Primeira Liga 2019/20 : Porto vs Famalicao – tactical analysis

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics

Newly promoted and in red hot form, Famalicão travelled to the Estadio do Dragao to face Porto. Famalicao has been the surprise package of the Primeira Liga so far. The newly-promoted side has been in a stellar run of form. They went into the match unbeaten, with six wins and one draw. This meant they were top of the table. However, would an away tie at Porto be too big an ask for the high flyers? This tactical analysis will cover just how Porto dominated to end their winning streak.


Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
Line-Ups courtesy of Wyscout.

Famalicao lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. This year their tactics have alternated between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 variations. Famalicão has an impressively young squad and fielded another young side in this match. Over half their starting 11 was under 23.

Porto were without both Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar upfront. Soares was therefore given the nod. Interestingly Alex Telles was placed on the bench in favour of right-footer Wilson Manafa. This meant Chancel Mbemba took up a right-back role.

The midfield battle

Both teams in possession had the same shape in midfield. Porto predominantly had Danilo Perreira as a single pivot, with Otavio and Mateus Uribe as number eights. For Famalicao, 19-year-old Gustavo Assuncao sat behind Pote and Goncalo Rodrigues.

The difference came in how the teams lined up when they didn’t have the ball. Porto went to a double pivot in a man-oriented zonal marking fashion. They weren’t completely man-marking as the two deep midfielders wouldn’t cross zones. However, they would stick to their respective man when in their respective zone.

Porto recognised the danger that can occur with a strict man-marking scheme. If the opposition is clever, they can manipulate the man markers to open up large passing lanes throughout the pitch. Therefore a zonal man-marking system is a happy balance. This involves marking the man fairly closely when he is in a distinct zone. When the player ranges too far out of this area, the man marker will let him go. This differs from a more broader zonal marking system. The difference being that the main reference for the defender is the player and not the zone. In a zonal marking system, the main reference for the defender is the zonal area around them.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
F.C Porto’s man-oriented zonal system.

Famalicão opted for a different solution. Whichever midfielder was on the opposite side of the ball would come over and mark Danilo. This was, in fact, a large distance for the midfielder to cover and became a source of Famalicao’s problems.

This style of defending can be seen as an option-oriented zonal marking scheme. The difference being to a normal zonal system that the reference for the defender is the ball. Therefore as we can see below, if the ball is on the left side, the right central midfielder will come across and vice versa. In effect, the team will move differently and in a specific way dependant on where the ball is on the pitch.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
Here we can see the opposite midfielder coming across to address Danilo.

The difference between the two styles in the game were clear. Familicão’s set up created gaps in their defensive set up, which were more suited to Porto’s strengths. Every system has a weakness and in Familicão’s case, it meant leaving the half-space or wing wide open. This played into Porto’s hands who were extremely good in wide play.

For Porto, their defensive system left more spaces in the middle wide areas. This space was possibly the least profitable area of the pitch for Familicão. Often their midfielders would get trapped facing the touchline. This therefore meant that Porto’s defensive strategy was slightly more profitable.

Porto and Danilo’s intelligence

Porto’s analysis of the situation was impressive. It took around 20 minutes for Porto to recognise and respond to the situation that was occurring above. A smart mechanism from Porto was used to free Danilo in wider areas. The situation below offers a perfect example of this.

Danilo drifts into wider areas knowing it is a huge distance for the right midfielder in this case to follow. If he does follow, it creates a huge room in either the half-space or left-wing. The right central midfielder then takes up a higher position knowing that he is being almost man-marked. In doing so, he pins Famalicão’s midfielder and creates time and space for Danilo to get the ball. This occurred regularly throughout the match.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
Danilo and Porto creating time and space with smart positional play.

Porto then had two options if they could quickly shift play. Firstly and ideally, they could play in between the lines into their inside winger, Diaz. If Famalicão’s right-winger tucked inside to block this pass, then they could play wide to Manafa. This meant Manafa regularly received the ball in advanced and dangerous wide areas.

Danilo is arguably the player who makes Porto tick. By creating this time and space for him, Porto began to dominate the game. Danilo’s excellent passing range began to cause havoc for Famalicão. Danilo is adept at breaking lines and switching play.  He broke lines 9 times for Porto, had 5 successful long passes with 61 passes in total. As a result, Porto began to get 1v1’s in wide areas. This was the source of Porto’s chances in the first half.

How Porto created chances in ball possession

Porto created chances through two main avenues in the game. Firstly in possession, they looked to get their wide players on the ball in time and space. Secondly, they pressed Famalicão high, creating turnovers and thus dangerous situations. The latter will be explained later in this piece.

As Famalicão were in a medium block, Porto’s centre-backs tended to have time on the ball. When they did, Porto would take up an asymmetrical shape. As seen below their left-back would take up a high and wide position. With left-winger Luis Diaz playing as an inside winger. This meant Porto had as many as six options in advanced areas, with good presence between the lines. Additionally, it meant Porto had excellent width.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
F.C Porto with excellent horizontal staggering.

This also played perfectly into the struggles at which Famalicão had. The newly-promoted side tended to struggle with the timing of their full-backs addressing the wide players. Initially, they rushed out early and quickly. This often created gaps between the full-back and centre back as seen below.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
The horizontal staggering means there is always a player in a near-vertical line to exploit the space between the full-back and centre-back.

Because of Porto’s shape, they had at least three players in even vertical spaces between the lines. Additionally, it meant these players were in the perfect vertical line to exploit the gaps in Famalicão’s defence. They did so regularly, with the chance above nearly ending in a goal.

Famalicão, as a result, started to defend more narrowly. This then posed another problem as it meant Porto could get the ball wide to Corona and Manafa in space. The two wide players began to create absolute havoc. They managed to beat their man regularly and get into dangerous wide areas in the box. Corona and Manafa had 6 and 4 touches respectively in Famalicão’s box. Corona, in particular, was extremely dangerous, creating 5 key passes. Porto, however, struggled with the final contact and therefore did not score through these passages of play.

Famalicão’s game

In possession, the greens were persistent in their attempts to play out the back. They would try to build up with a back four, against Porto’s front three. The space was mostly with the full-backs and therefore we would regularly see the keeper clipping the ball out to them.

It seemed Famalicão, in general, were worried about playing through the middle against Porto. When they did manage to play out through the full-backs, often we would see the ball side box to box midfielder drift wide. Famalicão then tried to create an overload in these wide areas, in order to isolate the opposite winger. They would play small combinations, suck Porto over and then hit a big diagonal to the opposite winger.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
Famalicão’s wide overload with the CM rotating out.

Famalicão’s wingers rarely got the better of their opposite counterparts. With this being the greens main strategy to create chances, it meant Familicao struggled to create anything in the first half.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
The opposite winger stays high and wide for the big diagonal switch.

Additionally, it also meant they couldn’t create through other avenues. Because their strategy overloaded wide areas, they struggled to keep the ball when there was space through the middle. Their striker Anderson Silva became extremely isolated, often receiving the ball to feet and losing it straight away due to the reduced options around him. All in all, Famalicão struggled to create any regular chances throughout the match.

Carbon Copy Goals

With Famalicão insistent on playing out the back, Porto sensed an opportunity. From the 30th minute onwards, they began to press higher in general. From the 15th to 30th minute, they were less intense in their press with a PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action) of 28.5. From the 30th minute onwards, it dropped to 12.67, signalling Porto’s intent to press higher.

Their strategy paid dividends just before half time. Porto had a clear pressing trigger in the first half. Whenever the centre back from Famalicão would step forward, the striker would begin to press him to one side. They would then force him into the middle. The trapped work perfectly, with Patrick William giving away a pass straight into the midfield. Because of Porto’s high winger positioning, they transitioned effectively into full backspace. After a few passes, the ball was in the back of the net for the Blues.

Primeira Liga 2019/20 : F.C. Porto vs F.C. Famalicão - tactical analysis tactics
The striker and winger work in tandem to funnel the centre-back down the middle.

All three goals came through Famalicão losing the ball. Porto would regain it with their wingers in place and exploit the disrupted nature of Famalicão’s backline. The final goal was scored by 17-year-old, Fabio Silva. He knicked it directly from the feet of Familicao’s keeper and rolled it into the goal to seal the game.


This was almost a no-contest match for FC Porto. They outclassed Famalicão both tactically and in their one on one battles all over the pitch. Famalicao will be disappointed with that display after a fine run of form. The greens will hope to bounce back next round with a home match against Gil Vicente.

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the October issue for just ₤4.99 here