Feyenoord and Porto met in the second matchday of Group G of the UEFA Europa League. The match left a number of interesting elements for tactical analysis. Feyenoord and Porto are teams that have a defined game idea, so the analysis was necessary. In addition, the tactical analysis showed us some differences between the two teams. The result and procedure of the match demonstrated the superiority of Feyenoord’s tactics over Porto’s tactics. The tactical analysis also showed that Feyenoord improved on the last match and that Porto must do better.

The match offered several important points not to overlook in the tactical analysis. This is why the following piece will show us how and why Feyenoord were able to beat Porto. Feyenoord’s tactics surpassed Porto’s tactics with a lot of superiority. The analysis left interesting things to deepen Feyenoord’s victory over Porto. In addition, it will be based on the tactics of both teams and what the coaches’ proposals were. For now, the clearest thing the tactical analysis made is that Feyenoord’s tactics were vastly superior.


UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Taken from Wyscout.

Jaap Stam, coach of Feyenoord, wanted to give continuity to the team he has been using. Throughout the season he has used almost always the same 11 players, except for some forced change. That’s why for this match Stam only made one change with respect to the previous match of Europa League. This makes the base of the team to be maintained and the tactics become more solid.

The only change made by Stam was the inclusion of Jens Toornstra instead of Orkun Kökcü. The change, in fact, did not even bring about any change in the formation. Both players have similar characteristics, so it did not alter the system or tactics. This is why Feyenoord continued to use their 4-3-3 formation.

Meanwhile, Sergio Conceição made several changes that even made his tactics and system vary. Wilson Manafá replaced the Mexican Jesús Corona as the right full-back. In addition, in the midfield and striker zone, he also made changes. Shōya Nakajima joined the starting line-up in place of Colombian Luis Diaz in midfield. Zé Luís replaced Tiquinho Soares as a striker.

This changed Conceição’s tactics and system. Porto usually play with a 4-3-3 formation, but this time they changed to a 4-4-2 formation. The tactical analysis showed that the coach was looking for a more solid team in defence with that tweak. The idea was to occupy the width of the pitch better and make two lines of four players in an orderly manner. To do that, Nakajima’s entry is logical, because he is a player more applied in defence than Luis Díaz.

Feyenoord occupying space

The system used by Feyenoord was a classic Dutch system: 4-3-3. This system is in the DNA of Dutch teams and is still used by most of them. Feyenoord is no exception and know how to use it properly. The full-backs go several meters forward to form a line of three midfielders together with another player located in the middle. Meanwhile, the most defensive midfielder positions himself in the middle of the centre-backs to take the ball and start the action.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Occupation of Feyenoord spaces: Tapia is positioned between the centre-backs. Karsdorp and Haps are positioned close to the sidelines. Toornstra is positioned as an axis in the middle of the pitch.

The tactical analysis showed that one of the main features of this Feyenoord team was the reference to certain players from Porto. For example, the Feyenoord wingers were located very close to the striker to form a line of three. In this way, the three midfielders went a few meters ahead and boxed the Porto players in charge of receiving a pass in the middle of the pitch.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Six Feyenoord players surround Danilo Pereira, the Porto player in charge of being the axis of the Portuguese team. This pressure from Feyenoord towards Pereira was very good, as it took away Porto’s fluidity.
UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
The Feyenoord players were placed in triangles to take the Porto players out of the equation. This forced Porto’s goalkeeper to kick long balls.

Feyenoord took advantage of the right sector, i.e. the left sector of Porto. It was in that area of the pitch that the Portuguese team was the weakest and Feyenoord were able to take advantage of it. For example, Steven Berghuis and Rick Karsdorp regularly exchanged positions. Berghuis was at right-back and that created space for Karsdorp. The tactical analysis showed that with a small movement of two players, Porto was often in trouble.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Interesting tactical move between Berghuis and Karsdorp. Again trios were made to form a triangle and thus move forward. Berghuis was placed as a fullback for Karsdorp to break free. In this way, the Porto players lost the reference.

Another interesting sign that the tactical analysis left us was Feyenoord’s pressure. The Dutch team was very dynamic and committed in that sense, as well as having a good sense of concentration. Feyenoord’s players constantly pressed Porto’s defensive line. This meant that the Porto players had to kick long balls to take the pressure off themselves. The pressure also caused the Porto players to make mistakes and play uncomfortably.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Feyenoord’s asphyxiating pressure on Porto. Three players pressure Pepe to force him to make a mistake or give a bad pass.

Porto’s 4-4-2 system

The tactical analysis showed us that Porto was not yet ready for a 4-4-2 formation. The coach wanted to change for this match and it wasn’t the best option, as the distribution of players was never clear. Porto looked very disordered at times, especially in the left sector.

Nakajima was responsible for starting the action in that sector, but there was never a proper understanding with Alex Telles. In that area, Alex Telles should occupy the space left by Nakajima, but this happened only rarely. Porto did not have a fluid game from behind, so Nakajima was centralised to help Mateus Uribe and Danilo Pereira in that task.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Porto suffered a lot from the left sector, i.e. the Nakajima sector. There, Porto were unbalanced, as Nakajima was centralised and Alex Telles did not overtake a few meters to occupy that position. That caused an unused space and therefore the bad occupation of spaces in that area of the pitch.

In addition, Manafá was ahead several meters trying to play at the height of the line of the ball. The problem is that Alex Telles did not follow the line of the ball and could never get ahead as a true full-back. On the other hand, Danilo Pereira, Mateus Uribe, and Nakajima were always well surrounded by Feyenoord players.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Nakajima, Danilo Pereira, and Mateus Uribe were in charge of receiving the first pass from the centre-backs. There they were always well referenced by Feyenoord players. That caused a short circuit between the lines of Porto.

Porto’s bad occupation of space meant that the Portuguese team was in numerical inferiority quite often. The tactical analysis showed that the change of system did not work for Porto. For example, in the space left by Nakajima, there should be a Porto player to receive the ball and be a pass option.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Again Nakajima centralised and Alex Telles who does not occupy the space left by Nakajima. In addition, Porto’s poor occupation of space meant that Feyenoord almost always had numerical superiority. This was a disadvantage for Porto almost the entire game. In this case, there are eight Feyenoord players and six Porto players.

On the other hand, Porto’s idea of ball recovery didn’t work either. For example, the distance between Feyenoord’s right-back and Nakajima is huge and that’s what happened in many parts of the game. The pressure was untidy, unbalanced and with a long way to go.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
Porto’s pressure started from way back. It was done, but the Feyenoord players had time to receive the pass and move the ball.

The tactical analysis showed that Porto did not occupy the spaces well. This means that the distribution of players on the pitch was not adequate. Therefore, the 4-4-2 system did not work, as players who did not fulfil their functions were seen. The 4-4-2 formation was only noticed when Porto did not have the ball and had to defend.

UEFA Europa League 2019/20: Feyenoord vs Porto – tactical analysis tactics
4-4-2 system used by Porto without the ball. When Porto did not have possession of the ball was when the distribution of players was seen more clearly.


Group G of the Europa League is perhaps the most evenly matched in the competition. The four teams that make it up are very even. In fact, everyone has won a game so far. At this point, all the teams have three points and the positions are defined by goal difference. That’s also why tactical analysis becomes more necessary. After all, tactics are what will make the difference between the best and the rest.

Feyenoord will face Young Boys in the next matchday, while Porto will face Rangers. Again the tactics of the coaches will be very important for both teams in trying to get a win. Feyenoord settled into the standings after the first game loss to Rangers. Meanwhile, Porto defeated Young Boys on the first matchday. So this defeat put them on equal footing with the rest of the teams in the group.

Surely the next tactical analysis will give us a broader picture of the teams in this even group. It is evident that the matches will be defined by small details in terms of tactics. That’s why the wisdom of the coaches will be very important. In the meantime, a tactical analysis will help us get to know the teams better.

Artwork by @chapulana

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Juan Ricardo Arenas Amaya