Chelsea and Porto will reconvene at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash on Tuesday.
The Blues already hold an impressive 2-0 advantage after winning the first-leg thanks to goals from Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell. What’s more impressive is those two strikes count as away goals even though both matches will take place in the same stadium, so Chelsea’s advantage over Porto is truly substantial.
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Here are five predictions as Chelsea try to make it back to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2015.
1. Predicted Chelsea XI
Chelsea have a relatively clean bill of health ahead of the Porto clash. The only doubts are around Andreas Christensen, who had a tight hamstring and so missed this weekend’s match, and N’Golo Kanté who is recovering from injury too. The Frenchman should be fit to play but Tuchel has said he will “not take risks with him,” so with Chelsea two up and facing Man City at the weekend, you can imagine he won’t play.
The rest of the team somewhat picks itself. Edouard Mendy is looking to be the first Premier League goalkeeper since Fabian Barthez in 2002/03 to win eight straight games in the Champions League, so he’ll keep goal, likely behind a back three of Thiago Silva as well as “emotional leaders” Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger.
With Kanté being given the kid gloves treatment, you can expect Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic to anchor midfield while Reece James only came off the bench at the weekend so should take his place starting opposite first-leg goalscorer Ben Chilwell as wing-backs.
The questions, as always, come in attack. Mason Mount is almost certain to start in one of the attacking midfield positions, and Kai Havertz’s growing confidence should see him look to build on his goal and assist performance from the weekend. The final spot is likely to go to Timo Werner, with Hakim Ziyech again missing out, while Christian Pulisic’s fitness will have to be managed.
2. Predicted Porto XI
Porto will be mostly the same as the first-leg but with two huge additions as leading goalscorers Mehdi Taremi and Sergio Oliveira return from suspension. That should see the shape return to the 4-4-2 that undid Juventus.
Again, Pepé and Chancel Mbemba will anchor defence while Wilson Manafa and Zaidu Sanusi provide help and protection out wide as full-backs. Oliveira comes into midfield next to Mateus Uribe with Otavio and Jesus Corona again out wide. Oliveira will once again be given the keys to the side and Porto will be hoping his penetrative movement and goalscoring can get them back into the tie.
Marko Grujic makes way for Mehdi Taremi to take his place next to Moussa Marega in attack. These two will try to cause as much havoc as possible for the Chelsea defenders, punching holes for each other, the wingers and, of course, Oliveira to penetrate.
3. Mount to echo Lampard
In 2004/05, Chelsea were entering the run-in of their incredible first season under José Mourinho when they beat Bayern Munich 6-5 on aggregate in the Champions League quarter-final. It was an impressive win and star midfielder Frank Lampard scored in both legs (including a stunning brace at Stamford Bridge).
That was the last time an Englishman scored in both legs of a knockout tie for Chelsea. In all their subsequent performances, 15 years of Champions League football, none of their great English players have ever managed to repeat that feat. You’d have imagined Lampard himself would have done it, or maybe Joe Cole, or Tammy Abraham last season.
But no, Mount would be the first in 15 years. And the way he’s playing now, you’d put nothing past him. The liquidity of his strike in the first leg, the smoothness of the turn and then the unerring confidence of the shot, this is a young man on top of everything right now. There’s not a chance he misses if presented an opportunity.
4. Porto will score
Porto dominated the first leg but came away losing 0-2. But instead of making them cower, that defeat will only drive them on. Sergio Conceicao’s side showed against Juventus that they’re mentally resilient as well as talented.
And it’s the talent deficiency that will give Porto renewed hope for the second leg. They dominated the first but couldn’t convert their chances, but now they welcome back Sergio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi, the club’s two top scorers.
Taremi has 16 goals on the season and gave Porto the lead against Juventus back in the first leg of their tie, while Oliveira is top-scorer with 19 goals this season, including five in the Champions League which, of course, featured the brace he scored in Turin to knock Juventus out.
With those two back in place with Moussa Marega, Porto will almost certainly find the back of the net and break Edouard Mendy’s four-game streak of clean sheets (the Frenchman has conceded just one goal in eight European appearances so far as Chelsea goalkeeper).
5. The Blues back in the final four
Porto will assuredly take it to Chelsea and they will probably even score first but, ultimately, Chelsea are too good of a team in too good of a rhythm to be stopped right now. It really is worth considering that with Mendy in goal, they have kept seven clean sheets in eight games including both games against Atlético Madrid and Sevilla.
Chelsea are so well organised and drilled by Thomas Tuchel that it is hard to see the Portuguese side having the kind of overwhelming firepower needed to blow the Blues away, or conversely, hard to see Chelsea losing focus as they did against West Brom. There may be a bit of collective future-gazing as Chelsea have a colossal FA Cup clash against Manchester City at the weekend, but Tuchel will not allow his squad to get too carried away and they will be sure to put the clamps on Porto and see the job through for them to get back to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2015.