After a 5-2 loss to West Bromwich last weekend in the Premier League, Chelsea were filled with doubts in defense and will try to dispel them on Wednesday in the important visit to Porto (3:00 PM), in the first leg of the quarterfinal of the Champions League.
The clash will not take place in the ‘Dragao’ stadium of the Portuguese team but in Seville due to travel restrictions linked to the covid-19 pandemic, that force this relocation, as other recent Champions League duels have already experienced.
For Thomas Tuchel, defense had been until now the strong point of his stage since January in the ‘Blues’ and now he will try to avoid a disaster like the one on Saturday, which would greatly complicate his continuity in the great European tournament.
In that game against West Bromwich, it was impossible to recognize the team that had kept its goal unbeaten in twelve of the previous fourteen games, including the two in the round of 16 against Atlético de Madrid (1-0, 2-0).
Despite the large investments made by the club before the current season, especially to strengthen the attack (Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech), Tuchel had put the accent on defensive strength to correct the failures of the previous’ era Lampard ‘.
Frenchman N’Golo Kanté was absent from that game against West Bromwich on Saturday and remains in doubt about his physical condition for Wednesday’s game. For the moment he was included this Tuesday in the call.
“Chelsea, until that last game (the 5-2 setback with West Bromwich), had been very competent, it is the second least beaten defense in the Champions League. They are a coherent and solid team. Those kinds of losses serve as a warning. If you ask me for my opinion, I would have preferred them to win that last game, ”admitted Porto coach Sergio Conceiçao.
Although he admits that the mission is not easy, he is excited about achieving victory: “The task will be very difficult, but our team will be prepared.”
Back and forth, in the same place
The concept of ‘first leg’ is peculiar on this occasion, since both the first leg and the return are disputed in Seville due to the traffic restrictions against covid-19.
“Even if we do not play in our stadium, we must know how to play with that aspect of the back and forth matches”, the veteran Porto defender Pepe warned on Tuesday.
In any case, Chelsea are presented as favorites in this tie, in their attempt to revive the glory in a tournament they already conquered on one occasion, in 2012.
In front of them will be a Porto that gave one of the great surprises of the round of 16, where they eliminated Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus.
In the Portuguese league, Porto is very off the hook compared to the leader Sporting Lisbon.
Porto is also the worst ranked team among the eight that are still in contention in the Champions League, which can make them the ‘Cinderella’ of the quarterfinals, but also relieve pressure on the Blue and White team.
The objective for the Portuguese is clear: overcome the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since José Mourinho led the team to the title in the 2003-2004 campaign.
In Wednesday’s game, Porto will have significant casualties, due to the suspensions of Iranian Mehdi Taremi and midfielder Sergio Oliveira, which significantly reduces the offensive potential of the Portuguese. But Chelsea, after the slip on Saturday, is invited to distrust.
“It is a very strong team, which is in the Champions League, how should we be happy to face them? We lost 5-2 to the 19th in the Premier League, so we know that we must be very humble and professional to prepare for the matches, ”said Tuchel.
“We are strong enough to beat them, but it will be very difficult because I hope to have to face the best Porto,” he predicted.
Porto: Marchesín – Manafa, Mbemba, Pepe (ch.), Zaidu – Corona, Grujic, Uribe, Otavio – Marega, Luis Díaz
Coach: Sergio Conceiçao
Chelsea: Mendy – Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rüdiger – James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso – Havertz, Mount – Giroud
Coach: Thomas Tuchel (GER)
Referee: Slavko Vincic (SLO)