Two clubs with very different financial resources and player recruitment policies meet at the Estadio Do Dragao as FC Porto welcome Paris Saint-Germain in what promises to be an intriguing match (7.45pm BST, Wednesday, October 3).
FC Porto primarily focus on scouting young players – most often from South America – improving them and selling on for a big profit. On the other side of the coin, the injection of Qatari billions into Paris Saint-Germain has seen the French club pay out fortunes to secure a mixture of established performers and highly-touted youngsters.
The early-September sale of Brazilian forward Hulk to Zenit Saint-Petersburg for some €50 million allowed Porto to make a similar profit during the summer transfer window. PSG shelled out an estimated €107 million on new recruits, having spent in the region of €85 million the previous summer. Brazilian winger Lucas Moura will join the Parisians in January for a reported €45 million.
Put financial disparities to one side, however, and you find two clubs who have started the 2012/13 season in a similarly impressive manner. PSG have bounced back from three consecutive draws to record four wins on the bounce in France. FC Porto have three wins and two draws from their league matches to date. Both emerged victorious from the opening round of Champions League fixtures. So two undefeated records are on the line.
The hosts have scored eight times in three matches since Hulk departed for Russia and do not yet appear to have suffered any ill-effects. Colombian forward James Rodriguez continues to grow into a fantastic player, while the emergence of the rapid and direct Ghanian winger Christian Atsu will also help plug the gap.
It would be remiss to suggest that over the course of the season there will not be times when the presence of Hulk would have swung a match in Porto’s favour. But Rodriguez only scored three less goals than the Brazilian last season and if new signing Jackson Martinez can continue scoring at his current rate (four in five domestically) Hulk should not be unduly missed.
Atsu provided the assist for Porto’s second in their 2-0 win away to Dinamo Zagreb in the opening round of group stage fixtures, a goal scored by Steven Defour. Defour’s central midfield partner Lucho Gonzalez scored the other goal and put in an inspired performance, especially in light of being informed of his father’s death shortly before the match.
In conjunction with Joao Moutinho, they form a strong and talented midfield three that are at the heart of much of Porto’s best work. But they will have to be at the top of their game to overcome a PSG midfield brimming with talent and gelling into a cohesive unit.
One of the more low-key of PSG’s summer signings was the capture of 19-year Italian midfielder Marco Verratti from Pescara, yet the young deep-lying playmaker has been a revelation so far, drawing favourable comparisons to Andrea Pirlo from his coach and countryman Carlo Ancelotti.
Veratti is one of just two midfielders who have played a part in every one of PSG’s matches so far this season. With excellent close control and a low centre of gravity, he is able to extricate himself from even the most crowded of midfields. Having done so, his vision to spot a pass and technique to execute is exemplary.
He has already formed an excellent understanding with the elegant Argentine Javier Pastore and works well in conjunction with the more workmanlike qualities of his fellow central midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Clement Chantome. PSG’s midfield is functioning very well at the moment, with Veratti its hub.
Since conceding twice on the opening day of the French season, Ancelotti’s side have also been very strong defensively, conceding just twice in the subsequent seven matches. The return of the expensively procured Thiago Silva from injury has further solidified a strong and quick defence that looks well equipped to deal with most attacks.
Up front, the €21 million lavished on Zlatan Ibrahimovic has thus far proved money well spent, with the Swede having scored eight times in seven appearances. Flanked by Pastore and Jeremy Menez, and with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Kevin Gameiro in reserve, he is part of a potent attack that would be the envy of most Champions League clubs.
Porto v Paris Saint-Germain Betting Tips Prediction
It is, then, difficult to point out a particular weakness in PSG’s makeup that can give Porto hope of securing all three points on Wednesday. Rodriguez could give the French side’s left-back, Maxwell, some problems, but otherwise PSG are a well drilled and talented side who will make things difficult for the hosts.
- We fancy PSG to put down an early marker of their Champions League intentions and secure victory in Portugal. Therefore, back Paris Saint-Germain to win @ the biggest odds of 41/18 with Pinnacle Sports Bookmaker.
- Ibrahimovic is in superb form and with a highly creative supply line behind him can be expected to get on the scoresheet. Back Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score at anytime @ best odds of 15/8 with Stan James.