The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw has thrown out an Iberian clash which could yet yield one of the surprise contenders for the tournament, with FC Porto up against Malaga.
The Spanish side qualified top of their Group Stage unbeaten, with four points between themselves and AC Milan. Porto ended second in Group A, winning all of their home games and ending in second place behind PSG.
As a result, Porto will play the first leg at home and striker Jackson Martinez will play a key part if the Liga Sagres leaders are to progress into the quarterfinals. The biggest threat from Porto will come from their Colombian striker, who is the top scorer of the entire Portuguese top flight this season—with 18 goals in just 17 games.
Porto are unbeaten in their domestic league this term, having won 15 of their 19 games, with a strong attack and an equally solid defence making up their strength in the team.
An average of almost 2.5 goals per game in league play this season makes Porto's attack a formidable one, with Jackson Martinez the centrepiece, ably assisted by James Rodriguez and Silvestre Varela from the flanks.
Amongst the three of them, they have managed 29 goals and 11 assists in the league, and a further six goals and one assist in the Champions League this season. Martinez alone has notched half of those Champions League goals.
A formidable attack, then, but they will be coming up against the best defence in Spain.
Malaga have conceded only 21 goals in league play this season; less than Real and Atletico Madrid, and six fewer than league leaders, Barcelona.
Especially away from home, Malaga remain compact and difficult to break down; a contrast to their more expansive and attack-minded play in their own stadium. Testament to that fact are the statistics in La Liga: Malaga have conceded only seven times in 11 matches outside La Rosaleda stadium.
Martinez displays a knack for goalscoring, borne of his tremendous shooting ability and off the ball movement; he is not a striker who will continually run at defenders with the ball at his feet, nor one who purely utilises pace or power alone.
Instead, he combines an instinctive ability to find good positions in the box with the knack of hitting shots with any part of his body, to allow himself the best chance of beating the goalkeeper—including using either foot, or his head.
He is agile, shows good acceleration and has no shortage of skill, all assets which help him, at times, make a mockery of some of the finest defenders on the continent, and beyond.
Martinez will come up against Martin Demichelis and Weligton in the Malaga defence in the two-legged tie in the Champions League.
He has already bested the likes of PSG's Thiago Silva in the Champions League this season; if Porto are to keep alive their dream of emulating the class of 2004 then he will have to best another pair of South American defenders in the Round of 16, most importantly in the first leg, at home on Tuesday.
Statistics from WhoScored.com and TransferMarkt.co.uk
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