PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA VS PORTO

A very historic home game awaits the Blues tonight in Spain. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look not only at that significance but also at the task very much at hand…

 

This is the decisive game of Chelsea’s 10th Champions League quarter-final tie, with Porto the nominal away side in Seville. The Blues, who progressed this far in the competition without a loss for the first time – a club record – are the only remaining team yet to concede in the knockout stage.

 

This tie feels far from over, especially as some of the Dragons’ claws may return in the form of players back from suspension, and the away goals rule could benefit the Primeira Liga’s last remaining ambassadors.

 

Yet statistics are stacked against Sergio Conceicao’s team, who have never successfully overturned a first-leg deficit of more than one goal in 15 previous attempts.

 

One Chelsea goal scored would mean Porto, who lost 2-0 in the first leg (their fourth first-leg home European knockout defeat by more than the minimum), will need to score three. A neutral stadium deprived of feverish supporters may not appear conducive to a night of such heroics.

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Porto may be grateful tonight’s venue is not Stamford Bridge, where they have only ever tasted defeat. But it is an away ground for both, and Chelsea’s record on the road is the best in the competition: played five, won five, with a goal difference of +12. Porto’s, they will not need reminding, is the worst: played four, won two, lost two, goal difference +1.

 

This quick return to Andalusia’s capital city brings the genuine novelty of a ‘home from home’ tie, and both clubs can draw on fond memories for inspiration. Chelsea have a 100 per cent record from two visits to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan: 4-0 against Sevilla and 2-0 last Wednesday. The Portuguese can look back to winning the UEFA Cup there in 2003 under Jose Mourinho.

The Premier League goals scored at Crystal Palace were by some distance the quickest so far under Thomas Tuchel and the 4-1 final scoreline is the biggest victory of his tenure.

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Portuguese media noted Chelsea could barely have had an easier ride before this second leg, and the hosts did play into the Blues’ hands, taking risks in their defensive third. You would think that less likely in the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final, yet both the Londoners’ first-leg goals came from individual brilliance capitalising on Porto errors.

 

Zaidu Sanusi was deceived by Mason Mount’s appliance of science, while a colleague’s pass fizzed off unfamiliar right-back Jesus Corona, who lost the deposit on his bottle as Chilwell set off on a sparkling run.

It was a measure of the Blues’ control that Mount’s finish closed a nine-man move. Chilly’s goal was his third for the Londoners, two of which were scored with his less-favoured right boot.

 

When pinned back by Chelsea, especially through Chilwell and Reece James, Porto conceded ground and reformed as a deep-lying 5-3-2 formation. At other times, we could have made hay in the inviting acreage behind Porto’s high-line of defence with bolder, more accurate or better-weighted passes.

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Will Hakim Ziyech be a feature of this leg, as the Dragons take more risks to draw blood?

 

At the weekend Chelsea were purposeful, fluid and energetic from the outset, and those are virtues that can be applied no matter the opposition or setting. The Blues have led at the break in six of the past eight games in this competition.

 

Injury and suspension ensured Kurt Zouma started at Selhurst Park. Porto won the majority of aerial encounters last Wednesday and on Saturday the France defender scored his fifth goal to become the Premier League’s highest-scoring defender.

That said, Andreas Christensen’s calm and accurate passing and numerous clearances played a big part in the Blues’ success that night. The Dane, who missed out at the weekend, has travelled to Andalusia.

 

Other options on show in south London included Callum Hudson-Odoi’s adventure at right wing-back, as well as Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz rediscovering the net. Will that pair and Mount form the attacking trio again tonight?

 

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