What has Lopetegui learnt from last season?
After a season that many argued was taken lightly by Julen Lopetegui, with Jorge Jesus’ Benfica coming out on top in both editions of O Classico; Porto barely made a whimper of contention when it counted in a title race that many expected them to take by the scruff of the neck.
Lopetegui has looked to emulate a game reminiscent of Barcelona’s Tiki Taka: a high possession, high pressure game. The latter is an area that has been carped by pundits and analysts, as Casemiro’s ineptitude as the sole midfield anchor and Herrera’s dearth defensively as the No. 8 were highlighted.
What we can expect this season
In this way, the side’s structure has been experimented with this preseason, specifically in the centre of the pitch. Investment in a host of names, whose defensive aptitude either as a No. 6 or ball carrying No. 8, in the form of André André, Sergio Oliveira, Danilo Pereira and Giannelli Imbula has seen Lopetegui experiment with a 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 against the likes of Valencia and Stoke City, amongst others.
By the same token, the likes of Brahimi and Tello, who are expected to start on the flanks, would be given greater freedom, as well both Hector Herrera and Alberto Bueno, with the latter pinned to play as Lopetegui’s No. 10 or centre-forward behind the striker.
This move towards a midfield base of two deeper lying midfielders would almost certainly include Imbula, who has mostly featured as No.8 in midfield with a tendency to play close to the No.6, although with Herrera back in the fold, could find himself at Porto’s definitive midfield lynchpin.
Nevertheless, a system with two more defensive-minded midfielders would likely be implemented against stronger opposition, both domestically and in Europe, as Lopetegui lacked a Plan B last season. His atypical 4-3-3 should feature predominately, although with a greater defensive base than last season.
Tripeiro Nation’s 2015/16 FC Porto Predicted Starting 11: