UEFA today announced the quarter-final draw for the Champions League, with Porto the sole Portuguese representatives left in the tournament. Aside from Os Dragões, there are lots of Portuguese players plying their trade across Europe who still remain in the competition. Aaron Barton looks at some of the players to watch in the last eight of Europe’s illustrious club tournament.
Club – Liverpool Quarter-Final Opponent – Real Madrid
Just one Portuguese player will be involved in this clash between these two European heavyweights but he is a player that has been in scintillating form this season when fit, particularly in this year’s edition of the Champions League. That man is of course Diogo Jota. The 24-year-old started his Liverpool career in red hot form, scoring decisive goals in the Premier League against Sheffield United and West Ham United respectively. Both goals coming in slender 2-1 victories. In the Champions League, he continued this red-hot streak, scoring the winner in a 1-0 win v Midtjylland before hitting a 54-minute hat-trick away at Atalanta in the next match week.
He followed this up by scoring in consecutive games in the Premier League against Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion before suffering a knee injury which saw him sit out for 15 league games. The good news for Liverpool is that Diogo is now back, returning to action with an assist v RB Leipzig in the UCL and scoring yet another matchwinner in the Premier League, scoring the only goal against his former side Wolves. Diogo is definitely one to watch for Liverpool, returning to fitness and form at just the right time for Liverpool as they face Real Madrid, the side who beat them in the final of the UCL in 2018.
Club – FC Porto Quarter Final Opponent – Chelsea FC
Sérgio comes into this tie in perhaps the form of his life. His continual development and growth at Porto has saw him go from a player on the periphery, a player loaned out on numerous occasions and who struggled to establish himself, to one of Porto’s most influential players. This development has saw him receive 5 caps for Portugal and he has just been called up for the most recent Seleção squad for the World Cup qualifiers at the end of March. It was Oliveira’s goals, a penalty and a decisive free-kick, that saw Porto defy the odds to knock out Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in the last round, those goals have taken his tally for the season to 18 goals and 6 assists in 37 matches so far this season, impressive numbers from central midfield.
The 28-year-old midfielder is the beating heart of this Porto team, influencing Porto both defensively and offensively. His passing range, awareness, tenacity and killer set-piece ability make him a real threat in the middle of the park for Conceição’s men.
Club – Manchester City Quarter Final Opponent – Borussia Dortmund
With three hugely important Portugal internationals at the Etihad in the form of the ever-impressive João Cancelo, the mercurial Bernardo Silva and the imperious Rúben Dias, it was difficult to choose one key player to watch but we’ve ultimately went for Dias. His instant impact on this Manchester City side is clear to see, he has played in six of City’s eight UCL games so far this season, helping his side to five clean sheets and is part of a team that has conceded just ONE goal so far in this UCL campaign. In the Premier League, his arrival settled Manchester City down defensively and his presence has brought out the best in partner John Stones. Something his manager Pep Guardiola alluded to in a press conference [See below].
Out of the 27 league games he’s started for City this season, they have kept a clean sheet in 15 of them, a testament to not only to his brilliant technical attributes, but also his character and leadership on the pitch. He is always talking and marshalling, ensuring his team-mates stay sharp and alert, the kind of leadership that saw him captain Benfica on numerous occasions despite being one of the youngest players in the squad. His kind of composure and maturity is rare in someone so young, but at just 23 years of age, Dias is experienced far beyond his years. At the time of writing he has made 229 senior appearances, that’s excluding the fact he already has 22 senior appearances for Portugal, winning a UEFA Nations League and putting a MOTM performance in in the final, in the process. If Dias is at his best, Dortmund will have a very difficult task of breaching that Manchester City defence.
Full list of Portuguese participants remaining in the UEFA Champions League
FC Porto – Cláudio Ramos, Diogo Costa, Meixedo, Pepe, Diogo Leite, Wilson Manafá, Nanu, Sérgio Oliveira, Fábio Vieira, Romário Baro, João Mário, Chico Conceição.
Manchester City – João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Bernardo Silva
Borussia Dortmund – Raphaël Guerreiro
Liverpool – Diogo Jota
PSG – Danilo Pereira