Are FC Porto on course to become a European force once again?
2004 Champions League winners are on the up
FC Porto fans endured four seasons without a trophy from 2013 to 2017, with fierce rivals Benfica dominating the period.
But the 2004 Champions League winners are showing signs that another golden age could be coming to Estadio do Dragao. Last season’s league title win saw just two defeats in 34 games, as Porto racked up an astonishing +64 goal difference.
Currently on course for back-to-back league titles, they’ve also been superb in the Champions League, topping Group D with 16 points.
We examine why they could continue to shine on all fronts…
It’s hard to pick Porto’s best attacking display from this campaign, but the 4-1 demolition of Lokomotiv Moscow isn’t a bad start.
Sergio Conceicao’s side tore apart a defence containing the likes of Benedikt Howedes and Nigerian ace Bryan Idowu, with a free-flowing 4-3-3 system.
On the flanks, they boast the rapid pace of Jesus Corona and the trickery of Yacine Brahimi, both supplying to the bustling powerhouse that is Moussa Marega.
However, they’re far from limited to that way of playing. Young striker Andre Pereira is a lively option who often comes off the bench to good effect, while the – currently sidelined – Vincent Aboubakar is outstanding in the air.
Conceicao has transformed them
Few managers can boast the playing CV of the current Dragao boss. As well as three league titles with Porto, he won a raft of honours at Lazio – including Serie A and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
In short, he’s a natural winner. That’s clearly rubbed off on his squad. Under Nuno Espirito Santo in 2016-17, a star-studded Porto squad bottled their title challenge in the run-in, winning just three of their final nine games.
By contrast, they saw off the challenge of Benfica in ruthless fashion last term. Porto won the season’s last six matches, conceding just twice.
As well as those intangibles of experience and drive, he’s also proven to be a tactically savvy coach. The 4-3-3 he’s utilised in Europe has been an attacking success, while a 4-4-2 has brought the most joy domestically.
They’ve worked wonders in the transfer market
Amazingly, Porto already look to be an improvement on last season’s side. That’s despite selling several of their top names – including Diogo Dalot and Ricardo Pereira for a combined £37.8m.
That could leave many sides hamstrung, at least for a period. But Conceicao has already drafted in a series of superb additions for a fraction of those prices.
Classy centre-back Eder Militao has been a revelation at centre-back after his £3.6m summer arrival from Sao Paulo, and received his first Brazil cap in September.
Meanwhile, full-back pair Jorge (on loan from AS Monaco) and new right-back Joao Pedro are both beginning to command more gametime after strong recent displays.
With several other prospects signed and loaned out to Portimonense, they’re unlikely to be the last of this summer’s additions who make an impact at Estadio do Dragao.
At odds of 80/1 to win the Champions League, they’re definitely amongst the real outsiders. But teams will underestimate Conceicao’s outfit at their peril…
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