Both still vying for a second-placed finish in Champions League Group B, Porto and Atletico Madrid prepare for battle at the Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday night.
The hosts currently occupy the second and final qualifying spot for the knockout stages, but Atletico – and AC Milan – are just one point adrift of Sergio Conceicao’s side.
Even though Liverpool were already riding off into the sunset and made a number of expected alterations on the penultimate matchday, Porto were still no match for Jurgen Klopp’s crop as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat on the Anfield turf last month.
Thiago Alcantara and Mohamed Salah both found the net in the second half to make Porto’s task of achieving second place just that little bit harder, as Conceicao’s men are now just one point clear of Atletico and AC Milan.
Porto will be praying for Liverpool to produce the goods at San Siro in order to fend off the challenge of the Rossoneri, and their fate is in their own hands, with all three points on Tuesday guaranteeing them a knockout place for the fifth time in six seasons.
Amid a spate of stellar league performances, Porto head into Tuesday’s crucial battle on the back of an eighth Primeira Liga victory on the bounce, easing past Portimonense 3-0 thanks to Luis Diaz, Vitinha and Otavio’s strikes.
Incredibly in second place despite notching up a paltry three goals in the 2021-22 Champions League so far – two of which have come at the Estadio do Dragao – Porto’s forwards cannot afford to lack a clinical edge with Atletico also vying for their rightful place in the last 16.
Atletico supporters could not have envisaged their side sitting at the bottom of the rankings in Group B with just one game remaining, but amid a struggle for consistency continentally and domestically, the La Liga champions’ European run is at a real risk of coming to an abrupt end.
Diego Simeone’s men went down 1-0 on their own turf to AC Milan on matchday five – with Junior Messias scoring the game’s only goal in the 87th minute – with the Rossoneri sending their counterparts to the bottom of the rankings as a result.
Victory in Portugal, coupled with AC Milan failing to beat Liverpool, would see Atletico claim second spot, but with just four goals scored and seven conceded in Group B so far, Simeone’s men have suffered quite the fall from grace since finishing atop the pile in La Liga last term.
A 2-1 league defeat at home to Mallorca at the weekend means it is just three wins from their last 10 in all competitions for Atletico, who have not kept a clean sheet away from home all season and have chosen the worst time to lose some of their defensive names to injury and suspension.
There were no goals to be had in Atletico’s clash with Porto at the Wanda Metropolitano back in September, but the hosts have only lost one of their three previous meetings with Los Rojiblancos on home turf, although it was the most recent one in October 2013.
Porto Champions League form:
Porto form (all competitions):
Atletico Madrid Champions League form:
Atletico Madrid form (all competitions):
We say: Porto 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Atletico’s defensive woes are there to be exposed by Porto this week, and the Portuguese hosts would choose no better time to find their shooting boots in Europe after some previous profligacy.
Both teams have a desperate need for points on Tuesday, but Atletico have plenty of experienced names used to high-pressure situations such as this one and ought to take a point back home to Madrid, although that result would not exactly benefit either side’s hopes of securing second.