UCL Preview: Will record breaking Marega resume form as Porto visit Roma?
The last time Mousa “The Beast” Marega appeared in the UEFA Champions League, he went all Beast Mode! The Malian forward made history in the group stages as he became the first African to score in 5 consecutive UCL matches.Consequently he is tied on third place with the likes of Neymar and Dybala on the current top scorers of the 2018/19 campaign.
Heading into the tournament, the 27-year-old was only but filling the shoes of the injured Cameroonian international, Vincent Aboubakar in the Primeira Liga champions’ setup and boy did he do it with so much grace! FC Porto finished the group stages unbeaten with the highest points tally of 16 amongst all the 2018/19 participants and that was after going toe to toe with experienced sides such as Schalke and Galatasaray. Marega is expected to continue leading the Portuguese’ club frontline heading into the knockout stages beginning with the challenge of last year’s semi-finalists in AS Roma. Quite frankly, Roma doesn’t look like the side they were when they achieved that feat back in 2018. The Giallorossi did just enough to secure a knock-out spot in the round of 16 and their domestic performances need a lot to be desired. Recently, they were humiliated 7-1 by Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia quarter-final and currently sit 6th on the Italian Serie A league table, very much at the extreme end of a crowded race for the champions league places. On the other hand, Porto are actually on top of the world. They are perhaps fancying themselves to grab a consecutive Portuguese Primeira League title, sitting pretty at the top of the standings ahead of Europa League bound, Benfica.
Players to look out of
Marega who is currently on 7 goals and 5 assists in the Portuguese league is expected to continue linking up with Algerian international, Yacine Brahimi, the physically built playmaker/winger with technical abilities of rare quality. He provided 2 assists in the group stages and remains a force to reckon with, both on and off the ball. In case you are wondering, Chancel Mbemba of DR Congo is also an option for FC Porto in the defensive backline and will be hoping to get a run-in after finding game minutes hard to come by in recent weeks. As for AS Roma, their only arsenal heading into the fixture is their experience. Despite being gifted with the talents of Cengiz Under, Edin Dzeko, Kostas Manolas and Steven Nzonzi - their current form has done little to explain such quality.
The good thing is that, this happens to be the UEFA Champions League round of 16 where the stakes are obviously higher and teams give in more than they got. It’s obviously unfortunate for Roma that they have to welcome the Portuguese champions on Tuesday night, 13th of February 2018, an incredibly confident and organized side threatening to go all the way. But hey, it’s great news for all of us fans, we have a great spectacle on our hands.
My Prediction: Marega and Brahimi will rise to the occasion and send FC Porto through to the quarter-finals.