APOEL vs Porto preview

October 31, 2011
By: Matthew Clarke

Cypriot side APOEL are the surprise leaders of Group B, but after holding Porto to 1:1 draw at Dragao, they definitely have reason for optimism before the clash with the same opponent at Neo GSP.

APOEL first made it to Champions League group stages two years ago, when they won just three points from a group that also contained sides like Chelsea, Atletico Madria and Porto, but they certainly did not disappoint.

The team returned to top European competition this term, after eliminating Skenderbeu Korce, Slovan Bratislava and Wisla Krakow, with their impressive results continuing in the group stage.

APOEL won their first game against Zenit after coming from two goals behind, before bringing two points from away games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto, so the odds of 2.38 (11/8) offered by Paddy Power no APOEL to qualify look too good to pass.

Coach Ivica Jovanovic will not be able to count on keeper Dionisios Chiotis and defender William Boaventura, whereas midfielder Marcinho is lacking match fitness and is likely to miss out as well.

Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Urko – Poursaitidis, Kaka, Marcelo Oliveira, Alexandrou – Charalambidis, Morais, Pinto, Manduca – Ailton Almeida, Trikovski.

Porto started this season in impressive fashion, hinting that new boss Vitor Pereira could prove to be a worthy replacement for Andre Villas-Boas, but it didn’t take long for the first doubts to appear.

After winning four league games and beating Shakhtar in the Champions League, Porto recorded back to back draws against Feirense and Benfica, before losing their Champions League tie to Zenit.

The Dragons quickly returned to winning ways on domestic stage, but they failed to beat APOEL at home, and now have to try and beat the Cypriots on their own ground.

Porto are certainly the better team here, but seeing that their opponents are in very good form at the moment and that they are simply outstanding at home, odds of 1.85 (17/20) offered by Victor Chandler on away win are not too tempting for me.

Eliaquim Mangala is expected to keep his place in the side at the expense of Nicolas Otamendi, but striker Walter is ineligible.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Helton – Sapunaru, Rolando, Mangala, Pereira – Defour, Fernando, Belluschi – Hulk, Kleber, Varela.

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