Europa League: Porto talents in the spotlight, both on the pitch and in the dug-out
Wednesday 18 May 2011
An all-Portuguese affair may not whet British appetites as much as the other big Iberian match-up this season, but tonight's Europa League final between Porto and Sporting Braga should provide better viewing than the recent Champions League Clasicos.
The Dublin tie has much else of interest, from the prospect of the "new Mourinho" becoming the youngest coach to lift a European trophy to the likelihood of some of its combatants appearing in the Premier League next season.
Chief among these are Porto strikers Hulk and Falcao. The Brazilian Hulk, who has scored 34 goals this season, has been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Falcao, a Colombian whose 16 European goals this season broke Jurgen Klinsmann's record, is reportedly on the radar of Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham, among others. Then there is Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho, a long-time Everton target, and Braga's fleet-footed Brazilian winger Alan.
While Premier League managers tune in to look at those players, several chairmen and owners will be studying Porto's technical area. Andre Villas Boas began his managerial career scouting opponents for Mourinho, a role he performed at Chelsea. Last season, the 33-year-old struck out on his own, with spectacular success. After saving Coimbra from relegation he moved to Porto and has subsequently lost one match in the domestic arena, the final of the Portuguese Cup, to Benfica. Porto took the league title by 21 points and won the Super Cup. Victory tonight will eclipse the record held by Gianluca Vialli, who was 95 days older when steering Chelsea to European Cup-winners' Cup success in 1998. It will also ape Mourinho, who came to attention when Porto beat Celtic in the 2003 Uefa Cup final.
Porto are hot favourites. Braga's only honour is the Portuguese Cup in 1966; Porto have won the European Cup twice, the Uefa Cup, and the Portuguese league 25 times. This season they finished 38 points clear of Braga. However, Braga are a potent counter-attacking side with Hugo Viana, once of Newcastle, in a midfield whose task is to feed the pace of Alan and Lima. Although they lost 6-0 at the Emirates they beat Arsenal 2-0 at home. Braga, whose coach Domingos Paciencia spent many years playing for Porto, also knocked Celtic and Liverpool out of Europe this season.
This is the 14th one-nation European final. The dominant influence will, though, be South American with 13 likely starters from that continent – including nine Brazilians – to seven Portuguese. Despite the ongoing financial crisis in both Ireland and Portugal Uefa says the game is nearly sold out.
Porto (4-3-3): Helton; Sapunaru, Rolando, Maicon, Alvaro Pereira; Guarin, Fernando, Moutinho; Hulk, Falcao, Varela.
Braga (4-4-2): Artur; Garcia, Rodriguez, Paulao, Silvio; Alan, Vandinho, Custodio, Viana; Lima, Meyong.
Referee C Velasco Carballo (Spain).
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile