Basel vs. Porto: UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Preview
After emerging from a group with Liverpool and Real Madrid, you might think Basel feel they have achieved their goals for this years campaign. They now face Porto, who many believe are the dark-horse this year, having completely rebuilt their team since they won the title just 5 years ago.
Basel’s surprise emergence from the group stage and relatively easy draw have given the Swiss reason for hope in this match. The squad is led by midfielder Shkelzen Gashi, the leading scorer for Basel in the Super League with 13 goals. Fabian Frei, the Swiss midfielder, has played well in the Champions League group stages, and will likely continue to play a key role in the knockout stages.
Basel like to attack up the right side, but tend to play a passing-oriented style as opposed to performing longer runs. They’re not a “rough” team, but do tend to foul more than their opponents, while only averaging 46% of possession.
Fabian Schär, the Swiss defender, will be an important omission from the team sheet, having accumulated yellows in the group and thus being suspended for this match. Veteran Walter Samuel seems likely to fill in for his absence, with Behrang Safari likely used to cover at left back.
Porto emerged from a relatively easy group, looking impressive in their wins. Many have already pegged them to be the dark horse of the tournament, despite Julen Lopetegui’s efforts to build a side in a new way since Mourinho’s success.
Jackson Martinez has been the team high goal scorer in both the league and Champions League this season, and his abilities will be on full display as the tournament progresses. He is a big-game player, and will not shy away from the spotlight. The young Brazilian Casemiro in defensive midfield has been impressive, and with Yacine Brahimi, the team sports some overall impressive talent.
Porto scores more goals in open play, and takes almost twice as many shots as their opponents. Opperating efficiently on both wings, they will look to spread Basel out and pepper them with shots.
Discipline can be an issue for the Portuguese side, though, as they usually commit 4-5 more fouls per game than their opponents. The center back pairing of Maicon and Marcano, which has been so great in the qualifying, are both one booking away from a possible suspension in the second leg.
Porto tends to control possession at a higher rate than Basel, but also features players and tactics that enable longer runs. Through their wings, they often sweep in and look to cross in, stretching the defensive back line. Basel is more pass-oriented, but neglects to take a possessional advantage, instead generally holding the ball quite a bit less than their opponents.
Both teams are hard-tacklers, and both have had discipline problems in this years tournament. Porto tackles more statistically, but Basel holds their line well, and is organized in defense, keeping them from having to rush in on the ball.
Basel will likely feel they need some result from the home fixture, and are likely to extend themselves to try to get the early lead. If they can get the win, it will make for an interesting match in Portugal. Porto, meanwhile, will be looking to put the round away with a initial win, and more importantly to avoid any cards for their back line that would mean a suspension for the re-match.
I expect a Porto win in both stadia, with an aggregate total of 3-1.
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