Chelsea will bid to banish the painful memory of Saturday’s 5-2 defeat to West Brom when it heads to Spain to face Porto this week.
The Blues were unbeaten in their 14 previous games under new manager Thomas Tuchel, and they conceded just twice during that sensational run of results. They had kept seven consecutive clean sheets, shutting out the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea were 1-0 up and appeared to be cruising to another victory in their clash with lowly West Brom at the weekend, but they capitulated after veteran defender Thiago Silva was sent off in the first half. Tuchel must now rally his troops for a trip to Seville.
The game is being played at a neutral venue due to coronavirus restrictions, so neither team will have home advantage. Chelsea should fancy their chances of winning the game, but Porto will be hell-bent on causing an upset.
Club legend Paulo Futre said he was “disgusted” after learning that the Chelsea players celebrated after being drawn against Porto in the quarter-finals. It did appear to be the easiest draw on paper, as it meant they avoided Bayern Munich, PSG, Man City, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Liverpool.
However, Porto are not to be taken lightly after pulling off a shock victory over Juventus in the previous round. Futre was seething after alleging that Chelsea’s players celebrated the draw.
“Chelsea players celebrated when they heard that they had drawn Porto,” he said. “How did I know? It’s in the English press and I called later to confirm. FC Porto players have to run like never before in these two games. Do you know why? Because Chelsea think they have already won the tie. They celebrated.
“When I spoke to the source, I was disgusted, and I would give anything to play against Chelsea. FC Porto players now have to give their all on the pitch, because Chelsea think they are already in the semi-finals. They celebrated in the morning when they saw they got FC Porto. Porto can get through, but they have to sweat blood.”
Futre has maintained his diatribe this week, but Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic said his comments were “strange” and denied any claims the Blues celebrated the draw. He insisted that Chelsea would treat Porto’s “amazing team” with respect, and Tuchel echoed those sentiments.
However, it is hard to overlook Chelsea’s superior quality. The Blues beat La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid to nil home and away in the last round. Aside from the meltdown against West Brom, they have been remarkably solid since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as manager.
If they can keep 11 men on the pitch against Porto, they should be able to win the game. They have not had any disciplinary issues this season, so there is no reason to think they will go down to 10 men for a second consecutive match.
N’Golo Kante is injured, which is a blow for the Blues, but Kovacic and Jorginho should be able to control the pace of the game in the middle of the park. Porto’s defense, led by 38-year-old veteran Pepe, does not look particularly solid, and they were holding on for dear life for long periods against Juventus.
Porto are excellent on the ball, with Sergio Oliveira pulling the strings in midfield, and the likes of Otavio, Moussa Marega and Mehdi Taremi are all dangerous going forward.
However, Chelsea have invested heavily in their squad, and Tuchel has plenty of options at his disposal. Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz are all quick and dynamic enough to cause problems for Pepe, while Olivier Giroud can offer aerial threat and Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount are very creative.
It will certainly not be easy for the Blues, but they should be able to edge this one, and odds of 4/5 (1.80) at William Hill on a Chelsea win look very attractive. Betway has 19/20 (1.95) on Chelsea to win and under 4.5 goals if you want more value.