Scouting Report: Understrength Arsenal face mammoth Porto task

There can be very few sides in European football as confident when facing British opposition as FC Porto.

The Portuguese giants had an unbeaten record against sides from these shores at Estadio do Dragao – a run which saw them beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – before Cristiano Ronaldo’s long range howitzer helped Manchester United to a 1-0 win on the way to last year’s final.

And no English side has managed to score more than once in the stadium’s six year history.

Under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship they did, however, knock United out of the competition in 2004, before going on to famously lift the trophy themselves with a 3-0 win over Monaco in the final.

They also beat Celtic in the final of the UEFA Cup the season before.

Arsenal probably have less cause to fear that record than most, having comprehensively beaten the Portuguese side 4-0 at the Emirates in last season’s group stage.

They did lose 2-0 in the reverse fixture, although Arsene Wenger fielded a significantly weakened side with qualification to the knock-out phase already assured.

"How'd you expect me to keep that out - it's bloody massive!"

That said, it seems as though the Gunners will be significantly weakened again tonight, with Andrei Arshavin, Eduardo, William Gallas, Alex Song and longer term absentees Robin van Persie and Carlos Vela all failing to make the flight to Oporto earlier this week.

Although there is some good news – Manuel Almunia is also out…

The imposing Brazilian forward, Hulk, is a key figure for Porto, but may be a tad rusty having not played for two months thanks to a domestic ban picked up following a changing room altercation following Porto’s clash with Benfica in December.

Playmaker, Ruben Michael, faces a late fitness test on a shoulder injury, but midfielder Raul Meireles should be back in contention following a month on the sidelines.

Porto usually play with a 4-3-3 formation. This consists of a classic flat back four, a defensive midfielder, two central midfielders, two wingers and a striker.

Porto can vary this tactic though and one of the wingers moves inside to give them another striking option when attacking.

Three to watch:

Pereira prays for some defensive know-how...

Name: Alvaro PereiraDate of Birth: 28/11/1985 (24)Place of Birth: Montevideo (Uruguay)Nationality: UruguayanHeight: 6ft 1inWeight: 12st 9lbsPosition: Left Back or Left WingerSquad number: 15

A current Uruguay international, Alvaro Pereira began his career in his homeland with Miramar, before moving to Argentina in 2005, signing for Quilmes.

A move to Argentinos Juniors followed two years later and after a season in which he scored an impressive 11 goals from his wide position, the Uruguayan started to attract interest from several European sides.

In the summer of 2008, Pereira signed for then Romanian champions, CFR Cluj, going on to start all of their Champions League matches at left back and catching the eye of several of the continent’s more established sides.

He promptly moved on again in June 2009, signing for Porto, and is now first choice left-back.

Pereira is a very attack-minded full-back with lots of stamina and excellent crossing ability.

However he is defensively suspect and, while he wouldn’t struggle to cope with the pace of the likes of Theo Walcott, he may find the skill level harder to deal with.

Michael is so classy, he has his little finger aloft even when he's running...

Name: Rúben MicaelDate of Birth: 19/08/1986 (23)Place of Birth: Câmara de Lobos (Portugal)Nationality: PortugueseHeight: 5ft 9inWeight: 11st 7lbsPosition: Central Midfield or Attacking MidfieldSquad number: 28

Having only joined Porto in January on a four and a half year contract from Nacional, Rúben Micael has made a hugely impressive start to life at the club.

The 23-year-old began his career at Portuguese second division side Clube Futebol União, spending five years at the club before his move to Nacional in the summer of 2008.

Micael displays an excellent range of passing, impressive technique and great awareness of what is going on around him.

A very creative player who is also decent defensively, some Porto fans are already comparing the young midfielder to former maestro, Deco.

At this stage there seem no obvious massive weaknesses to the technical side of his game, although one flaw could be the physical aspect.

Micael has seemed to struggle a little bit when being man-marked by a strong and imposing defensive midfielder.

Arsene Wenger may consider tasking Abou Diaby with marshalling Micael, should the Porto playmaker be fit.

Falcao's breakdancing left a lot to be desired...

Name: FalcaoDate of Birth: 10/02/1986 (24)Place of Birth: Santa Marta (Colombia)Nationality: ColombianHeight: 5ft 10inWeight: 11st 7lbsPosition: StrikerSquad number: 9

Falcao began his career with Argentinian giants, River Plate and established himself as a regular first teamer over the last three seasons, scoring goals at a rate of roughly two in five games.

A Colombian international, he joined Porto in the summer and has enjoyed a great first season with 20 goals in all competitions to his name already.

He possesses decent pace and strength, but where he poses the most threat is in the air – he has a fantastic leap and is an impressive header of the ball.

However, it could well be that Porto look to play balls into the Colombian’s feet and instruct him to make the most of his pace if he is playing up against the aging Sol Campbell, rather than relying on that aerial threat.

That may be playing into Arsenal’s hands, however, as his finishing when the ball is at his feet can sometimes be a tad erratic.

He has been known to miss easy chances, and this is generally regarded as the primary reason he is yet to really establish himself as a top player on the European scene.

With thanks to Paulo Almeida and all at Championship Manager

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