Europa League preview: Porto flying high ahead of Russia trip

FC Porto travel to CSKA Moscow on Thursday armed with one of the strongest attacks in the Europa League.

Porto, 11 points clear of second-placed Benfica, are running away with the Liga Sagres and on course to collect their 25th title.

They topped their Europa League group ahead of Besiktas and accounted for La Liga side Sevilla in the second round.

After a 2-1 victory in Spain and a 1-0 loss in the return at home, Porto needed the away goals rule to get past Sevilla.

But knocking out the experienced Champions League campaigners remains an impressive achievement.

Porto can boast two of the best strikers outside of the major European leagues in Brazilian Hulk and Colombian Radamel Falcao, ably assisted by Portuguese midfielder Silvestre Varela.

The team is coached by 33-year-old prodigy Andre Villas Boas, who served as Porto assistant under Jose Mourinho and is tipped by many to replicate the master tactician’s impressive achievements.

Standing in their way are CSKA, who won the competition as the UEFA Cup in 2005.

They reached the Champions League quarter-finals last season, losing 2-0 on aggregate to eventual winners Inter Milan.

CSKA are part of a strong Russian presence in this season’s competition.

Russian Premier League leaders Zenit St Petersburg – who won the UEFA Cup in 2008 – are away to FC Twente, while Spartak Moscow are also in the Netherlands to meet Ajax Amsterdam.

All of the Eredivisie’s three representatives are at home, with league leaders PSV Eindhoven playing host to Scottish Premier League side Glasgow Rangers.

In other matches, Portuguese side Braga – who edged out Porto to achieve Champions League qualification last season – are at home to English club Liverpool.

Liverpool’s Premier League rivals Manchester City also have an away match – they make the long flight to take on Dynamo Kiev of the Ukraine.

Villarreal, fourth in La Liga, travel to Germany to play Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen, while French club Paris Saint-Germain are in Portugal to meet Benfica.