3 FC Porto players Arsenal must be wary of in Champions League tie

  • Arsenal take on FC Porto with a place in the Champions League quarter-finals at stake
  • Porto will lean on veteran experience at the back
  • Brazilian striker is one for Arsenal to watch

Porto have a couple of players Arsenal must be wary of when they meet in the Champions League round of 16
Porto have a couple of players Arsenal must be wary of when they meet in the Champions League round of 16 / MIGUEL RIOPA/GettyImages

Since Arsenal last took part in a Champions League knockout stage fixture, FC Porto have claimed two league titles, three domestic cups, and competed in the latter stages of Europe's premier club competition three times.

They've got pedigree, although Mikel Arteta's youthful Gunners have little to fear when they face the Portuguese side over two legs for a place in the quarter-finals. Arsenal haven't reached the last eight of this competition in well over a decade.

Porto's 2023/24 campaign has thus far been indifferent. A title challenge appears unlikely, and a period of tumult off the pitch is set to result in former coach Andre Villas-Boas unseating long-time president Jorge Nuno de Lima Pinto da Costa at the top of the club's hierarchy.

While Arsenal are expected to progress at the expense of their continental opponents, Porto certainly have the capacity to cause an upset despite their domestic issues. The ideals of manager Sergio Conceicao will be key, as will the performances of these three players over the two legs.

1. Pepe

40-year-old Pepe will marshal Porto's backline / Diogo Cardoso/GettyImages

The ultimate sh*thouser is still going strong at 40 years of age. Pepe's longevity can only be commended, and he'll surely be remembered as one of his generation's finest centre-halves when it's all said and done.

This is his fifth year back in Porto having rejoined the club in 2019. The veteran remains a prominent figure at the heart of their defence, and his experience will be imperative against an Arsenal attack which is starting to fire on all cylinders.

Pepe is a supreme box defender still capable of dominating physically despite his age. Porto are set to cede territory and invite pressure against the Gunners meaning the captain's ability to defend his box will be paramount for the Portuguese side.

Arteta will deploy Kai Havertz and Leandro Trossard in tandem in a bid to outfox the wily defender, and the Gunners will believe they can get at Porto's full-backs through the spritely brilliance of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

2. Galeno

FC Porto v Estrela Amadora - Liga Portugal Bwin
Galeno impressed during the group stage / Diogo Cardoso/GettyImages

Galeno enjoyed a productive group stage and is a winger adored by Conceicao. With Arsenal set to isolate their wide players one-on-one against Porto's full-backs, Conceicao will turn to his wingers to double up on Saka and Martinelli.

Thus, left-winger Galeno will play a key role in shutting down the in-form Saka on Wednesday night. The Brazilian's defensive output is rather impressive.

However, Porto won't be able to survive if they're suffocated for 180 minutes. They're going to need to get up the pitch, and Galeno is who they'll turn to for inspiration on the counter-attack.

Quick and agile, Galeno is a fine dribbler who attacks space with vigour, He loves to cut inside on his favoured right foot and contribute in the final third. The winger poses a threat in the air, too, but he isn't the most efficient in front of goal. Still, Galeno recorded seven goal contributions in five group-stage outings.

3. Evanilson

Evanilson is Porto's top scorer this season / Diogo Cardoso/GettyImages

The 24-year-old is starting to make a name for himself in Portugal, and Evanilson will be desperate to use this occasion as a means of thrusting himself into greater prominence.

His Champions League campaign started with four goals in five games, and he's Porto's leading goalscorer this term with 19 goals in all competitions. Evanilson's emergence means the Portuguese side are less reliant on Iranian forward Mehdi Taremi, who'll be leaving the club this summer.

Evanilson is a physical but dynamic operator who's powerful over short distances and clever with his off-the-ball runs. He's been mightily efficient in front of goal this term, with the Brazilian capable of producing moments out of very little.

It'll be interesting to see how he fares against an elite centre-back pairing.