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Monday evening Arsenal pay a visit to Bramall Lane, an old-time football ground in South Yorkshire, to take on Sheffield United, the league’s rock-bottom side. The Gunners haven’t played a league game at Bramall Lane for three years, since April 2021, when a very different Gunners side emerged victorious by 3-0 with two goals by Lacazette and one by Martinelli. Aaron Ramsdale was the goalkeeper for the Blades that day, and the only two Gunners’ starters that day who can be expected to start on Monday are Martinelli and Saka.

The Opposition

The Blades have played their home games at Bramall Lane ever since the club was formed in 1889. They contested the first two seasons of the Premier League before getting relegated in 1994. After more than two decades in the wilderness, including six seasons in League One and only one in the Premier League, they came back up in 2019 under Chris Wilder and stayed two seasons before getting relegated. This season they came up once again under Paul Heckingbottom but the Blades sacked him three months ago, and Wilder took back the reins but they now look set to continue their roller coaster ride with relegation a near certainty.

Facing a top three side is a daunting prospect when your team has floundered as the Blades have this season. They come into the game with the league’s worst goal difference at -44 having conceded 66 times in their 26 games, or 2.53 goals per match.  And not only have they conceded the most of any Premier League side, their attacking has been so inept that they have scored the fewest (22).  Last Sunday the Blades failed to score at Wolves and saw their average goals scored per game fall to 0.85. But it’s bad karma to harp endlessly about the Blades’ weaknesses, so I’ll stop and just say that Arsenal had best stay focused so as to avoid the proverbial banana skin that their rivals Liverpool and Manchester City managed to avoid this weekend.

The Arsenal

Mikel Arteta’s team news, announced on Thursday, will be four days old at kickoff but he indicated that Partey (who also started at Bramall Lane in April 2021) should be in the squad for the first time since October; Tomiyasu and Zinchenko could be back in contention but their condition will be assessed after Sunday’s final training session. Gabriel Jesus should be available after missing Arsenal’s last four matches but Arteta sounded a note of caution about the striker: “We need him fit – he’s a massive player for us and now we want to make sure we load him in the right way.”

Having dispatched Newcastle 4-1 last week, high-flying Arsenal have scored 25 goals from six matches, or more than 4 goals per game.  Rounding out those 25 goals the Gunners tallied five at Burnley, six at West Ham, three at home to Liverpool, two at Forest, and five at home to Crystal Palace.  Arsenal’s 27 set piece goals, of their 62 goals scored in all, is their most in a single league season since those statistics began to be kept, in 2004-05. The Gunners’ excellent last two months, as they began the calendar year with six league wins for the first time in their history, propelled them into the league’s joint best goal difference of +39, the same as Liverpool and four better than Manchester City but the other two clubs have played once more so the Gunners could use a big win in Sheffield to keep the other clubs behind them in at least that category. 

Saka has been the spearhead of the Arsenal attack in that stretch, and scored in five consecutive league appearances. He is the first English player to do so for Arsenal since Ian Wright in 1994, and the last Arsenal player of any nationality to do so since Olivier Giroud nine years ago. Here’s hoping that Bukayo can keep on adding to his total while his boot is looking so golden.

Arsenal XI

The Gunners haven’t played for over a week, and they now face the prospect of very few fixtures in the next month due to the rescheduling of the Chelsea fixture so I see no need for the gaffer to change up the side that’s been so successful in recent weeks.

Raya
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Kiwior
Ødegaard – Rice – Havertz
Saka – Trossard – Martinelli

The ‘holic pound

Short and sweet: a repeat of April 2021 should do quite nicely, thank you, so my prediction is: Arsenal 3 Sheffield United 0

Have a good one, ‘holics.

The Arsenal goal map vs Newcastle (and image from Quora)

Preamble

This Saturday saw us welcome the Riyadh Democrats Repressors to The Arsenal for a rare evening kick-off. Nice Guy Eddie and his merry little band of ne’er do wells were on a run of four unbeaten in the Premier League and were expected by some to provide a stern test of The Arsenal’s mental mettle after the unfortunate travails of our midweek trip to Oporto. They had certainly frustrated The Arsenal on their previous visit as they anti-footballed their way to a 0-0 draw, and then once again at their own ground this season when, with an assist from the PGMoL, they stole three points in the manner of a particularly rapacious house of kleptocrats. The latter game proved a step too far for Mikel Arteta, who rightly lambasted the officiating as an absolute disgrace and followed up prior to this game by happily showing no regret whatsoever for telling the truth – well said that man. However, having talked the talk, it was time to put our game faces on and walk the walk.

The Teams 

The only change for The Arsenal was Jorginho in for Leo. After the game, Mikel said of Jorginho “he’s a top player, especially when the opponents have certain behaviours or a certain set-up. The way I can imagine the game, he’s going to have a big impact….” Make of that what you will and no doubt there is a strategic aspect to it but I also feel MA values Jorginho’s character in potentially tricky situations. Whatever the actual reason, the fact was that Jorginho had an excellent game, though I should add I thought Leo a tad unlucky to be the one to make way as none of our attacking players were sharp in midweek. We also welcomed Gabriel Jesús back to a bench that is slowly gaining in strength. The Tiny Toons had made 3 changes, one of them in goal where Dubravka had shrewdly rustled up a sick note and left Karius to face the on-fire squad in his first PL appearance since 2018. 

1st half

The double whammy of motivation for The Arsenal, to bounce straight back whilst serving a dish cold, meant the faithful, including some of our fellow Holics who had, if I have understood correctly, recently arrived from Ecuador, were in full voice right from the off. North London Forever had barely faded before Martinelli won our first corner about 10 seconds into the game. It was swiftly followed by a second that was adroitly nodded on at the near post by Benjamin but fell unfortunately to a Toon player and was cleared. The pattern however was set – we pressed ferociously and attacked in waves, they clung on for dear life. Chances and half-chances came and went over the next fifteen minutes before the opening goal came, to absolutely no one’s surprise these days, from a corner.

The Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0

Saka’s 18th minute corner from the right was well-met by a dominant Gabriel but then well parried by Karius. Fortunately, this time as the ball dropped down it was expertly keystoned into their own net by a combination of Livramento and Botman. In real time I was unsure if it had gone over the line before Karius had pushed it out but in these days of miracle and wonder goal line technology had it all sorted out in a jiffy and a 1-0 lead was ours. It didn’t last long.

The Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0

In response to our opening goal Newcastle did nothing as we continued to completely control the game for about 5 minutes until the ball arrived at Jorginho’s feet and he dropped a perfect ball to Martinelli as he smartly made his way from the left to ring wing. Demonstrating some top-class control Gabi made his way to the byline and then cut back into the path of Kai “65 million down the drain” Havertz, who finished readily. A richly deserved 2-0 lead that could easily have been four or five by the break as we once again made a team that is in the top 8 look like 2nd rate mugs managed by an overrated halfwit. 

To cap an outstanding first-half, when Newcastle finally got in our area in the final minutes of the half we defended well and stopped them from getting a single shot on goal. Considering Newcastle were, prior to kick-off, the highest scoring team outside the Top 3 that is top quality game management. 

2nd half

As the 2nd half kicked off the Japanese TV commentator wondered how many we would get and his co-commentator opined “as many as they want” to my amusement. In fact, it could have been 3-0 very early on. There was some vintage passing around the cones, Newcastle players, then back to Raya who fired a great long ball to the right wing, more smart passing and suddenly Kai was one-on-one with the keeper. Tragically he poked it wide and what would have been a truly great goal was lost. The game then entered an odd twilight zone and I was confused for a time until it dawned on me that Newcastle had the ball and were attacking. They had their first attempt on goal, a mediocre effort from Gordon that was charitably considered on target (it wasn’t). Isak then cut inside Benjamin (with quite worrying ease in truth, though Isak isn’t a bad player to be fairer than I prefer) and over-clubbed a shot into the crowd. Leo replaced Gabi M after about an hour and normal service was resumed shortly afterwards.

The Arsenal 3, oh no I mean 4 Newcastle 0

A smart interception by Kai, (or a poor pass from Botman I suppose) who then combined with Øde to leave Bukayo alone with Livramento. A few tortured-filled seconds later the referee stopped Livramento’s punishment and pointed back to the centre circle. 3-0. It was a cracking finish across the keeper and into the far corner from Saka, scoring in his 5th PL game in a row (first to do that since Giroud apparently). 

The crowd had barely had time to finish celebrating the third, when the fourth arrived. Our friends from Riyadh displayed a delightful inability to learn and a corner from Rice was nodded home at the near post by Kiwior. It was I believe our millionth goal from a set-piece this season or something like that. Initially, the goal was given as an own goal as it took a deflection off Smiley (Isn’t he dead by George? Ed.) but the PL espied that it was in fact on target and it happily became Kiwior’s first of the season. 

The game drifted to a contented close (unless obviously you were a Toon supporter but then you get what you deserve for lacking a moral compass).  Raya amusingly nailed the ref from 30 yards and pretended it was an accident; there were a whole raft of Hale Enders subbed on; Joe W scored for The Arsenal Newcastle, and Dan Burn cleared off the line to deny ESR a goal that we all wanted to see but alas it was not to be and 4-1 it remained.

I could happily write many more words as it was a truly enjoyable game with much that was good and encouraging but I may have tested your patience enough and so I will finish by saying it was a great end to a testing week and we can go to Sheffield for the next game in fine fettle. Just keep winning. 

When we last had the dubious pleasure of playing against the striped Magpies from th’Norf, it was at theirs and they beat us 1-0. Check the picture above for a reminder how and why…

Times for us both have changed as our seasons have progressed. When we arrived in Geordieland in November Arsenal were 7 points and four places clear of Newcastle; our loss there brought them to within 4 and two, respectively, with Arsenal dropping to 4th as a result. As they arrive to what should be an Electric Emirates they sit only 5 places lower, but Arsenal are 18 points clear of the Saudi-owned club. Who’d want to worry about their hands or feet over that, let alone their heads?

So look for Newcastle to come and park the black and white bus in and around our penalty box, challenging us to try and break it down to get our needed win. They’ve not lost in their last 5 games overall, having advanced to the 4th round of the FA Cup. In those games they’ve scored 15 goals; that they have let in a further 9 goals against that tally shows Newcastle for what they really are: possibly high scoring, probably a soft center (it also mimics their season, letting in 41 against 53). Even if they park the bus they seem to, more than frequently, leave the keys in it…

Newcastle

Al-Eddiehowe likes to arrange his team in a (hopefully) bog-standard 4-3-3, with the same four or so sheikhs trying to create drama up front: Isak, Gordon, Murphy, and Wilson have about half their goals. It’s fortunate for us that Wilson is out until, supposedly, May, and Isak has a late fitness test on his groin injury. It should mean Almiron will start one side or the other of Gordon (or Isak, if fit), with Murphy on the other. Willock (yay, Joe!) has a late test for his calf, and Schär has been passed fit after injuring his wrist. Other principal players they’re missing likely include Joelinton and Pope. Sadly, we can expect to see the odious but brutal Guimarães on the pitch, trying to control the game in front of Burn, Trippier, and Dúbravka.

Arsenal

It looks like we’re considering Partey, Jesus, and Zinchenko to be returning, with Tomi still lost in space-time after leaving the Japan after the Asian Cup. Just kidding. We’ll be without those four, absent a miracle, except perhaps for some benchwarming. It’s going to be a slog, so perhaps we need to bring in some blood that has rest in it, rather than keep expending the energy of the same old players…if possible:

Raya
White — Saliba — Gabriel — Kiwior
Mø — Rice — ESR
Saka — Havertz — Trossard

Most likely, though, Arteta will bring in the same team that lost to Porto, swapping Martinelli for Trossard, Trossard for Havertz, and Havertz for ESR.

I am sure the dressing room is feeling the sting of that last-minute loss in Porto, and recognizing (unlike, apparently, some of Arsenal’s social media sphere, who have melted down into a quiver of jelly) that it was a mistake in an important game rather than an indictment of the team or its successes so far this season. I am also sure the crowd will be loud and proud in support of our lads, and hopefully that will lift us to victory even if there are some tired legs on our side of the pitch.

Holic Pound

If we look for Arsenal to continue our recent run of Premier League form, we can expect them to score some large number of goals, having averaged more than 4 from our last 5 games (while giving up only two!). If Newcastle rise a bit to their occasion we might see a 3-1 victory, which is going at a not-so-handsome 11/1; one more goal for us and one less than them gets you 18s. If you think Newcastle can avoid profligacy and actually score against our defense you might think they can score 2; Arsenal 3-2 Newcastle is to be had at a money-spinning 22-1.

Regardless of how you might bet, or not, whether you’re there at the stadium or parked on your favorite or necessary seat with or without a beverage in hand, be loud, be proud, and send all your winning energy to the lads from kickoff time tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll be singing “five for silver, six for gold” by the end of the game…

COYG!!

Mikel Arteta unsurprisingly went with an unchanged side from the one which won 5-0 at Burnley on Saturday and 6-0 at West Ham the weekend before –
Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior; Odegaard, Rice, Havertz; Saka, Trossard, Martinelli; Subs: included Ramsdale, Smith-Rose, Viera, Nwaneri, Sweet and Heaven.

For Porto, manager Conceição had promised they would be physical and he duly included the 41 year old Pepe in the centre of their defence to play his 113th Champions League game. By contrast, ten of Arsenal’s starting eleven are in their debut season in the competition. It’s worth mentioning again that our “inexperienced” captain is the 22 year old Martin Odegaard, who played 11 games in 6 years at Real Madrid but now gets a chance on the stage his huge talent and leadership deserve.

The match officials were a team from Holland and the referee with a very Turkish looking name was Mr Serdar Gözübüyük. The VAR, should he be required – which he strangely wasn’t, as far as we know, given the unarmed combat taking place at every set piece – was the more easily pronounceable Dennis Higler.

The stats looked encouraging as no player had been involved in more Champions League goals this season than Bukayo Saka, with 3 goals and 4 assists, averaging a goal involvement every 48 minutes. Arsenal had scored more first half goals than any other team in the Champions League this season, with 12 of our 16 strikes coming before half time. Porto had only won 1 of their last 10 Champions League games against English opponents – against Chelsea in April 2021.

The pre-match ritual, rather than our own North London Forever, included what sounded like the Porto fans singing along to a Portuguese cabaret singer leading them in a ballad.

Once the match was underway Porto quickly looked to seek out and unsettle Declan Rice, which I guess they did given that he got himself a yellow card after just one minute for an unnecessary challenge on the Porto winger. That could have proven very difficult for Rice but such is the quality and intelligence of the player, he seemed to complete the match unimpeded by his punishment and precarious position.

Arsenal were quickly into control mode with 85% possession in the early stages. Unfortunately it was that kind of possession that involves mostly very slow, sideways and backwards passing and despite some lovely, intricate football billiards from Odegaard and Saka we really failed to threaten the Porto goal. It was shades of bad old Arsenal on 21 minutes when, with their first genuine attack, Porto skewed a shot across the face of goal which cannoned off the far post, ricocheted across the six yard box and was somehow steered wide of the near post with most of the stadium celebrating what looked like a certain goal.

The remainder of the first half turned into one of those affairs that so often happen against southern European teams – fouling, holding, tripping, anything to break up the rhythm and flow of the game, and a referee who allows them to get away with it. Porto were clearly worried about our ability to score from set pieces and the grappling and holding that went on at each one reached ridiculous levels. The antics in the six yard box resembled one of those 1970s tag team wrestling bouts that had got out of hand and had all four protagonists in the ring at the same time. The referee seemed to have simply given up all hope of either stopping it, or identifying the instigators and let them get on with it.

As the half ended goalless, Porto were well organised, hard to play against and made it difficult to go through centrally or get the ball out to our wingers before they were double marked. They were quick to challenge, quick to fall over and quite dangerous when they did attack with some pacy forwards.

With no changes at half time, the second period continued in the same vein as the first. According to the commentary, there seemed to be Pepes and Conceiçãos everywhere. The manager’s son was booked for trying to borrow Martinelli’s shirt without even the courtesy of asking first. Kiwior received his yellow card for getting one back on Conceição. Havertz was cautioned when a Porto player of which he was totally unaware, nutted him in the elbow from behind, and Gonzales went into the book for holding Havertz as he tried to break forwards. Conceição Jr will hopefully have been sent to bed with no tea by his dad, the manager, for a pathetic dive and audition for Casualty. The referee was sufficiently fooled to allow the medics on, who soothed Conceição’s blushes with a cool magic sponge.

Arteta sent Jorginho on for the ineffective Trossard on 73 minutes and 14 minutes later Porto’s pre-match singer, Toni Martinez was subbed on for Evanilson. Thankfully he restricted his efforts to kicking the ball and Arsenal players, and we were not subjected to any more warbling.
Arsenal had honestly achieved nothing with their 9 corners and one final free kick was headed over by Gabriel after two of the added four minutes. After 3 1/2 added minutes Martinelli hoofed the ball clear from a Porto attack, when he should have controlled it and kept possession. The clearance was intercepted near the half way line and played forward to Galeno who curled a brilliant looping shot past Raya from 25 yards. A naive mistake by Martinelli, reminiscent of some rash late actions by Arsenal players in Europe in the later Wenger years. Let’s hope the error will not prove costly in the home leg on Tuesday 12th March.

This was a strange and disappointing performance. We had 68% of possession but really did little with it. We started the game slowly and got into that rut of safety first, defensive passing that is very hard to break out of. We did control the game but seemed content to do it a good 15 yards further back than has been the way this season.

Porto did make it very difficult by keeping compact and occupying the space we normally look to play in between the lines. However, they are a niggly, highly irritating side and I can’t remember seeing so many players falling over and rolling around on the floor – especially after so little, or no, physical contact. Hopefully, the return leg will be managed by a less gullible referee who will leave them lying on the floor until they tire of their own play acting and get up and get on with it.

Afterwards Mikel Arteta said –
“We have to manage much better in deep areas ….. we need more threat, more aggression …. there were 35 – 37 fouls and allowing that is not good enough …. we couldn’t touch anybody, everything was a free kick … “

He wasn’t wrong. Hopefully the players will take note and learn for the home leg. We should be plenty good enough to win through although nobody is pretending it will be easy.

Hic sunt dracones

Image from stadiumdb.com

And so into the Dragons’ den. The time: Wednesday evening. The occasion: the Champions League Round of 16 first leg against FC Porto. The location: a sold-out Estádio do Dragão.

The 50-000 seater stadium, the third largest in Portugal, was built for the 2004 Euros. Porto moved in the year before, travelling a few hundred metres down the street from the Estádio das Antas, where it had played since 1952. A 16-year-old Lionel Messi made his Barcelona debut in a friendly that christened the new digs.

The stadium takes its name from our hosts’ nickname, the Dragões, which, in turn, comes from the dragon in their crest, which in turn comes from its home city’s coat of arms at the time the club’s crest was redesigned in 1922 by one of its players, a graphic artist with the pen name Simplicio. He combined the club’s original crest, a blue ball, with elements of the coats of arms of the city and the royal family. 

Dragons have been associated with Porto ever since St George became Portugual’s patron saint in the 14th century (Anglo-Portuguese alliance, King João I marries John of Gaunt’s daughter, Philippa, and all that) but particularly since the 1832-33 civil war between King Pedro IV of Portugal and I of Brazil and his brother Miguel. Think Harry and William but with armies and a serious point: constitutional vs absolute monarchy. 

In return for Portuenses helping Pedro prevail against the odds in a year-long siege, their city was granted the title Invicta (‘unconquered’). Porto incorporated this honour into its crest along with a black, fire-breathing dragon sitting in a crown. After he died, Pedro was buried in Lisbon but left his heart in Porto. It is in a crystal and gold vase near the main altar in the Church of Our Lady of Lapa.

The ribbon and dragon were removed from the city’s crest in 1940 during the Salazar dictatorship, but not from the football team’s. Simplico had turned the dragon dark green (it has lightened and brightened over the years) because green and white were the city’s colours. However, when the team initially decided on its shirts, it opted for the blue and white of the royal family. The country’s now distinctive red and green became the national colours only after the ill-fated Republican Revolution of 1910.

The football club had been founded 17 years earlier by António Nicolau d’Almeida, a 20-year-old Oporto port merchant enamoured by the game during a trip to England. As affairs of business diverted his attention, the club stagnated until 1907, when it was revived, playing in local competitions and regional championships. 

After Portugal organised a national league in 1934-35, FC Porto was its first champion. As one of the country’s ‘Big Three’ with the Lisbon clubs, Benfica and Sporting, it has gone on to create a storied history: 84 trophies, including 30 league titles, with an unmatched five in a row from 1995 to 1999, 19 domestic cups, two European Cups and two Europa League titles. The only blemish on this fine history is to have given a young Jose Mourinho his first big managerial break. Under the former translator of another of the club’s managers, Bobby Robson, Porto became the first Portuguese side to win a treble.

It also holds the Arsenal Cup, reputedly the world’s tallest sporting trophy at 3 metres, struck after Porto beat us 3-2 in a friendly played at the Estádio do Lima in May 1948. As the reigning Football League champions, we were considered ‘the best team in the world’ at the time, and Porto’s victory was all the sweeter as we had put archrivals Benfica to the sword 4-0 earlier in the tour. The imposing trophy is the centrepiece of the club’s museum in the Estádio do Dragao.

We have played Porto competitively six times since: CL group games in 2006 and 2008 and a Round of 16 tie in 2010 that we won on aggregate. That was the last time we advanced beyond this stage in the CL. The record stands at three wins — all at the Emirates — and two losses and a draw in the Estádio do Dragão, where we have scored only once (not counting a Lukasz Fabiański own goal in 2010).

The opposition 

Porto is managed by Sergio Conceição, a former right-winger for the club who spent half his nomadic playing career in Italy and scored a hat-trick for Portugal against Germany in Euro 2000. Since taking over in 2017, the 49-year-old has won three league titles, three domestic cups and a league cup. He has also taken his team into the knockout rounds of the CL three times in the past four seasons.

Porto currently sits third in the league seven points adrift of joint leaders Benfica and Sporting. A low-key 2-0 win over relegation-flirting Estrela at the weekend got it back to winning after a draw and a loss in its previous two games. It was the better side in both but failed to take its chances (sound familiar?).

Conceição favours a possession-based 4-4-2 but has switched to 4-2-3-1 of late and will likely stick with that against Arteta’s 4-3-3. In either formation, the young Argentine Alan Varela, a rumoured Liverpool target, plays as the double pivot alongside either the equally young Nico González, a lanky Spaniard who came up through Barca’s youth teams before joining Porto last summer, or the Canada international Stephen Eustáquio. 

Their job will be to deny Havertz and Ødegaard space between the lines and to shield a likely back four of (if fit) Wendell, an experienced Brazilian left-back with an eye for goal (he is joint second-leading scorer this season with three), Portugal international right-back João Mário, the young but highly rated Brazilian centre-back, Otavio, signed from Famalicão in January and who made his Porto debut at the weekend, and Pepe, the Brazilian-born club captain who has 134 Portugal caps and turns 41 next week. 

Pepe played against us in 2006 before moving to Real Madrid the following season. There, he won three CL titles among 16 trophies. He has won as many with Porto and two with his adopted country. Pepe brings some (very hardened) steel and experience to the heart of the defence. Assuming he plays, he will extend his record as the oldest player to appear in a CL game, and if, heaven forfend, he scores, extend that age record, too.

Swiss-born but Porto-raised Diogo Costa, Portugal’s first-choice keeper, will be between the sticks. It is a tight defence: 16 goals conceded in 22 league games. It has been more porous in the CL, giving up eight goals in the six group games, although its xGA was 6.3. 

Having unloaded last season’s player of the year, 29-year-old midfielder Otávio, on Al-Nassr for a rich 60 million euros, Porto’s attacking creativity comes from Pepê, a Brazilian winger-turned-No 10 who has one cap for his country, his compatriot, Galeno, who had more goals and assists combined than anyone in the group stage, and the manager’s son, Francisco Conceição, who is on loan from Ajax (Sergio Conceição has four sons who are all professional footballers). Another couple of promising young attacking midfielders, the Spaniard Iván Jaime, another recruit from Famalicão, and the homegrown Gonçalo Borges, will likely get some minutes from the bench.

Yet another Brazilian, Evanilson, will provide the firepower up front, with Iranian international Mehdi Taremi, who is off to Inter in the summer, off games. Evanilson is their leading goal-scorer this season with nine, plus three assists. No one, including Haarland, Morata or Greiznmann, had a better goals-per-90-minutes stat in the group stage.

The Arsenal

Zinchenko and Jesus start in what I believe to be Arteta’s preferred CL team. Neither will be fit enough to play in Porto. Thus:

Raya

White – Saliba – Gabriel – Kiwior

Ødegaard – Rice – Havertz

Saka – Trossard – Martinelli

Thomas Partey and Fabio Vieira have reportedly travelled to Portugal, but not Tomi.

Hic sunt dracones is a euphemism for unknown or dangerous territory. Porto represents that. There are no pushover opponents in the CL Round 16. Diogo Costa said ahead of the match that they had identified our weaknesses and would go all out to exploit them and win. Yet, if we are to have the deep run in the tournament that I feel we shall, the Dragões will have at least to be kept at bay in their den and then slayed in N5.

Enjoy the game, ‘holics, near and far.

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