FC Porto vs. Malaga: Key Men for Each Side in Champions League Encounter

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

James Rodriguez will be one to watch against Malaga
James Rodriguez will be one to watch against MalagaDean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In the lesser mentioned of Tuesday's Champions League ties, FC Porto and Malaga will clash in what promises to be an intriguing contest. The two sides have both seen players rise to prominence throughout this campaign, and there will be no shortage of emerging talent on show.

This Malaga side may throw up a few unfamiliar names for those who only tune in to the knockout stages of this competition, but they remain unbeaten in the Champions League this season. Porto, on the other hand, have a reputation for picking out superstars in the making. Falcao and Hulk are both testament to that.

So who's going to shine in tomorrow's clash?

James Rodriguez looks to be the next big name ready to break out at Porto. All eyes will be on the Colombian international in this tie. He is expected to feature despite recent fitness concerns. He will make up one-third of a front three that looks likely to create plenty of chances against the Malaga back four.

He has operated on either flank this season, but will more than likely start on the right wing. This will certainly be of concern to Malaga, after losing first-choice left-back Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in the January transfer window. Vitorino Antunes is the man who has stepped in to replace the departed Monreal. Even if Rodriguez isn't fully fit, Antunes will have to do an exceptional job to keep the flying winger quiet.  

Whilst Porto have a plethora of attacking options, Malaga will certainly think that they have enough within their ranks to cause a few problems of their own.

If they are to threaten, then it will most likely be through the efforts of their creator-in-chief this campaign, Isco. The 20-year-old has earned many admirers with some standout displays this season, a lot of them coming in this competition. His performance in Malaga's 3-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg from the group stage certainly made the footballing world sit up and take note.

And it certainly wasn't a one-off, as sterling performances against Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all followed.

Isco will have to be at his best if Malaga are to take a positive result away from Portugal. Porto are ruthless at home and Malaga will have to withstand pressure for spells before they can even think about making a mark on the match. Isco might have to drop into deeper positions to help negate the influence of Joao Moutinho and Lucho. But when the Spanish playmaker gets the ball, expect him to recycle the play well and find a Malaga shirt.

Malaga will most likely play on the break, with Joaquin and Javier Saviola looking to spring forward following turnovers in possession—a tactic that they have implemented with great success in Europe so far. If the Spanish outfit can get the ball to Isco with runners going beyond him, then they might just be able to repeat their San Siro heroics.