends, ensuring the three man wall in front of Edouard Mendy is safe and secure from an aerial point of view, which he then uses to his advantage in the opposition box, especially at the far post. A degree of rotation will take place in the midfield onwards, reflecting the strength in depth available to the London outfit. Hakim Ziyech will operate in tandem alongside Mason Mount in behind the silk and steel of target man Olivier Giroud. This triumvirate will make the ball stick as far away from their own 18 yard box as possible, whilst also operating in between the two banks of four in white.
A small Chancel
Former versatile Newcastle United defender Chancel Mbemba will have his work cut out trying to stop Chelsea from creating overloads in the centre. The Congo DR international has featured prominently in head coach Sérgio Conceição's plans after having very few starts in his first season in Portuguese football. The 4-4-2 shape will demand a lot from the midfield unit, needing to deal with a numerical disadvantage throughout whilst requiring vast energy reserves to cover the area between the boxes in desperate pursuit of an 'in'. The returning figures of Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi and playmaker Sérgio Oliveira will boost Dragões, but whether it will be significant enough to make a difference remains to be seen.
Singing the Blues
Porto cannot be discounted completely. The reigning Liga NOS champions bested Juventus in the last round, but didn't have to come back from a two goal deficit to do so, having done the hard work in the first leg. Here though, they have little to lose by going for the jugular, whilst also taking into account that they can't be too open from kick-off. Chelsea should have enough to keep them at arm's length, as well as the luxury of bringing on heavyweights like Kai Havertz when the 'away' defence tires. betway have boosted odds at the time of writing of 3.50 for the Blues to win the second leg to nil.