Roma and Porto set to kick off Champions League Round of Sixteen actions.
Porto haven’t lost a match since October 7th
Through all competitions, Portugal’s top club haven’t conceded a loss for more than four months. The last such defeat came at the hands of Benfica during a wild game where yellow cards were being handed out like candy. The reigning Primeira Liga champions once again lead their league, albeit by a one win margin over that same Benfica squad. It’s been a season of consistency, the team boasts a balanced attack and defense that saw them tie Barcelona for a +9 goal differential in UCL Group Stage, second behind Bayern and Man City.
Both teams have met recently in the UCL
Porto handed Roma a 4-1 defeat on aggregate during the playoff round in the summer of 2016 including a second leg 3-0 victory at Stadio Olimpico which included two red cards committed by the Giallorossi. The only Roma goal scored that entire round was a Porto own goal. Since that short time, Roma’s roster has endured significant turnover while Porto has had relative stability. Roma fans certainly hope that veterans from that series such as Manolas, De Rossi, and Dzeko will remember that their last meeting and will seek to exact vengeance after an embarrassing loss.
Neither side are favored to go very far
Betting sites indicate that both sides are favored at 100/1 or worse to win it all. Of course, as we all remember, Roma maintained similar odds last season before shocking the world and making it within a goal of a UCL finals appearance before finally succumbing to Liverpool. Ironically, both Roma and Porto fans will consider themselves lucky for having drawn the other side. The well-oiled machine in Manchester City, reigning champs Real Madrid, or Cristiano Ronaldo’s new Juventus squads are nightmare matchups for the smaller clubs, many of which like Roma and Porto, may not be ready for at this stage of the playoffs. Porto is almost guaranteed to be back in the tournament next season, but for Roma, who struggle to secure a top-four finish and may not be back next season, advancing is even more important.
Daniele De Rossi and Iker Casillas are among the elder statesmen of the UCL
Although PSG’s Buffon may someday set the record for oldest starting player in the UCL, both Roma and Porto have a wealth of well-aged experience at crucial positions. De Rossi, who recently returned from a lengthy injury was in top form against AC Milan. The 35-year-old played a full ninety minutes and seemingly turned back the clock ten years, keeping pace with a relatively young Roma squadron and playing excellent defense, winning battles, and making foot to foot passes. Casillas, who has won everything imaginable, multiple times with Real Madrid, and a World Cup to his credit, will provide Porto with veteran leadership and playoff experience in net. The 2018–19 campaign marks the twentieth UCL campaign in Casillas’ illustrious career.
It’s actually one of the better matchups in the league
Two evenly matched teams will make for good playoff football. Aside from Liverpool v. Bayern and Atletico v. Juventus, this matchup has the potential to provide a close scoresheet, exciting tactics, and late drama culminating in a winner take all scenario that comes down to the last minutes or seconds. No disrespect to Schalke, Ajax, or Lyon but those matchups against traditional powerhouses don’t make for good television. As mentioned before, this is the matchup that both teams wanted, meaning there will no doubt be a level playing field between the two. Fans should expect close games in both legs. My final prediction is Roma wins 4-3 on aggregate.