How Porto finished last season
Porto finished in 2nd place for a consecutive season as Benfica triumphed again, a feat that had not been achieved in over 30 years. A strong showing in the UEFA Champions League, where the Dragons went undefeated before falling to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, remunerated domestic shortfalls after being knocked out early in the Taça de Portugal and falling to Marítimo in the semi-finals of the Taça da Liga (League Cup).
Having arguably lost their three best performers last season in the form of Jackson Martinez, Oliver Torres and Danilo, Porto will expectedly undergo a period of transition in the early season. Nevertheless, adept signings and needed depth in all positons, particularly in midfield, has placed them as firm favorites for the title and a strong European campaign with Lopetegui being one season the wiser.
Porto’s danger men this season
Arguably, Porto’s difference maker this season could well be Giannelli Imbula. With Casemiro and Herrera struggling last season to stamp his authority defensively, the tools that the Frenchman brings to the table, either at the No.6 or No.8, must not be taken for granted.
The striker is the one player who can turn an imminent defeat into three-points at the bat of an eyelid. Jackson Martinez was that player, and with his exit Lopetegui has looked to his replacement, and a number of names have been mentioned. Vincent Aboubakar, Pablo Dani Osvaldo and André Silva are all in contention, granting that the former two lead the race for the No.9 spot. Whoever takes the Colombian’s mantle will arguably make or break Porto’s title credentials.
Last season’s revelation, Yacine Brahimi (albeit mostly limited to Europe), will provide goals, assists and a threat from any dead ball situation. Captain and Porto mainstay Maicon will need to build on last season’s defensive fragilities as he leads the back four; alongside Iker Casillas, whose undoubted experience on the big stage could make the difference in the big ties that saw Fabiano play the proverbial deer in headlights.