Verdict: Roma win
Best Odds: 11/10
AS Roma and FC Porto will both be confident of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals as they gear up for the first leg of their round-of-16 tie this week.
Starting with the hosts, with Roma coming off the back of a 3-0 win away at Chievo last the weekend, Eusebio Di Francesco will be desperate for his side to string together some momentum. Still looking to recover from their 7-1 hammering at the hands of Fiorentina and crashing out of the Coppa Italia, they have now managed to pick up just one win in their last four matches across all competitions. Despite now sitting outside of the top-four in Serie A, I Giallorossi do hold an eye-catching record at the Stadio Olimpico. Winning seven of their last eight Champions League matches in the Italian capital, last year’s semi-finalists also picked up wins against Liverpool and Barcelona on that run. If Tuesday’s hosts are to gain an early advantage in the first leg, then Di Francesco will be looking for Italy international Stephan El Shaarawy to carry on his impressive tally. Finding the net against Chievo over the weekend, the 26-year-old has bagged five goals in his last six Serie A appearances.
Roma defender Kostas Manolas should be available following a knock, while goalkeeper Robin Olsen faces a late fitness test on a calf injury.
Czech forward Patrik Schick is unlikely to be involved because of a muscle problem and Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under remain sidelined.
As for the visitors, while Porto may have been just one of five teams to go through the whole of their Champions League group stage without losing a game, the Portuguese giants are enduring a minor blip. Losing the Taca da Liga to bitter rivals Sporting Lisbon last month, Sérgio Conceição’s side have now picked up just one win in their last four matches across all competitions. Along with having to travel to Italy without their two leading strikers in Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega, Porto also historically hold worrying record against Italian opposition, particularly on foreign soil. The Dragons have lost six of their seven away games against Italian clubs in the Champions League, the only exception coming in September 1996 with a 3-2 win against AC Milan. While they might not like playing against side from Serie A, Conceição should be boosting his squad by the fact they have never lost a competitive match against Roma. The host have never beaten Porto in European competition (D2 L2). They were eliminated by the Portuguese side in both previous two-legged encounters, including back in the 2016/2017 campaign.
Porto’s preparations have been hit by injuries to first-choice strikers Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega, while midfielder Jesus Manuel Corona is suspended.
Key Factors to Consider
- Roma have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the seventh time in their last eight participations. They won all three of their home games in the knockout phase last season, on their way to the semi-finals.
- Since winning the Champions League in 2004, Porto have progressed past the round of 16 only twice (2008/09, 2014/15) and never further than the quarter-finals.
- Porto have won none of their last five Champions League knockout games (D1 L4), failing to score in each of their last four.
- Stephan El Shaarawy has five goals in his last six Serie A matches.
- Games involving Porto have produced eight penalties in the Champions League this season (4 for, 4 against), twice as many as any other team.
Porto head into the first leg with the better group stage record, but Roma’s run to last season’s semi-finals should put them in good stead in terms of mentality. Tuesday’s hosts will expect to win the first leg in front of their own fans in the Italian capital and given their impressive record at the Stadio Olimpico, we’re backing them to come away with an early advantage.
Verdict: Roma win
Best Odds: 11/10
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