Porto pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at home to Bayern Munich, winning 3-1. It was a performance in which they were rewarded for their aggressive pressing, and one that left their Bavarian visitors looking rather shellshocked. Bayern had been beaten at their own game.
Unfortunately for the victors, that was still only half the job, and Pep Guardiola's Bayern certainly won't be intimidated heading into the second leg on home soil. Scoring twice without reply would be enough for the Bundesliga outfit, and when put in those terms, their task looks a whole lot easier. Count them out at your peril.
Bayern Munich will still be without wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, versatile midfielder David Alaba, centre-back Medhi Benatia and backup goalkeeper Tom Starke. Bastian Schweinsteiger could be involved after recovering from an ankle injury, though Javi Martínez is still recovering from his long-term knee problem. Philipp Lahm and Juan Bernat are both doubtful.
Porto will have defender Iván Marcano back available after suspension, though both starting full-backs, Danilo and Alex Sandro, are suspended -- something that could force the Portuguese outfit into playing four centre-backs across the defence. Otherwise, coach Julen Lopetegui could well have a full-strength team to choose from.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Bayern Munich (4-3-3): Manuel Neuer; Juan Bernat, Dante, Jérôme Boateng, Rafinha; Thiago Alcântara, Xabi Alonso, Philipp Lahm; Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller.
Bayern vs. Porto's press -- In the first leg, Bayern couldn't cope with Porto's brilliant pressing. The Portuguese side had been drilled perfectly by coach Lopetegui, and knew exactly when and where to press without tiring themselves out, or allowing Bayern to pick holes straight through the middle of the pitch. Both of their first two goals came from them winning the ball deep in Bayern's own half. However, the Bavarians shouldn't make the same mistakes twice. In this game they're going to be absolutely prepared, meaning Porto will have to be all the more organised without the ball.
The wide battle -- The absence of Porto's two full-backs is potentially a very costly one. It's a move that will likely force Lopetegui into playing four centre-backs, which means they'll lose the attacking thrust out wide provided by Alex Sandro and Danilo when Porto are in possession. The only saving grace is that Bayern are still without their two first-choice wingers, though it'll be fascinating to see how Guardiola can exploit this full-back weakness without Robben and Ribéry.
Casemiro vs. Bayern's central attackers -- One of the stars of Porto's Champions League campaign to date has been young Real Madrid loanee Casemiro. The towering midfielder has anchored things in the centre of the pitch for Porto, and must have his parent club licking their lips at the prospect of him establishing himself in their first team. He'll have to be at his best once again to stop Bayern's attackers tearing straight through the middle in this game.
As the first leg illustrated, trying to predict this result is nigh-on impossible. However, on home turf, with one of the best squads in Europe, being watched over by a terrifyingly angry Pep Guardiola, the Bavarians may just have enough to do it. 2-0 Bayern.