Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira says keeping a clean sheet in the opening leg of their first knockout round tie against Arsenal could determine whether his team progresses to teh last eight.
“We usually study how a team plays, but we know Arsenal will maintain their style,” he said. “They didn’t start the Premier League well but are now recovering, just like us after we lost Lisandro and Lucho at the end of last season.
“A match between Arsenal and Porto is always open and I’m sure it will be very attractive to watch. Raul Meireles and Hulk will be available – they both bring experience and add quality to the team. Hulk is in good shape after training well, and although he lacks match fitness, he is still keen to play. Raul has international experience and I hope he plays to the best of his ability.
“Raul and Ruben Micael must stick to the game plan – that’s all they have to do. We are playing well and Arsenal bring the ideal opponent to display our true quality against. We really want to progress but we know Arsenal are one of the best teams in the competition.
“Not conceding at home is crucial, but a win would bring us great confidence. It’s not easy to manage a team that has two games a week, especially with the injuries and suspensions we’ve had, but we have to think game by game.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for tonight’s opponents, saying Porto have “no weaknesses”.
“Our main concern is to play the best we can,” said Wenger. “Sol Campbell is important because of his experience but I still don’t know if he is going to play. We have a policy and if we believe in a young player, like [Nicklas] Bendtner, we stick with him until the end. Bendtner has a lot of potential, he has a lot to give. Porto are a very good team and have a good group of technical players.
“I would compare Porto to ourselves; they have a good scouting team and make the right transfer decisions. The most important thing for us is to play our best and we expect Porto to have no weaknesses. We know about Hulk; he’s a very good player but he is not the only good one Porto have.
“[Lukasz] Fabianski will play, I believe in him. He is at the top level and has a lot potential. The result is not easy to predict – you have to be on top for 180 minutes.”
Wenger has a lengthy injury list to contend with, having travelled to Portugal without Andrei Arshavin, Kieran Gibbs, Johan Djourou, Robin van Persie, Eduardo, Alex Song, William Gallas and Manuel Almunia (finger).