Sergio Conceicao dismissed statistics as irrelevant when told Porto have never won in England, but he might want to take a closer look at his captain Pepe’s record before Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.
Porto’s record away to English opposition offers little encouragement, with three draws and 16 defeats in 19 attempts and not a goal to show from their last seven visits.
Considering those figures, Conceicao’s attitude was unsurprising.
“As you know, I don’t like numbers,” the former Portugal winger said. “I’m not a statistics man. Each game has its own life, its own history. It’s not worth thinking about the past.
“At the heart of it is preparing as well as possible, preparing at every level and despite the difficulty of the game working towards winning it and that’s what we’re going to do.”
But the numbers would look a lot more favourable if Conceicao took a closer look at his captain Pepe’s record.
Pepe never lost to Manchester City in four meetings while with Real Madrid, and never lost against Sergio Aguero in nine meetings across the Argentinian’s career with Atletico Madrid and City.
“It’s pretty clear this is not going to be about Pepe vs Aguero,” the 37-year-old defender said. “It’s two teams against each other and it’s a very important game for both teams.
“I’ll do everything to win this game and my team-mates likewise so we need to be humble and recognise the opponent is very strong.
“In the end it’s 11 against 11. Football, despite all the difficulties going in right now, will always be 11 against 11.”
Pepe, in his second season with Porto, was handed the captain’s armband last week, with Conceicao calling him the ideal professional.
“He’s a strong personality in the dressing room and a great athlete in all meanings of the word,” he said.
“He understands that to be a high-level player and continue being a high-level player at the age of 37 he must train before training, after training, in the evening, 24 hours a day he is professional.”
The match will pit Pepe against his defensive partner from international duty, with Ruben Dias one of three Portugal players in the City side alongside Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo.
The topic of the match unsurprisingly came up during the international week earlier this month, but Pepe said all friendships would be put to one side.
“We obviously spoke about this game given the size of it,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of affection and respect for Ruben from his first day with the national team.
“He’s always been an exemplary player with the national team and I think that shows his character. I’m happy that he’s come to a club like Manchester City but tomorrow he will be an opponent.
“I’ll fight for my interests and I know he’ll do the same. Hopefully I’ll leave here happier than he does.”
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