Jesualdo Ferreira is confident that home advantage will prove decisive as his FC Porto charges attempt to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against FC Schalke 04.
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FC Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira is confident home advantage will prove decisive as his side attempt to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against FC Schalke 04 and book a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Clear game plan
Kevin Kuranyi's early strike was the difference between the teams at the Arena AufSchalke a fortnight ago, and even if Lisandro López, in particular, passed up several chances to restore parity, Ferreira remains optimistic that his side will do the job at the Estádio do Dragão. "There are still 90 minutes to go," said the 61-year-old, whose charges won two of their three group games at home, a 1-1 draw with Liverpool FC the only blemish. "They have an advantage, of course. But we have a clear game plan, in that we know exactly what we have to do."
Strength in depth
The match comes during a key period for Porto, but buttressed by a belief that his team will progress Ferreira plays down the notion that the Schalke showdown is pivotal to their season. "It is the most important game at this moment, but in the middle of many important games for us," continued the former SC Braga coach, who rested a number of first-teamers on Saturday when Porto were held to a goalless derby draw at Boavista FC. López, Bosingwa and Bruno Alves are all in line for recalls, with Tarik Sektioui and Ernesto Farías apparently vying to play alongside López. Whoever Ferreira selects, he recognises everyone has a part to play, saying: "We have 23 players ready to play, and we have to take advantage of all our options if we are to continue winning games."
Porto have had little problem recording victories this term, with a return of 16 from 21 Portuguese Liga matches helping them build a 12-point lead at the summit. Schalke have found wins harder to come by of late, arriving in Portugal on the back of three successive Bundesliga defeats following the weekend home loss to FC Bayern München. It is their worst run since Mirko Slomka was installed in January 2006, yet the coach saw enough during the visit of Porto to predict that an end to the slump is in sight. "We played well, especially in the first half, and could have scored a second goal," said the 40-year-old. "If we score a goal here [in Porto] it will put us in a wonderful position, because it would be hard for them to score three."
Slomka thinks the first-leg clean sheet may also be key as Schalke look to reach the last eight for the first time, though he is certainly not taking two-time winners Porto lightly – especially as they have much more experience at this stage than the Bundesliga outfit. "A 1-0 win was a better result than 2-1," he said. "But they are always strong opponents and they are always contenders in the Champions League," he said. "I don't think they will go for it during the first ten to 15 minutes. They are a patient, intelligent team so it is 50-50. There are no favourites."