Under-fire Porto coach Vitor Pereira knows
his team must beat visiting Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday to qualify for the
last 16 of the Champions League as he bids to hold on to his job.
Porto are third in Group G with seven points behind Russian league leaders
Zenit who have eight and need only a draw to reach the last 16. APOEL Nicosia
have nine points and have already become the first team from Cyprus to get to
the knockout stage.
Porto won the domestic double and Europa League last season with a rampant
attacking style of play but have been disappointing so far this term after Andre
Villas-Boas left for Chelsea and his assistant Pereira was promoted to manager.
In the Champions League, Porto started with a win over visiting Shakhtar
Donetsk but lost at Zenit, were held at home by APOEL and then suffered a shock
defeat in Nicosia that triggered a chorus of protests that included dozens of
fans waiting at the airport to berate the returning players and coach.
To make matters worse, they were soon knocked out of the Portuguese Cup,
outplayed in a 3-0 defeat at Academica.
Under intense pressure, Pereira then changed tactics and his side earned two
straight wins with a gritty 2-0 victory in freezing conditions at Shakhtar and a
3-2 home success against Braga in the league.
"Unfortunately things were not coming out well for us. Now the team has
improved and wants to keep the momentum, beat Zenit and move ahead in the
Champions League," said Porto's Brazil forward Hulk.
Pereira shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation from 4-3-3, making the midfield more
dynamic as he dropped one of the three holding midfielders and moved Hulk from
the wing to spearhead the attack.
The burly forward has hit his stride in the new role, scoring three goals in
the last two matches and driving the team's attack.
"Positive results always bring confidence... I'm no exception to that rule,"
Pereira said. "But I'm not calm yet and will not lower my guard, although I feel
that the team is closer to what we are looking for," he said.
In midfield, steady passer Joao Moutinho has recovered form while energetic
Belgian Steven Defour offers more pace than Fernando Belluschi, an Argentine
playmaker who prefers possession football.
Russian champions Zenit will be without leading scorer Alexander Kerzhakov,
who has stayed home to nurse an ankle injury.
Luciano Spalletti's team will make the short trip to Porto on Monday having
opted to fly to Portugal last week for a six-day training camp.
Porto: 1-Helton; 4-Maicon, 14-Rolando, 30-Nicolas Otamendi, 5-Alvaro
Pereira; 28-Fernando, 8-Joao Moutinho, 20-Djalma, 35-Steven Defour, 19-James
Zenit St Petersburg: 16-Vyacheslav Malafeyev; 2-Alexander Anyukov,
4-Domenico Criscito, 6-Nicolas Lombaerts, 14-Tomas Hubocan; 15-Roman Shirokov,
20-Viktor Faizulin, 18-Konstantin Zyryanov, 27-Igor Denisov; 10-Danny,
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