‘Great Quality’ – Porto Coach Previews Crucial European Tie With Arsenal

FC Porto head coach Sérgio Conceição believes that Mikel Arteta’s longevity as Arsenal coach is one of the reasons his side faces a daunting challenge in their Champions League last 16 first leg in Portugal this evening.

Conceição, whose side is currently third in Liga Portugal, seven points behind the leaders, is seeking to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2020/21 season. On that occasion, their adventure was ended by another English side, Chelsea.

The 49-year-old, who played for Lazio and Inter Milan in his career, believes that a strong Arsenal side poses a significant threat to his team’s progression in the competition.

“I think everyone knows Arsenal,” he told A Bola“It’s a team with great quality, with a coach who has been there for five years. With collective organization, what makes Arsenal a team capable, competent and strong.”

Identifying the key areas his side needs to be careful in, Conceição pointed to the London side’s swift counter and quick attacking movement.

“We looked at Arsenal being very strong in the moments of the game, with talent, which at a given moment can solve it. We have quality and talent, too. In the organization, they have high ball possession. Furthermore, he knows how to speed up the game like no one else with wingers and this causes difficulties in one-on-one situations.

“It’s a team that performs in the last third. This makes the game slightly different from what we have in Portugal.”

Porto are striving to keep the Portuguese flag flying in the Champions League. Braga trails Qarabağ by two goals in the Europa League playoff, having been eliminated from the Champions League already. Benfica, the other Portuguese side in the Champions League, finished third in their group but leads Toulouse 2-1 in their Europa League playoff game. Sporting missed out on the Champions League but has a two-goal lead in the second leg of their Europa League knockout qualifying round game with Young Boys.

If Porto are to progress, they will have to do it without Mehdi Taremi, who has appeared for Azuis e brancos just once since the end of December. He’s been on Asian Cup duty with Iran, coming back on Feb 12th for the surprise 3-2 defeat at Arouca. When quizzed on the 31-year-old’s availability, Conceição replied: “No! Taremi is out. He had an adductor problem and is out for this game.”

Site Opinion

Arsenal are a strong side, perhaps beginning to show the sort of qualities that made them such a huge prospect a decade or so ago. Porto, traditionally one of the best sides in Portugal, are in danger of finishing outside the top two for the first time in seven seasons.

They do have a good record against Arsenal at Estádio do Dragão – they won 2-1 in 2010, 2-0 in 2008 and drew 0-0 in 2005. However, on every occasion, they were beaten in the away leg, 5-0, 4-0 and 2-0.

If they don’t get something tonight, they’re likely to have a few midweeks free between now and May.

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