Porto v. Roma Leg 2 (UEFA Champions League)
My prediction for the first leg between Roma and Porto was for a Roma win, which came true. Porto showed that they weren’t going to go down without a fight and a goal scored on the road which could definitely be an asset. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the chance Porto fans have been waiting for. Show me the group stage wasn’t a fluke, Porto can do that starting by protecting their home.
Porto came into this match as substantial underdogs, and they managed to stay in this tie. Although the Porto defense was beaten twice, they kept El Shaawary and Dzeko relatively uninvolved. Dzeko did manage an assist, but I’ll take it from the likes of this Roma front. They did, however, concede two goals to the 19 year old front Zaniolo who had perhaps the game of his career this far. Porto played pretty well for this match from the defensive perspective. However, Iker Casillas and the defense were under near constant pressure. There was no such thing as offensive movement as both the midfielders and forwards looked very mediocre. The goal scorer, Adrian Lopez, was a substitute to try and get a boost from the bench.
Since we discussed Porto’s form last in the Leg 1 Preview they’ve cooled off a bit. They’ve added 3 draws in the last six matches, and Benfica have closed the gap to a solitary point. Porto does seem to have righted the ship (at least temporarily) with a victory over Vitoria de Setubal although they reside just barely above the relegation zone. They have an opportunity to reassert themselves at the top of the league with 2 of 3 very winnable games, and the third is against Benfica who are second place. After that, they have a give-me game against a 13-ranked Maritimo before facing off a 3rd-ranked Braga side.
Porto brought a very reasonable showing to the away game at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico stadium. When I covered the first leg of this match, I talked about the serious differences between Porto’s home and away form. I think this sets up for a very intriguing match as Porto has been startlingly good at home. At this point in the season, Porto has played 11 games at home and has dropped only 3 points. Across this time they’ve managed 2 goals scored per game and just over 0.5 goals conceded. Although I’m still not sure that I think the Portuguese first League is particularly difficult; this side definitely has an opportunity to prove myself and a number of other pundits wrong.
Players to watch for:
- Tiquinho Soares: While it’s never easy to come in as “the replacement”, in Moussa Marega’s absence, I think Soares will have to fill in. I think that Soares will be able to piggyback on the anonymity of not being Marega. Soares has actually scored more goals than Marega though his assist numbers are lower. Soares has only appeared in one Champions League game; I think this is an opportunity to make an immediate return to the side for Marega a little more difficult of a choice.
- Adrian Lopez: He is not usually a big minutes player for Porto, but I don’t see how he’s not rewarded for his goal. Porto are now down two forwards (Marega and Aboubakar) so the minutes have to come from somewhere. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the starters against Roma weren’t able to bring much, I think Lopez starts again. He’ll be trying hard to get on the scoresheet again after securing a potentially vital away goal.
- Yacine Brahimi: Brahimi has been in fantastic form for Porto all season. He consistently turns in performances at a high level and I’d be totally remiss to not at least mention him. Although he has no goals to his name in this Champions League campaign, he has secured two assists and has still played very well. I am looking for him to step up big in the home leg and quite possibly combine with one of our other players to watch if Porto are to win.
Roma won the first matchup between the Italian side and Porto, however, I believe that the visitor was more proud of the result. The home side managed to have El Shaarawy and Dzeko (mostly) kept off the scoresheet, though the latter did manage an assist. The unexpected part of the day was the eventual two-goal scorer, in 19-year old Nicolo Zaniolo. Besides Zaniolo there wasn’t much in terms of surprises, this Roma side was substantial favorites and despite two of their key playmakers being kept quiet, they were still ultimately able to secure the result.
In my post about the first leg we talked about how Roma had fared in the domestic league so far, and although they have managed to climb from 6th-place to 5th-place, the chasm still remains. In the last 6 overall, Roma are unbeaten with 4 wins to their name, however, their overall fourth-ranked home form and seventh-ranked away form put them in a tight spot to gain ground on the leaders. In the domestic league, Roma is averaging over 2 points per game at home, but are just barely over 1 point on the road. In addition to the overall points totals, Roma scores roughly half of their home totals when on the road. This has equated in the substantially different goal difference record at home (+12) and away (+3); in their defense though, they are positive in both aspects.
Roma has had a similar phenomenon accompany them through the Champions League, they have secured more than double the points at home than they have on the road. This could set for a very intriguing match, if you’ll remember back to the preview of the first leg I talked about how both teams were markedly better at home.
Players to watch for:
- Edin Dzeko: Dzeko has been a stalwart throughout both the Domestic league and Champions League (along with the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team). His scoring numbers are definitely down from the 16 goals he scored last season, but he has been all over the field in the Serie A. He has helped the Roma cause with 3 man of the match performances, five goals, and three assists in 20 appearances. However, in the Champions League — he’s scored the same number of goals, five, in just five games. While Dzeko is not getting any younger, he’s still the same man that served Manchester City so well. I think if Roma are serious about stealing points from a red-hot home team in FC Porto they are going to need some quality contributions from one of their key players.
- Nicolo Zaniolo: I’m not going to lie, this one feels a little like cheating, especially after his two goal performance. Regardless, I think that Zaniolo has the opportunity to make a huge(r) impact on this (and lots of upcoming) games. Even know he put up a great game in leg 1, he has the opportunity to affect the game in two ways; first as a frontman for Dzeko and El Sharaawy, secondly, he’s proven his deftness finding shot opportunities. More importantly, he’s proven he can take advantage of those shots and bury them in the back of the net. If there’s a criticism of Zaniolo it’s his consistency; he’s had some brilliant showings and some rather forgettable ones. His two goals in the UCL match were both set up brilliantly by other members of his team, but the first still required him to beat not only a defender but also the keeper and the second he was well-placed to capitalize on the rebound.
- Stephan El Shaarawy: El Shaarawy has been great for Roma in the Serie A but hasn’t been able to maintain the same quality for the Champions League. Dzeko has been the leading assist man for Roma in the Champions League, but with the abrupt arrival of Zaniolo teams will have to be extra careful. This is exactly why I think Shaarawy will have an impact going forward, FC Porto saw first-hand what Zaniolo can do. Now they will have to figure out how to deal with not only the two out and out strikers, but also Dzeko.
What to expect
This ought to be a very intriguing matchup because of both teams advantage at home. Roma took care of business at home, but it wasn’t exactly the overwhelming victory expected. They also let Porto seize an away goal and now they travel to Portugal to test their home strength. I think that the Portuguese side could sneak out of this one with a one-goal victory, either 0-1 or 2-1. The former would advance Porto but the latter would provide for an interesting extra time matchup.
Last Updated: February 22, 2019