champions-league19 October 2021


Matchday three in the Champions League: our guide for the trip to Portugal

A decisive match. After two good performances, which unfortunately both ended in defeat, AC Milan's Champions League campaign finds itself at a crossroads in Porto. Tonight’s match in Portugal is a must-win, to move off 0 points in Group B and continue the pursuit of getting through the round. As we edge ever closer to kick-off at the Dragão, which is set for 21:00 CEST, we look more in detail at the fixture with our Match Preview.

Despite having numerous absentees, the morale is high at the home of the Rossoneri after the comeback win against Hellas Verona. The disqualified Franck Kessie must be added to the list of those already known to be unavailable, but Coach Pioli will be able to count on one important returning player: Tiémoué Bakayoko, who returns to the squad for tonight's match.

“We'll be up against a solid and well-organised side. They're used to playing Champions League football and have high-quality attacking players. The match will come with the difficulties that are present in a top-level game”, commented Coach Stefano Pioli on the eve of the match. “Porto are complete in all departments. We used the international break to study them and have prepared a strategy that we hope will bring rewards. Our two matches against Porto will be decisive for the final standings".

An almost ever-present in the competition, Porto has made 17 appearances in the group stage in the last 20 seasons. Porto qualified after finishing in second place in the league in 2020/21, having also knocked out Juventus in the round of 16 in last season’s Champions League to reach the quarter-finals, where they were then eliminated by the eventual champions, Chelsea. While their journey in Europe in 2021/22 has not been overly exciting thus far, with a 0-0 in Madrid against Atlético and a 1-5 home defeat against Liverpool, it’s a completely different story in Portugal: six wins and two draws in the league after eight matchdays see them occupy second place, one point behind Benfica. The team come into this match after a solid 5-0 win at the weekend in Taça de Portugal against Sintrense.

Compared to last season, Sérgio Conceição's team has operated with consistency, with only two important summer arrivals in the Brazilians Wendell and Pepê. In their last European outing at the end of September, Conceição started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Diogo Costa in goal; Corona, Cardoso, Marcano and Zaidu in defence; Uribe and Oliveira as a pair in midfield; Otávio, Mártinez and Díaz playing in behind the lone striker Taremi.

"I saw a very strong AC Milan playing good football: they haven’t lost in the league yet, despite having played Juventus, Lazio, and Atalanta, all top-level teams that play in the European competitions", were the words of Coach Conceição on the eve of the match. "They have many individuals of great quality. They have some notable absentees but they can count on good alternatives of a high level”.

The Rossoneri come into this after a narrow defeat at San Siro against Atlético, whereas the Portuguese are coming from a much heavier one against Liverpool. This, therefore, is how the standings appear in Group B: Liverpool 6, Atlético 4, Porto 1, AC Milan 0. In addition to Porto v AC Milan, the schedule for this day includes the fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano of Madrid between the Colchoneros and Liverpool, also scheduled for 21:00 CEST.

It will be a German to take charge of Porto v AC Milan: 46-year-old Felix Brych, one of the most experienced referees in Europe, will be the man in the middle for the match at the Dragão. A referee already encountered on five occasions by the Rossoneri, four times in the Champions League, with one victory (Zenit 2-3 AC Milan in 2012), three draws (AC Milan 1-1 Real Madrid in 2009, Ajax1-1 AC Milan in 2010, AC Milan 1-1 Barcelona in 2013), and one defeat, the most recent: AC Milan 0-1 Manchester United, on March 18 this year in the Round of 16 of the Europa League. 

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