Champions League: FC Porto – Malaga preview

Stay true to yourself was the mantra as Málaga CF arrived in Portugal promising to keep attacking principles intact while FC Porto’s Vítor Pereira vowed to “maintain our identity”.



FC Porto coach Vítor Pereira has predicted a hard game against opponents full of quality as the Dragons prepare to host Málaga CF in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg on Tuesday. The 44-year-old shrugged off any suggestion of pre-match nerves, bullishly stating that “I can only enjoy these matches.” Counterpart Manuel Pellegrini says there will be plenty to savour in a “fantastic show” and, like Pereira, promised to stay true to his attacking principles. 

Vítor Pereira, coach
Winning is our main objective. If past achievements were a factor we’d win this tie, but we live in the present so that doesn’t count. Málaga are fourth in the Liga and proved their strength by finishing ahead of Milan and Zenit in the Champions League group stage. It’s going to be a hard game. I’ve watched them twice and they have excellent quality and very good players. They concede very few goals, and can play possession football and on the counterattack, but I don’t think they’ll come here to defend.

I always dreamed of playing a Champions League match when I was watching from the stands, hearing that anthem. This is the best competition in the world – why would I be nervous? I can only enjoy these matches and hope that there will be many more to come. I admire Málaga’s style and yes they have excellent players, but we will not focus on stopping them individually. We’ll try to erase their strong points and play as we usually do, to maintain our identity.

Weekend result
Friday: SC Beira-Mar 0-2 Porto (Atsu 34, Martínez 73)
Helton; Danilo, Otamendi, Mangala, Sandro; Fernando, Moutinho (Castro 80), Lucho (Rodríguez 71), Izmailov; Atsu (Maicon 64), Martínez.

• Porto extended their unbeaten run in Liga to 32 matches with the 2-0 win at struggling Beira-Mar; their last defeat was 3-1 at Gil Vicente FC in 29 January 2012.

Team news
Steven Defour is out with a thigh strain suffered in training at the end of January, but Varela is available after shaking off a muscular problem that ruled him out on Friday.

Manuel Pellegrini, coach
In 180 minutes a lot can happen. Porto are a good team, but we have proved in this season’s competition that we are at the same level. It’s likely the outcome of the tie will be decided in Málaga. Few people expected us to get here, so these are the sort of games our fans should relish. We believed we could make it this far when we set out and now we are facing Porto, one of the best teams in Portugal. 

Júlio Baptista has played some part in the last few matches. Now we will see how many minutes he can play tomorrow. We will never go out with the intention of just defending in the Champions League. It should be a fantastic show with two attacking teams. I will not change our style and they too have some very good players who like to attack such as Lucho González, Jackson Martínez and João Moutinho.

Weekend result
Saturday: Málaga 1-0 Athletic Club (Saviola 18)
Willy; Sergio Sánchez, Lugano, Weligton, Antunes; Camacho, Portillo, Piazón (Joaquín 81), Isco, Baptista (Toulalan 59); Saviola (Santa Cruz 59).

• Málaga’s third victory in four Liga outings – secured by Javier Saviola’s seventh top-flight goal of the campaign – helped the Costa del Sol side to maintain fourth position in the domestic standings.

Team news
Eliseu will take no part on Tuesday having failed to recover in time from the damaged right knee ligament he suffered against Real Zaragoza on 3 February.

Match fact
Porto’s 37 games against Spanish sides have left them with the overall record W12 D5 L20 (W7 D3 L7 in Porto). In 12 European away games Málaga have suffered only one defeat. That 1-0 loss to Porto’s neighbours Boavista FC came in their only previous campaign, encompassing the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup and 2002/03 UEFA Cup.

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