Having secured their qualification with two games to spare, an FC Porto side inspired by returning hero Lucho González are hoping to progress deep into the tournament's latter stages.
Article top media content
After the frustrations of last season, FC Porto advanced to the last 16 with some panache, wrapping up their qualification after just four games. With midfield talisman Lucho González back pulling the strings and young Colombian duo James Rodríguez and Jackson Martínez rising to the fore, hopes are high that the Portuguese giants can progress deep into the competition's latter stages.
Story so far
Having missed out on the UEFA Champions League knockout stage in 2011/12, Porto seemed determined to make things right from the off this time out – and did so. Along with Málaga CF, Vítor Pereira's side became the first team to qualify for the knockout stage, following three successive wins with a draw at FC Dynamo Kyiv on matchday four. Having shown such strong form in a group containing the fancied Paris Saint-Germain FC, Porto are even being touted by some as outside contenders for the final, nine years after last winning the trophy against AS Monaco FC in Gelsenkirchen.
James Rodríguez's late winner against PSG on matchday two was the moment when Porto made clear that they would be a force to be reckoned with in this season's competition. The Portuguese champions had dominated their vaunted opponents without managing to make a breakthrough, and the win was a reward for their persistence as much as their quality. A sumptuous volley after a sweeping passing move, the young Colombian's goal epitomised his side's alluring mix of patience and explosiveness.
There are very few differences in personnel between the Porto of last season and this one, but there has been one crucial change. Lucho González arrived back at the Estádio do Dragão in January and has added vital experience and know-how to a talented midfield. He has played – and scored – in eight successive UEFA Champions League seasons for Porto and Olympique de Marseille, and it shows. The man that Porto players and fans alike know simply as Lucho got the ball rolling for the club in this campaign with the opener at GNK Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one.
He may have taken until matchday three to open his account, but Jackson Martínez has made a fine impression in his first campaign in Europe, notching three times in the group stage. The Colombian got off the mark with an assist from his compatriot James Rodríguez against Dynamo Kyiv before adding the winner later in the game, and scored again in the return meeting with PSG. Big, strong and gifted with real composure in front of goal, Jackson is doing a good job of following in the formidable footsteps of another countryman, Falcao.
Porto accumulated 13 points in the group, despite losing to PSG on matchday six and ending up in second place. Apart from the French side, only one group winner in the competition topped Porto's total – Borussia Dortmund, who finished Group D with 14 points.
"We are taking it step by step, so we're not talking about a final or a semi-final yet. We have a lot of important games to get through before that."
Porto midfielder João Moutinho keeps his feet on the ground.