THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE continues on Wednesday night. Here, Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on the clash between Porto and RB Leipzig.
Porto v RB Leipzig | Wednesday 1st November 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Porto have made an excellent start to life under Sergio Conceicao, claiming 28 points from a possible 30 on their ascent to the top of the table in Liga NOS. The Dragons only failure to secure victory came in a goalless draw away at title rivals Sporting Lisbon at the start of October.
There is plenty to be positive about. Conceicao has had plenty of impact already, integrating returning loanees Vincent Aboubakar, Moussa Marega and Ricardo Pereira and bringing underperforming stars Oliver Torres and Yacine Brahimi back to their best.
The rock-solid defence remains intact, which together with the protection provided by the superb Danilo Pereira lends Porto a strong foundation. Their problem resides in a lack of depth in attack and at centre-half. Nevertheless, early signs suggest a four-year trophy drought may end in May.
Porto’s 4-4-2 relies on overlapping full-backs and inverted wingers and their high-pressing game can cause unfamiliar opponents headaches. However, Wednesday night’s guests are arguably one of the greatest exponents of the suffocating press when possession is turned over.
The Dragons long-term W10-D5-L4 Champions League group-stage record deserves respect but recently the Dragons have accrued only two triumphs in eight European ties at their Estadio do Dragao base and they look a touch vulnerable this midweek.
Porto were made to work harder than the 3-0 final scoreline suggested in their derby success over Boavista last time out and the Portuguese giants are acutely aware that positive domestic performances in the Liga NOS rarely translate to European progress.
Leipzig capable of avoiding defeat
RB Leipzig beat Porto 3-2 in Germany a fortnight ago to record their first Champions League win, clambering above the 2004 champions into second but still five points adrift of Besiktas. And after a sluggish start to the season, have found their feet in recent weeks.
Obviously two draining defeats (with 10 men) against Bayern Munich in the past week could hamper the Bulls here but Ralph Hasenhuttl is only without Stefan Ilsanker for Wednesday night and will be aware that even a draw would be enough to put the Bundesliga side in position to qualify.
It’s true, all four of Leipzig’s defeats this season have come away from home but Naby Keita, Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg are all fit and available and the visitors should arrive full of confidence and well-tooled to get on the scoresheet and avoid defeat in Porto.