Arsenal’s first Champions League knockout match since March 2017 will see them take on north Portuguese side, FC Porto, on 21st February and 12th March, 2024. The draw was largely seen as a favourable one for the Gunners who avoided the likes of Napoli, PSG and RB Leipzig following their comfortable topping of Group B. With Porto deemed one of the weakest sides remaining in the competition, Arsenal head into the clash as the overwhelmingly strong 1/6 favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
Despite this, Arsenal supporters should be taking nothing for granted given their club’s poor Champions League record of late. In each of their last seven Champions League attempts the Gunners have fallen at this very hurdle. The last time they managed to progress further than the round of 16 was all the way back in the 2009/10 season, a distant memory for many now.
There is some cause for optimism heading into this clash with Porto though. One is that Arsenal are simply a stronger team than they were during all those previous eliminations. Secondly, they have typically faced a tougher side when waving goodbye to the competition. Out of their last seven knockout eliminations, Bayern Munich were responsible for three and Barcelona two. Finally, you have the fact that Arsenal’s competitive record against Portuguese teams is relatively solid, as we will now explore.
Arsenal’s Overall Record Against Portuguese Teams
Here is the Gunners’ record against Portuguese teams in competitive matches. It is a head-to-head table that dates back to October 1969 when the north Londoners played Sporting CP in the long-abolished Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Including this two-legged contest, Arsenal have come up against clubs from Spain’s western neighbour on 20 occasions.
As you can see, this is a fairly solid record overall, albeit nothing especially outstanding. That said, a win ratio of 40% does mean that sides from Portugal have proven among Arsenal’s toughest opponents historically. The north Londoners only have a lower win percentage than this against teams from Spain, Russia and England.
If focussing on results against Porto specifically, of Arsenal’s 20 Portuguese clashes, six of them have come against Porto, the first being in 2006. Their record against the Dragons reads W3, D1, L2 with a goal difference of +8. Interestingly, from these six previous fixtures, not only has the away team never won the match but the visiting side has only recorded one goal.
Although overall records can be interesting to look at, examining more recent meetings tends to provide slightly more useful insight into how an upcoming clash may pan out. Since 2018, the Gunners have faced Portuguese clubs eight times (Sporting x4, Vitoria Guimaraes x2 and Benfica x2). They are technically unbeaten during this time (W3, D5) although this does not tell the whole picture as the section below explains.
Arsenal’s Last Meeting Against Portuguese Opposition
Most Gunners supporters will still painfully remember the last time they faced a side from Portugal as it was only a matter of months ago. The London outfit were strong favourites for their round of 16 Europa League clash with Sporting CP but there was all to play for following a highly competitive 2-2 draw in the first leg.
In north London’s return leg, the Gunners took the lead through Granit Xhaka but were pegged back by a truly sensational goal from Pedro Goncalves. Spotting Aaron Ramsdale a little off his line, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers man successfully attempted a 46-yard lob in what was unquestionably one of the goals of the season. There would be no more goals in the game and with the away goal rule no longer in place, this meant it headed to extra-time followed by a penalty shootout. As Gabriel Martinelli was the only player to miss from 12 yards, this saw Sporting progress to the next round at Arsenal’s expense.
With this defeat one that much of the current Arsenal squad was part of, you would imagine this might stave off any danger of complacency when they take on Porto. Coincidentally, Arsenal were trading at 1/6 to progress from that Europa League tie, the same price available for them to dump out Porto from this year’s Champions League.
Porto’s Record Versus English Clubs
Regularly being one of the best teams in Portugal means that Porto has enjoyed much continental football over the years. In a competitive setting, they have faced teams from England on 46 occasions but they generally have not fared too well despite their experience on the European stage.
From these 46 clashes, 26 have ended up in defeat and another 11 have finished all square. As for goals, Porto have netted 46 against English rivals but have conceded 83 at the other end. If we were to focus on the outcome of more recent knockout clashes with English sides, it does not make for a much more positive outlook.
|2-1 aggregate loss
|6-1 aggregate loss
|5-0 aggregate loss
It is easy to see why Porto are significant underdogs for this clash and even their vice-president admitted as much, noting that his side cannot compete with Arsenal financially. He did however add that the Dragons have in the past, “performed authentic miracles with what we have”. Despite their more limited resources, Porto did reach the quarter-finals of the competition in 2020/21 and also in 2018/19.
His comments act as a reminder that anything can happen in a knockout competition but the Dragons will need something fairly special to prevent Arsenal from improving their record against Portuguese teams.