Five key battles for Porto’s Champions League clash with Chelsea
Porto start as favourites (31/20) with Coral to give former boss Jose Mourinho an unhappy homecoming as Chelsea travel to the Estadio do Dragao in Champions League Group G, and that got our football experts thinking…
What are the key tactical battles punters are likely to see and the Blues, 15/8 for victory in the Dragons’ den, need to win in order come away with three points? Here are five to watch out for!
Iker Casillas v Diego Costa
Brazil-born Spain striker Costa has made headlines for all the wrong reasons by incurring a domestic ban for his overly physical approach to leading Chelsea’s line.
He is free to play in Europe, however, and will be looking to beat national teammate Casillas, who is in new pastures after leaving Real Madrid after many years of loyal service. With Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi’s expressive eyes watching him, Costa is expected to continue putting himself about, and is 5/1 to score first.
This clash is the featured game of the day, however, and stopper Casillas is a three-time winner of Europe’s elite club competition, not to mention all the international accolades. An alternative bet for the goalkeeping great, who has more Champions League shut-outs than anyone else, to roll back the years and Porto keep a clean sheet also appeals at 7/4.
Maxi Pereira v Eden Hazard
The Dragons’ bitter rivals Benfica let Uruguay centurion Pereira go this summer, and they cleverly snapped him up for nothing. He’ll have Belgium sensation Hazard to mark here, and it would be fair to say that the Blues attacker has not lived up to his billing this term so far.
Pereira is far from the tallest at 5ft 8in, but a low centre of gravity might actually help him handle Hazard, whose infield incursions just haven’t been as effective lately. They say form is temporary and class permanent, though, and so Hazard holds a 7/4 anytime scorer price.
Giannelli Imbula v Cesc Fabregas
Defensive midfielder Imbula has a big €20m price tag to live up to after joining from Marseille this summer, so can press his claims for a full France call-up by marking Chelsea playmaker Fabregas here.
Porto also have their own box-to-box man in the engine room with Hector Herrera, and he’ll have to curb his natural enthusiasm when the visitors are in possession to stop space appearing in behind.
Spain’s Fabregas rounded off the Blues’ 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv last time out in Eruope, and is 7/2 to net again anytime here.
Julen Lopetegui has a selection dilemma in his wide berths, because late summer signing Corona has scored three in as many league outings for the Dragons.
There isn’t room to field him, Algeria star Yacine Brahimi and Barcelona loanee Cristian Tello, however, but we fancy the Mexican to get the nod.
Chelsea defender Azpilicueta, meanwhile, has competition of his own to worry about now in the form of Ghana full back Abdul Baba Rahman. Corona’s purple patch is 6/4 to continue with a goal anytime, whatever part he plays.
Resting him by starting the Cameroon international on the bench this weekend, striker Aboubakar will want to use this opportunity to show everybody he can fill Jackson Martinez’s shows for Porto.
With six goals in seven games this term so far he will pose a definite threat, even for man mountain Zouma. Aboubakar, 11/2 to score last, has got the better of the Blues’ great defensive hope before, when they lined up for Lorient and St-Etienne respectively.