Porto, the two-time European champions are going into Tuesday’s match, the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Basel, with a deficit. As striker Jackson Martinez has been ruled out of play due to a thigh muscle tear (groin injury) he suffered in a Primeira Liga triumph over Braga on Friday.
He was on course to be the top league goalscorer for a third successive season as he currently tops the charts with 17 goals in 24 rounds. The Colombian will now sit out watching from the sidelines, but Porto can still call Cristian Tello to fill in who is on-loan from Barcelona.
He should be a good addition to an already strong side as he was the one who scored the only goal against Braga, only five days after he got a hat-trick in a 3-0 home win over Sporting. And Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar is also expected to step into the gap. Talking to media about losing Martinez, “His absence is a loss because of his energy, his character and the example he sets for everyone,” said Coach Julen Lopetegui. Adrian Lopez (thigh) and Oliver Torres (shoulder) like Martinez, will also not be unavailable to Lopetegui for the match.
Lopetegui’s team are now only one of three teams who have yet to lose in the Champions League this season, (along with Real Madrid and Chelsea). They are looking to get to the quarter-finals for only the second time ever, since the first won in 2004.
Both Porto and Basel teams will start evenly, following a 1-1 draw played out on February 18. yet Porto seems to have a slight psychological edge, as their last meeting ended with Danilo’s 79th-minute penalty giving Porto the advantage of an away goal. They can also take solace in the fact that they have only lost once in seven meetings with Swiss sides in European competition. And they’ve avoided defeat in their last eight European home games.
There is an interesting twist here: Basel coach Paulo Sousa, twice a Champions League winner during his playing career, returns to his homeland to play a game of a lifetime so his squad should be solid and ready showing the same tenacity as they did in the last game, by scoring first. Having made 51 appearances for the Portugal national team, he knows Portuguese soccer well.
After the first leg, Sousa told media, “It was an amazing, amazing performance, and I’m really, really happy…It means we have come back again to near our best level of performance. The boys enjoy playing at this level. It also means that we can recover more quickly and present ourselves in Porto at our best.”
Basel is also in good form. The Swiss Super League leaders will come into the game after taking a 3-0 victory over Thun at the weekend, their 3rd win in a row and has a six-point lead at the top of the Swiss league, so they will be confident. Also Defender Fabian Schar is back for Basel after a one-match ban. The injury to Porto’s captain Martinez also offers Basel more hope.
Despite the 1-1 aggregate after clinching a 1-1 draw in Switzerland in the first leg, Basel has reached the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition only once in 1974. They have not won in five visits to Portugal. Also, Basel only had one shot in the first leg: Derlis Gonzalez’s goal in the 11th minute compared to Porto who had 15 shots.
It should make for an interesting game, but count on Porto not to squander this chance to advance and use everything they learned in the first leg against Basel. Even without their captain, with home advantage they should be able to put this game out of Basel’s reach with some early scoring.
Our Pick: Porto over Basel 2-1