Later today, the majority of viewers will likely be tuning into see how the defending European champions, Real Madrid, fare against Schalke 04 during their Champions League Round of 16 first leg in Gelsenkirchen.
But the most entertaining game of the day will not feature Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, it will be the matchup between Swiss champions Basel and the high-flying Portuguese side, FC Porto.
Porto have won the competition twice in 1987 and 2004 and, this season, progressed through the Champions League group stages as one of only three unbeaten teams in the tournament; after having to qualify via the play-off round of the competition.
While qualifying as group winners, Porto outscored their Group H opponents (Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao and BATE Borisov) by a score of 16-4.
Their opponents today, Basel, wound up as surprising runners-up to Real Madrid in Group B after a dramatic Champions League matchday six draw on the road against Liverpool.
Their coach Paolo Sousa has promised that his team will take risks, while showing the same courage and ambition that helped them beat the Premier League side at Anfield in December.
“For us, it’s an extraordinary challenge and I like these challenges,” the Portuguese coach said. “For me, the special thing is to compete at this level, it’s where we want to be and gives us the possibility to keep growing.”
Basel have gained recognition around Europe for being one of the more difficult draws in the Europa League and Champions League competitions.
Despite only playing two competitive matches since the start of the New Year, Sousa wants his side to come out on the front foot against the attacking Portuguese side, and is confident his players will cause Porto problems – with the benefit of the home supporters behind them.
“We have analyzed Porto like we do all our opponents,” Sousa added. “Obviously you have to make minor adjustments depending on who you are up against, but we stick to our main principles.”
“Looking at the statistics, together with Chelsea and Real Madrid, Porto are the only team that did not lose in the group phase. They also scored nineteen goals [through the play-off round and group stage].”
“To create difficulties we have to take risks and show personality, to alleviate the pressure. There will be difficult spells for us, but I’m sure we will cause Porto a lot of problems too.”
Programming note: Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid will be shown LIVE today at 2:45pm EST on FOX Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer2Go.
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