Porto are not afraid to make wholesale changes to
their team as they seek to improve on their recent Champions League form and
avoid being stunned again by Group G's surprise leaders APOEL Nicosia in
Tuesday's Champions League match in Cyprus.
The Cypriots, who drew 1-1 at twice European champions Porto last time and
are the biggest overachievers of this season's competition so far, will also be
looking for a better performance than Friday's display against Anorthosis when
they were forced to settle for a goalless home draw the league.
APOEL's Serbian coach Ivan Jovanovic said he could understand why the team
played so poorly on Friday with the Porto match looming and the possibility of a
place in the last 16 awaiting his squad, but an anticipated capacity crowd of
22,000 fans in Nicosia on Tuesday will have high expectations.
With the group stage at the halfway point, APOEL lead the tightly-bunched
Group G quartet with five points, one clear of Zenit St Petersburg and Porto and
three ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Portuguese champions, who beat Pacos Ferreira 3-0 on Friday and are
ahead of Benfica on goal difference at the top of the league, were booed by
their fans after what was regarded as an embarrassing draw with APOEL earlier
Coach Vitor Pereira said his team had no choice but to go for the three
points in Nicosia.
"The APOEL match is fundamental to us. We know that to go over there and win
will require a Porto side at its very best level," he said.
Pereira made some deep changes in the last two domestic league matches,
including dropping regulars Kleber and Nicolas Otamendi for striker Walter and
centre-back Eliaquim Mangala.
The coach told his players that none of them had a guaranteed place in the
starting 11 and his shake-up paid dividends as Porto crushed Nacional Madeira
5-0 and then Pacos on Friday.
"I am sure that in the APOEL match, with a good performance and a good win,
the fans will applaud, because they love the club and they love football," said
Pereira, assistant to Andre Villas-Boas last season when the club claimed a
memorable treble of Europa League, Portuguese Premier League and domestic cup.
"Wins bring confidence and confidence brings quality. That is what we will
be looking for in Cyprus."
Mangala, also captain of France's Under-21 team, will probably feature
against APOEL. He is taller and physically stronger than Otamendi and impressed
in his last two performances in the backline.
Walter, who was on the scoresheet in Porto's rout over Nacional, cannot be
picked because he was not registered to play in the Champions League, a decision
that Pereira has publicly regretted. This leaves Brazilian striker Kleber as
Porto's only obvious option to play with Hulk up front.
APOEL coach Jovanovic has problems ahead of the match and does not have too
many options to strengthen his side, which contains three Portuguese players and
They are without injured goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis and Brazilian defender
William Boaventura while midfielder Marchinho is not 100 percent fit after a
lengthy injury absence and is unlikely to feature.
The well-organised Cypriots may have had to wait until their second
Champions League tournament to earn their first win - at home to Zenit in
September - but they have since shown that they are not out of their depth.
They boast a compact defence and pace up front, with Brazilian duo Ailton
and Gustavo Manduca their main threats.
APOEL Nicosia: 78-Urko Pardo, 29-Nektarios Alexandrou, 3-Paulo Jorge,
6-Marcelo Oliveira, 7-Savvas Poursaitidis, 26-Nuno Morais, 20-Aldo Atorno;
23-Helio Pinto, 21-Gustavo Manduca; 8-Ailton, 11-Ivan Trickovski
Porto: 1-Helton; 21-Cristian Sapunaru, 14-Rolando, 22-Eliaquim Mangala,
5-Alvaro Pereira; 7-Fernando Belluschi, 28-Fernando, 35-Steven Defour; 12-Hulk,
11-Kleber, 17-Silvestre Varela
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Barcelona's golden boy grabs the headlines again
It's Larsson Jr stealing the show these days
England striker puts pen to paper on permanent deal
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010