FC Porto vs Bayern Munich | Wednesday 15 April | Estadio do Dragao | 20:45
This fixture is a repeat of perhaps Porto’s greatest ever footballing triumph, the 1987 European Cup final. Things have changed somewhat since that victory, with the balance of power shifting dramatically towards the indomitable Bavarians. There is however a silver lining for Julen Lopetegui’s side this week, with Bayern Munich possibly missing six of their front line players. This adds some interest to a tie that could have conceivably been extremely one-sided. Porto play a fast, dynamic style that will make them formidable at home, especially considering the extent of Munich’s injury concerns.
To Win (90mins)
FC Porto 7/2
Bayern Munich 8/10
Porto are three points adrift of Benfica in the Portuguese league, with a series of indifferent results in recent weeks leaving them with some catch-up work to do on the domestic front. They have been impressive in Europe, however, with a 5-1 aggregate dismantling of Basel lending them an all-too familiar dark horse moniker. The absence of both Ribery and Robben from the Bayern Munich side could give Porto the edge in terms of pure pace across the park. The contribution of Munich’s two elusive wingers can hardly be underestimated going into this encounter.
Jackson Martinez will be looking to continue his impressive campaign here, especially with the absence of both Benatia and Alaba. Quaresma’s pace has finally been matched by some semblance of consistency in performance, with the Portuguese winger registering three goals in his last two games. Christian Tello has also proved dangerous of late while Maicon provides ample experience in their defensive ranks. They also happen to possess the highly impressive Bruno Martins-Indi in their defence, giving them a lineup that will pose real problems for the slightly truncated Bayern side. This is Bayern Munich however, and any side that they choose to place on the field will stand a reasonable chance of getting the job done.
Taking over from Jupp Heynckes’ all-conquering Bayern side was always going to be an exercise in patience for both Guardiola and their legion of adoring fans. It clearly was an attempt to change the direction of the football club, to sex it up, as it were. Domestically it has worked a treat, with Munich’s financial muscle basically eradicating competition in the German top flight. In European competition there is still the spectral aura of the two Spanish giants that Bayern have to overcome. The loss of Ribery and Robben may in fact change the way Guardiola approaches this game with his two speedsters sidelined due to injury.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s absence will be nullified by the return of Xabi Alonso, while Alaba and Benatia will miss out in defence. Just looking at the prospective team-sheet highlights the importance of Robben and Ribery to the side. Muller, while ruthlessly efficient and consistent, is a far more daunting prospect when he has ‘Robbery’ there to support him. Pep may have to set out slightly more defensively in acknowledgement of Porto’s dangerous attacking threats. I think he would be content with a draw, such as the one they managed against Donetsk in the first leg of the Round of 16, which will allow them to incubate their injured players for the return leg at their home fortress.
VERDICT: Double Chance - Porto or Draw 17/20
I honestly feel that Porto have a chance to create some history here. While I still believe that Munich will ultimately qualify fairly easily from this fixture, this tricky away encounter comes at an awkward stage for the Bavarians. Their injury list should buoy an unpredictable and dangerous Porto side.