The Portuguese Liga NOS followed the Bundesliga and was one of the first leagues to return to action. After three months, without playing Famalicão and FC Porto faced each other in the second game of matchday 25. After competing for the first place at the beginning of the season, the two clubs reached the game in different situations. FC Porto needed a win to maintain the first place due to Benfica’s small point difference. On the other side, Famalicão also needed to get points from the game in order to keep their European dream alive.
Starting with the visitors, FC Porto changed their last used scheme but returned to their favourite, a classic 4-4-2. However, the absence of two heavyweight players such as Alex Telles (suspended) and Marcano (injured) forced the dragons to change some things in their tactics.
Those gaps in the starting eleven were filled by Chancel Mbemba and Wilson Manafá. With this in mind, FC Porto played only with right-footed defenders in their defensive line. Mbemba played as right centre-back and the experienced Pepe played at left centre-back. The chosen full-backs to give FC Porto’s usual attacking support in the wings were Manafá and Jesus Corona. In the midfield, the captain, Danilo, played alongside Sérgio Oliveira in the centre of the field. On the wings, Luis Díaz played as a real winger while Otávio had a more central positioning. The attack started with the usual duo of Moussa Marega and Soares.
The home team, Famalicão, also chose their most used scheme, the 4-4-1-1. After having some cases of Covid-19 in their squad João Pedro Sousa, Famalicão’s coach, changed four players compared to his last chosen eleven. Assunção, Walterson and Coly gave their places to Lameiras, Centelles and Fábio Martins in the starting eleven. The goalkeeper, Vaná, couldn’t face FC Porto because he is on loan from the Dragons, so Defendi filled his position.
Famalicão played with Miranda and Pérez as centre-backs with Centelles and Pinto filling the full-back positions. In the midfield, Lameiras and Diogo Gonçalves played on the wings with Račić and Pedro Gonçalves playing as centre-midfielders. In the attack, Fábio Martins played more like a free offensive midfielder and Martínez as a lone striker.
Porto’s high pressure
Famalicão is a team that likes to have possession, favours short distribution and usually never changes this throughout their games. Knowing this, FC Porto started the game with high pressure on their opponent as they usually do. Similar to the last time the two teams faced, this high pressure was very efficient. Famalicão were only able to create a play from the back to front a few times. Additionally, FC Porto’s scheme fitted like a glove in Famalicão’s tactics.
Porto’s two frontmen plus the wingers pressured Famalicão’s defensive backline. The Dragons’ two centre-midfielders guarded the opponent’s centre-midfield duo. FC Porto’s full-backs guarded Famalicão’s wingmen and Pepe or Mbemba would mark Martínez.
Nevertheless, Fábio Martins was the only way Famalicão could play through FC Porto’s pressure. Martins would explore the space between FC Porto’s defensive and midfield players. That’s the way Famalicão’s medium and long passes were able to find Martins and release themselves from Porto’s constant pressure. However, Fábio Martins, one of the most influent players in Famalicão, was not able to create almost any danger opportunity.
FC Porto’s PPDA is clear evidence that their high pressure was efficient. The Dragons, on average, only allowed Famalicão 10.6 passes per defensive action. Additionally, Famalicão was only able to have four possessions that reached Porto’s penalty box. Famalicão only created four clear goal-scoring opportunities in the half due to FC Porto’s mistakes.
Famalicão’s defensive strategy
Opposite to what FC Porto was doing defensive-wise, Famalicão’s strategy was more expectant.
Similarly to what Famalicão have done in most of their matches, João Pedro Sousa chose to defend with a medium-high defensive line and very compact team. This strategy allows Famalicão to prevent the other team from playing between their lines. Likewise, this tactic created a greater difficulty for FC Porto to play through the middle. In fact, one of FC Porto’s frontmen, Soares, didn’t have much chance to get the ball due to his more central positioning. This situation forced FC Porto to try to create chances through the flanks.
On the other hand, this strategy also enabled FC Porto to explore the back of Famalicão’s defensive line. These movements allowed Marega, Otávio and Díaz to create a few dangerous situations.
In addition to this strategic approach, Famalicão was also smart to cut FC Porto attacking plays with fouls. Throughout the game, Famalicão were very aggressive on the ball and in the duels. In fact, FC Porto is the team in Liga NOS that shows the most intensity in their defensive duels. The Dragons have an average duel intensity of 7.1 when the average of the league is 6.2. However, in this match, the below-average FC Porto (5.1) lost to Famalicão (5.3) in the intensity of the challenges.
The defensive strategy of Famalicão was not perfect because FC Porto had many opportunities to score but it was acceptable. After scoring the goal, Famalicão adopted a more defensive strategy. Famalicão defended closer to their box keeping their compact block and making it harder for FC Porto to create opportunities.
In the final part of the match when Famalicão were leading, they smartly froze the game with continuous stops in play, making it even harder for FC Porto to score.
Porto’s attacking style
Offensive-wise, FC Porto was intelligent to explore the space behind the back of the opposition’s defensive line. By utilising Marega’s speed, Porto had an opportunity to score in the first 10 minutes of the match. The African player missed similar chances on a few other occasions as Porto were able to create goal-scoring opportunities by attacking behind Famalicão. Otávio and Luis Díaz found comparable opportunities in Famalicão’s defensive set up.
Without Alex Telles, one of the most influent player in FC Porto, the Dragons explored the right side more than usual. Manafá was not able to participate efficiently in FC Porto’s attacks. Apart from a few individual plays and movements from Díaz, the left side was not so dangerous without Telles. Not many dangerous situations came from plays from the left channel.
On the other side, the right channel was the main source of dangerous opportunities. Apart from the movements to the back of the defenders, FC Porto also created dangerous with 1vs1 and 2vs1 situations, mainly through Corona and Otávio combining or in individual efforts.
In order to try to win the game after FC Porto’s goal, Sérgio Conceição changed some of the team’s tactics. The Portuguese coach put Zé Luis in and took out Danilo. Consequently, Otávio played more as a centre-midfielder and Marega as a winger. Even though Conceição tried to make the team more offensive, the clock was running out. In fact, FC Porto started playing with more direct passes. This approach led to fewer clear chances on goal. Only through crosses, free kicks and corners were Porto able to create opportunities. In fact, it was through an anticipated cross that Corona was able to tie the game.
After the second goal from Famalicão, the task was almost impossible. Additionally, the mysterious absence of Nakajima left Conceição with fewer options on the bench to make changes on the wings. In order to fill that gap, the Portuguese coach called on Fábio Vieira, a young talented player from FC Porto’s second team. However, the young talent was not chosen by Sérgio Conceição to debut in the first team.
Without many options apart from the young player, it was hard for Conceição to change make significant changes in the attack. Therefore, Aboubakar went in substituting as a striker for the tired Soares. The Brazilian didn’t have much presence in the game apart from a golden opportunity with the head. In the final minutes, after another long ball, Aboubakar had a duel with Pérez and the ball hit the hand of the Argentinian. The VAR had a different opinion and the penalty wasn’t given.
FC Porto dominated the whole game with 58% of possession and more chances but was only able to score once. On the other side, Famalicão scored when they had the opportunity. The dragons tried 16 shots and hit the target in six. In contrast, Famalicão tried six times and only hit the target in the two goals they scored. Additionally, not even trough corners or free kicks FC Porto managed to score one more. The Dragons are usually good at set-pieces but in the 17 set pieces they had, they didn’t score.
Seizing the opportunity
The moment of the match was at the beginning of the second half. Famalicão pressured the right-footed Manafá playing in the left and he passed back to Marchesín. The Argentinian was being pressured by Martínez and was careless. He took too much time and tried a poor pass to Mbemba. Fábio Martins cleverly anticipated the play and scored with no one in the goal.
After FC Porto scored, Sousa made some alterations in attack with some fresh players coming in. Guga and Walterson came in, giving fresh blood to the team. Consequently, Famalicão once more capitalised on an error from FC Porto to score.
Otávio, at the time filling Danilo’s place, gave too much space to Pedro Gonçalves to think and act. Gonçalves was able to combine with Račić and dribbled to FC Porto’s goal with all the space in the world. The supporting runs from Gonçalves’ teammates confused Corona and he didn’t make the needed pressure. Gonçalves who had much space to shoot saw Marchesín badly positioned tried his luck and scored.
Overall it was not a bad game after a three month stop as both teams played a decent and competitive game. One team was superior throughout the whole game and the other was efficient when they needed to be. An error by Marchesín changed the game and made it very difficult for FC Porto to get the result back.
To sum up, FC Porto could have lost the first position if Benfica hadn’t also slipped. The much-coveted direct spot in the next years UEFA Champions League is still in FC Porto’s hands, however, this only because the Dragons won against their rivals both times this year. On the other side, now in the fifth place, Famalicão grabbed this opportunity and added three more points, inching closer to their European dream.