Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Champions League Preview: Atlético Madrid v. FC Porto

Porto almost didn't make it to this point despite winning their group.

Remember last year they were banned from European competitions for bribery allegations that date back to 2003-04 (when Jose Mourinho was still in charge)?

They lodged an appeal early last June and had the ban overturned less than two weeks later on the basis that the allegations hadn't yet been adjudicated.

Porto's president, Jorge Pinto da Costa, was just cleared a couple of weeks ago on individual charges of trying to bribe a match official by providing him with not one but two prostitutes. Their nicknames? Fruit and Chocolate.

The case died when the judge threw out the testimony of a star witness. And who was that witness? Da Costa's ex-wife.

We really should pay more attention to Portugal around here.

By the way, it's not over for da Costa though as he still faces more serious charges and has been suspended by Portuguese league officials since May of '08. So they may be out of future competitions. But back to the here and now because thing are pretty good for the club there (or here).

Here's FC Porto's form in their last, oh, let's go twelve league matches: W-W-W-W-D-W-D-W-W-D-W-W. That's 9-0-3 in the Portuguese Liga.

Porto get good midfield support from Cristian Rodriguez and Lucho Gonzales. The latter has been recovering from a knee injury but should be fit for the match in Spain. More fierce than flash, the former River Plate mid is also Porto's on field leader, so having him healthy should bolster the squad.

Pretty sweet analysis: Having one of your better players back helps you. There's a reason you come to UF.

Porto also have one of the best-named strikers in all of football with Hulk. He's sitting on seven goals through 19 matches, so while not prolific, he's fairly efficient. In fact Porto rely on scoring balance, having four players with five or more league goals to this point in the season.

Defensively, Porto are tops in the Liga with a plus-21 goal difference. How does that translate into Europe? Eh, a healthy Arsenal put a 4-0 pasting on Porto in their first group play match but that's when FCP were still struggling to find form. In the return leg Porto beat the Gunners 2-0, but that was against almost a B-team (Vela, Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Song, Bendtner). So, neither result is enough to draw much from.

As for the opposition,we're pretty sure that "Madrid" means "Madrid" so that must mean that "Atlético" translates roughly as "Tottenham."

Atlético have talent up and down the roster and they suck. Or, more accurately they've been sucking as of late. They are 1-4-3 in their last eight. That's not very good.

They kicked manager Javier Aguirre to the curb a couple of weeks back, but have failed to get the much touted bounce from the new manager Able Resino. And Resino has admitted that he may ask Aguirre for advice on playing in Europe.

I'm sure there's a joke about Atlético and the mattress makers and them already lying on their backs. But look at the roster: Forlan, Aguero, Maniche, Ujfalusi, Simao, Maxi Rodriguez. I'm not sure how this team can be so pitiful.

Full disclosure: Atlético were my dark horse pick to go deep in the Champions League. And I felt like a genius when they came within a late Stevie G goal of winning their group. That seems so long ago that I don't even feel like I'm jumping off a bandwagon, more like I'm jumping off the Adrea Doria, which would be kind of ridiculous because didn't almost everyone get rescued off that boat?

We're not even talking football anymore, are we?

Prediction: For tomorrow, Atlético's strikers should get some room to operate around Porto's slower defenders. On the other end Porto should get some chances against a slightly banged up Atlético back line. In two weeks, eh who knows? Plenty could happen between the legs in the leagues.

But we're going with FC Porto in a mild upset. 1-1 at the Calderón and 2-1 Porto at home for a 3-2 aggregate win.

1 comment:

Eladio said...

Shouldn't Porto's record be shown as 9-3-0? Or does UF not follow the European protocol when it comes to record listing?