Date: 18th February, 2021
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: Estádio do Dragão, Portugal
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Reigning Portugal champions FC Porto will host reigning Italian champions Juventus in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 at the Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday night. Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Portugal for the first time with the Italian giants.
Juventus topped Group G ahead of Barcelona with 15 points from their six games and Andrea Pirlo’s men scored 14 goals over the league stage. Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata will need to step up their game against a tight Porto defence, which has managed to keep five consecutive Champions League clean sheets including most recently against Premier League leaders Man City.
Porto have drawn their last four games domestically and are 10 points behind league leaders Sporting Lisbon. The home side are likely to set up defensively and won’t take unnecessary risks by pushing extra bodies forward, knowing that Juventus strikers could punish them on the counter. Juventus were eliminated at this stage of the competition last year, when they lost to Lyon on away goals. For Andrea Pirlo’s side, success in Europe appears important as their domestic dominance is gradually showing signs of faltering. A 1-0 defeat at Napoli on Saturday has left Juventus eight points adrift of leaders Inter Milan, though with a game in hand.
After the match against Napoli, Ronaldo urged his teammates to focus on the Champions League, “This defeat will not bring us down. Let’s raise our heads and think about the Champions League.” It will be interesting to see if Ronaldo can steer the Italian giants to a triumphant European season, something which he managed to do for three consecutive seasons with Real Madrid from 2015-2018.
Porto will be without full-backs Nanu and Zaidu Sanusi. Midfielder Otavio also has a muscle injury and has been ruled out.
Versatile winger Cuadrado has suffered a muscle injury and will join the likes of Arthur, Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala on the treatment table. However, Juve will be able to call on Leonardo Bonucci for the game after resting him for the Napoli match.
Probable Playing XIs
Agustin Marchesin; Wilson Manafa, Chancel Mbemba, Pepe, Malang Sarr; Jesus Corona, Sergio Oliviera, Matheus Uribe; Luiz Diaz, Moussa Marega, Mehdi Taremi
Wojciech Szczesny; Danilo, Leonardo Bonucci, Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro; Federico Chiesa, Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, Weston McKennie; Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata