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Talking Tactics: Conceicao can craft Porto comeback against Inter
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Mitchell Fretton

Sergio Conceicao will welcome his former club Inter Milan to Porto tonight as the Portuguese giants look to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Conceicao made 65 appearances for the Nerazzurri between 2001-03, part of the ex-winger's six-year love affair with Italian football.

As the hosts seek to book their place in the last eight, we turn the spotlight on the man in the home dugout.

Milan memories

Conceicao knows all about tonight's opponents and had the chance to analyse them up close when Romelu Lukaku's strike gave Inter the advantage at San Siro.

It was the first time the 48-year-old had returned to Milan as a coach and on the whole, the visitors merited a share of the spoils.

Only Otavio's red card disrupted the balance of an even game with Lukaku then finding the net with four minutes to play.

A Serie A champion and two-time Coppa Italia winner in his days at Lazio, where he played alongside opposite number Simone Inzaghi, the 56-cap Portuguese international will need all his knowledge of Italian football to plot a winning path at the Estadio do Dragao.

But with three Primeira Liga titles under his belt as a coach, Conceicao will bring all his tactical nous to this encounter.

Sergio Conceicao spent two seasons at Inter Milan
Sergio Conceicao spent two seasons at Inter Milan

Tough task

Porto coach since 2017, Conceicao opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in the first leg.

The well-respected coach is expecting another close contest, despite Inter losing two of their last three Serie A outings.

He said: "It will be a balanced match, very difficult, against a team full of good players. We know our opponent but above all we know what we are capable of doing.

"We want to be intense, good at pressing, aggressive and, above all, intelligent. In these top-level matches we have to play the way we know, the way we feel most comfortable.

"If we adapt too much to our opponent, things might not go as well as we want.

"We have 90 minutes to try to overturn the result but to do that we will have to be smart throughout the match. It will be important not to go on the attack, we will need to be patient and with the right aggressiveness.

"I’m not the Inter coach, but all defeats are tough for a club used to winning like Inter. However, Champions League matches are different, on a mental level the problems from the league defeat will not come into play."

Porto have played on the front foot in the Champions League this season
Porto have played on the front foot in the Champions League this season

Attacking approach

Porto have enjoyed an impressive run, with their loss in Milan only the second in their last 15 matches in all competitions.

They sit second in the table, eight points behind dominant Benfica, and topped their Champions League group to earn their place in the last 16.

Suffering opening defeats to Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge, Conceicao steadied the ship with four-straight wins in which his team only conceded one goal.

As coach, the Porto academy graduate tries to attack as he did in his playing days, encouraging his side to press aggressively and win the ball back as quickly as possible.

By squeezing their opponents back into their defensive third, the Dragons are able to force a mistake and have talisman Mehdi Taremi in attack to pocket any opportunities.

Of players to have scored five or more goals in this season's competition, only Mohamed Salah and Joao Mario have a better shot conversion rate.

Despite their many strengths, the home side will need to be at their best in both boxes if they are to outsmart an Inter side who are looking to salvage something from an otherwise poor campaign.

Sergio Conceicao will rely on Mehdi Taremi to provide Porto's goal threat
Sergio Conceicao will rely on Mehdi Taremi to provide Porto's goal threat

Next chapter

Conceicao has been linked with many managerial vacancies in Italy while he has been enjoying success in Portugal.

The well-travelled boss — who also spent time in Belgium, Kuwait and Greece as a player — certainly has the credentials to soon ply his trade in one of Europe's top five leagues, but is remaining loyal to his boyhood club.

But while pressure continues to mount on Inzaghi, whose team are 18 points behind Napoli in the Serie A standings, a victory tonight would only lead to more clamour for Conceicao to fill his former team-mate's position.

Regardless of which players steal the show on the pitch this evening, the tactical battle between the two ex-colleagues will be just as fascinating to observe.


Champions LeagueFC PortoInter
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