Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said he is uneasy about facing Chelsea in today’s Champions League quarter-final first leg so soon after they endured a shock 5-2 defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion. Saturday’s thumping at the hands of relegation-fighting West Brom was Chelsea’s first defeat in 15 games in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel.
It was all the more surprising as the Blues had conceded only twice in their previous 14 games. “I wished they had won the last game rather than lost,” Conceicao told a news conference. “A defeat like that serves as a warning, it sets the alarm bells off and makes everyone more alert to danger. Chelsea had been very strong until this game, they have the second-best defence in the Champions League and are a strong side. Their last game barely formed part of our analysis of them, I’m more focused on what they did against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, for example. Chelsea have several strengths that will be a real challenge for us to overcome.”
The first leg is Porto’s “home” game in the tie, although both matches are being played in Spain at Seville’s Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan due to restrictions on travel between Portugal and England. Conceicao’s side knocked out Juventus in the last 16 on away goals, and the coach described Chelsea as a similar calibre of club to the Serie A champions.
“They are two of the best teams in the world with players that need no introduction, but we’re prepared,” he said. “We’re a historic club who can beat anyone with our spirit and quality, even though we don’t have the money they do.”
Porto will have to make do today without Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi, who was sent off in the second leg against Juve, plus Portuguese midfielder Sergio Oliveira, who scored both strikes in that game and is also suspended.
Team captain Pepe also emphasised his side’s underdog status but was confident they could beat Chelsea. “Their squad is worth around 700mn euros but that won’t be felt on the pitch. They have great players, but we have prepared (for) the game well,” he said. “If we keep believing in the work we’re doing and follow what the coach tells us, we’ll have a great chance of getting through.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel praised defender Antonio Rudiger and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for burying the hatchet after the pair were involved in a training ground bust-up on Sunday.
German defender Rudiger was sent to the changing rooms after he clashed with the Spanish goalkeeper following a late challenge, with the two having to be separated by teammates.
Tuchel said that the incident was serious but that Rudiger and Kepa would not be punished. “We calmed the situation immediately. They can happen because everyone is competitive in training,” Tuchel said. “They cleared the air and there was nothing left afterwards. They solved it in an honest and humble way... For this situation, there will be no punishment.”
The German insisted there was no panic heading into match against FC Porto. “We got a big slap in the face, and it was required to remind us how tough it is to keep winning,” he added. “I have the feeling we can overcome Porto but it will be tough. They are very experienced, but we are strong enough and believe in ourselves.”
Tuchel confirmed winger Christian Pulisic was in the squad after suffering a hamstring scare against West Brom, while midfielder N’Golo Kante is only fit enough to make the bench.
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