Similar to what’s happening in the Spanish La Liga, the race for the Portuguese championship is very close. After dropping points in the last Liga NOS matchday, FC Porto needed to win in the derby against Boavista FC. Last week, FC Porto tied against Aves and allowed their rivals Benfica to “stick” to them in the title race. However, this game against Boavista had extra motivation for the dragons. Minutes before their match, FC Porto saw Benfica losing points and the first place was up for the grabs.

On the other side, Boavista was in a comfortable place in the table were the relegation is almost impossible. However, seeing their city rivals lose points would give joy to the panthers.

In this tactical analysis, we are going to explain both coaches tactics and how they had an influence on the game. In this analysis, it will be explained how Sergio Conceição alterations at halftime changed the game.

Line ups

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

Starting with the dragons, Sergio Conceição chose the same scheme FC Porto presented in their last match a 4-3-3. Nevertheless, the changes in the starting eleven had some implications in the team’s tactics. The previously suspended Alex Telles was eligible to play and took his place back in the starting eleven. Similarly, Soares replaced Zé Luis as a striker and had the same role as his partner.

In contrast, the following alteration was the one that changed the way the team entered this game. Marega substituted Uribe in the starting eleven and that changed Corona’s position in Conceição tactics. The usual winger or right full-back, Corona, played in a midfield central position closer to Soares. Corona’s role was to free roam in the opponent’s midfield and help Soares in the attack.

On the other side, Daniel Ramos used his prefered tactic since he is Boavista’s coach a 5-4-1. Their last eleven and scheme suffered a few alterations to make the team a bit more defensive. The line of five defenders was composed by Carraça and Marlon as full-backs with Dulanto, Costa and Fabiano as centre-backs. Secondly, the midfield also had some alterations and position changes. Alberto Bueno usually an offensive midfielder played in the left-wing and Sauer occupied the right-wing. The central midfield duo was occupied by Mandiang usually a defensive midfielder and Paulinho more offensive-oriented. In the front, there was a change between strikers Njie occupied Cassiano’s place.

Boavista’s defensive structure

From the start of the match, it seemed that Ramos prepared his team well to face this FC Porto’s tactics. In fact, it almost seems that Boavista’s coach guessed how FC Porto would approach this game. Porto didn’t have much space to explore behind the defensive lines or in the wings in their last game. Probably guessing that Boavista could have the same approach Conceição changed his scheme. By choosing to have three instead of two players in the middle Porto’s idea was to play more trough the central channel.

However, Ramos approach was very different from Aves approach against Porto. Boavista’s defensive line was not close to their box and instead, it was constantly getting up when they could.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics
Boavista’s defensive line up in the field creating a compact defensive block.

In many games, like what happened in the second half, this approach would mean the end for FC Porto’s opponents. The Dragons usually are masters of exploring the space behind the defensive lines mainly through Marega’s off the ball movements. Unlike their usual, FC Porto’s tactics in this match were to play fewer balls to the back of the defenders. In fact, the idea was to play through the middle with the help of Corona. Smartly, Boavista’s team was prepared for this and made that task very hard.

The Panthers played with a very compact block giving little space between their lines for FC Porto players to explore. In addition, Soares dropping to the midfield to play made it even harder for FC Porto to create danger. The midfield was very crowded with small spaces for Porto players to play. In contrast, Soares should have tried to push Boavista defenders closer to their own goal.

Additionally, Boavista’s players were not giving their opponents space with or without the ball. The team was with a good aggressiveness and didn’t allow much space to play. The whole team adjusted well to Porto’s rather slow ball circulation and made it difficult for the Dragons to create opportunities. Additionally, Njie helped the team defensively and dropped to mark one of the Porto’s midfielders. In the image below we can clearly see Boavista tight marking and Njie’s dropping to mark one midfielder.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

FC Porto’s opportunities in the first half were mainly due to the errors Boavista players were making. Differing from their defensive efficiency Boavista’s attacks were almost null.

Changes to unlock the tie

After seeing that FC Porto was not creating enough dangerous opportunities Sérgio Conceição changed Porto’s tactics at the break. Porto changed to a 4-4-2 with Marega starting the second half closer to Soares. Uribe substituted the rather uninspired Díaz. The other substitution was a change between right-backs. Manafá occupied the young Tomás Esteves place, refreshing the right-wing.

This changes allowed FC Porto to create more danger and the goal appeared in less than 10 minutes. Due to the more offensive propensity of Telles and Manafá, Porto attracted more players to the wings. Additionally, Corona and Otávio’s more offensive positioning making moves from the wing to the middle also helped to create danger. By attracting players to the wings FC Porto could explore more the middle. Exactly like this, FC Porto was able to create the first goal opportunity as we can see below.

Corona’s pass quickly shifting the ball from one side to the other dispositioned Boavista’s players. Marega, Otávio and Manafá attracted five opponent’s with them creating free space in the middle to play. Uribe gets the ball completely free and passes to Corona that finds Marega 1 vs 1 with the goalkeeper. The image below shows the five men attraction and Uribe in the free space in the middle.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

After the first goal, the game changed because Boavista needed to risk more and allowed more space to play.

More space equals more goals

As we mentioned earlier, the alterations made by Sérgio Conceição unblocked the game for FC Porto. However, Marega’s off the ball work in the second half was vital for Porto to get the victory. Apart from the first goal, the remaining goals came from Marega’s movements that ended with a goal and two penalties.

Boavista’s defensive line being high in the pitch resulted in appealing space for Marega to make his traditional moves. As it was explained before this was the beginning of the end for the panthers. Boavista started to allow more space between lines easing FC Porto’s attacks through the middle. Otávio and Corona were able to greatly explore this space and create chances for FC Porto.

In the second goal, Otávio gets the ball in the free space in the middle and sees his teammate’s movement. Marega exploits the bad positioning of Dulanto and dribbles into the area. Dulanto was late and tried to tackle Marega and committed a foul.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics
FC Porto’s second goal. We can see Otávio’s pass and Marega’s movement before dribbling and suffering a penalty.

Equally, in the third goal, Dulanto was not concentrating and allowed Marega too much space. Otávio once again with space delivers a good first touch pass finds the usual suspect. Marega tried a cross and Dulanto made another silly mistake and the ball touched his hand making another penalty.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

Thirdly, FC Porto’s young talented midfielder Fábio Vieira recovered the ball and quickly spotted Marega in a favourable position. Marega was once again exploring his own speed and Vieira with a certain pass placed him 1 vs 1 with the goalkeeper.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

FC Porto’s supremacy

Porto’s dominance was not only in the scoreboard. In fact, the Dragons overpowered the Panthers in many aspects.

Porto started the game playing very slowly however without the ball the Dragons, as usual, were positively aggressive. FC Porto had a duel intensity of 11.1 while Boavista had only 5.3. Whenever Boavista had the ball Porto’s players would smother their opponents. Consequently, Boavista’s players didn’t have much time to think and play. The image below shows combinations with more than three passes in the same direction between all Boavista’s players. The lack of combinations between players is proof of Boavista’s inability to play.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

Indeed, the Dragons only allowed Boavista to make an average of five passes per possession (PPDA). As a result, Boavista’s average possession duration was only nine seconds. In fact, the overall possession statistics tell the same story FC Porto had 70% of ball possession. This shows a clear dominance of the ball by FC Porto.

This dominance meant that Boavista was not able to create many chances to score. Only five of all 83 Boavista’s possessions reached the opponent’s box. Additionally, all the shots  Boavista’s tried had low levels of danger. In fact, the most dangerous shot had an xG of 0.27 out of one. The graphic below also compares both teams attacks by flanks and the danger they had.

Liga NOS 2019/20 - FC Porto vs Boavista FC- tactical analysis tactics

Clearly, we can see the difference between the teams chance creation and the danger they inflicted in their opponent’s defences. Porto had more attacks and with more danger than Boavista. The Dragons attacked more thought the right-wing but were more dangerous trough the middle. The usually very dangerous left side, where Telles plays, was less dangerous in this match. On the other hand, Boavista attacked and caused more harm trough the right flank.

It’s important also to recognise that Porto has a much higher budget than Boavista, therefore, has better players. However, the dragons were on a good day and they played a good game.


Conceição’s alterations allowed Porto to get loose of Boavista efficient marking. Dulanto’s lack of concentration turned the game into a nightmare for Boavista. After a good first half for the Panthers, the second half asked for a change of plans which didn’t happen.

To conclude, FC Porto are the leaders of the championship with a three-point advantage to their rivals SL Benfica. The Dragons are one step closer to title and to the direct entry in the UEFA Champions League group stage. On the other side, Boavista needs to get some more points to make their permanence mathematically certain.