Why Everton are a better bet than Arsenal

With Porto playing Arsenal, Sporting playing Everton and Benfica battling Berlin, The Portugeezer looks at his compatriots' chances in the European knockouts...

The Champions League and Europa League draws were neither generous nor harsh towards the three remaining Portuguese teams, who each have a decent chance of progression.

Which may not be good news for Englishmen...

Porto vs Arsenal

While Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid were the teams to avoid and Bordeaux, Fiorentina and Sevilla were the most attractive opponents, Porto got Arsenal in what will be a 50/50 match than can go either way – according to none other than Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners may be privately relishing facing a team they so easily hammered last season, but they should not count their chickens yet.

The Dragons were unusually lacklustre that night and would eventually prove that the 4-0 result in London was a one-off by defeating the English side at home.

Tres Grande: RvP puts Arsenal's third past Porto

It's a surprise that top clubs still underestimate Porto.

The Dragons have been in the Champions League as much as almost any other team and they won the competition in 2004.

With so much accumulated experience and an ever-present winning mentality – remember they've won the domestic title six times in the last seven seasons – Porto are not to be taken lightly.

Arsenal can be one of the best teams in the world with their displays of free-flowing football, but their weaknesses are also well-documented: lack of strength-in-depth and continuous reliance on young players who, despite their undoubted ability, lack consistency.

They lost Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City and Robin van Persie to injury, and unless Wenger is ready to go to the market in January, they seem to be running low on ammunition.


Both teams are dominant at home and on their day can beat just about anyone. It will be a close, close contest and the tie will be decided by the form of the teams come February.

At the moment, Arsenal look marginally the favourites if only because they’ll play the second leg at home. Still, anything can happen.

Benfica vs Hertha Berlin

Two of Portugal's Tres Grandes could help each other out by sharing scouting notes: Benfica and Sporting will play against teams from each other's group.

In truth, Benfica may not need the assistance.

Based on what little Hertha showed against Sporting, and taking into account the fact they are currently bottom of the German league with just six points in 17 games, the Eagles go into this tie as the odds-on favourites.

Berlin troop off after bombing in Lisbon

Last year the two teams met in Berlin for the UEFA Cup and the match ended a 1-1 draw.

This year, though, Hertha don’t have striking duo Andriy Voronin and Marko Pantelic – and Benfica look a much more menacing team.


Benfica will book a last-16 tie against Marseille - who play against Danish side FC København.

Provided they don’t press the self-destruct button, there’s no other possible outcome from this match.

Sporting vs Everton

This one will be one hell of a match for Sporting.

Yes, Everton got schooled by Benfica (0-7 on aggregate in the group), but the Toffees were missing some of their first-choice players.

Toffees chewed by Benfica

David Moyes once again proved his business savvy by completing the loan capture of Landon Donovan, but the Scotsman will be mostly pleased to have his entire squad available.

Mikel Arteta is due to return from injury in February and the Spanish wizard might be the key man for Everton.

Both teams have been struggling this season and should the situation continue, they may be forced to focus on their respective leagues, which would take some glamour from this tie.

Fortunately, February is still some way off and there’s still time to build enough momentum.


Sporting will lose this one. They have yet to impress this season and what they’ve shown so far is not enough to overcome the Toffees.

They will make some adjustments in January which can boost their chances, but they need to improve to take this one.

Best non-news of the week

According to Record, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus instructed the club to sign Bayern Munich outcast Luca Toni.

So the Italian striker would be on his way to become a Benfica player – if it wasn’t for his huge wage.

And the fact that he has market value in Italy, Spain and England. And the fact he still wants to play at the highest level...

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