What: Portuguese Primeira Liga
Who: SL Benfica vs FC Porto
When: Sunday 12th January, 2014, at 16:00 UK Time
Where: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
Benfica Looking for Best Form
Benfica entertain Porto at the Estadio da Luz in one of the most vital Primeira Liga games of the season. For the first time in several years, the three powerhouses of Portuguese football are at top of the table and separated only by one point. After beating Sporting Lisbon, the current champions Porto, will now battle against Benfica at a particularly emotional moment for the Red Devils after the death of club legend and icon Eusebio, who passed away last Sunday.
The hosts are undefeated at home this term and, despite some unconvincing performances recently, have only been beaten once in the Primeira Liga this season. The team’s coach, the charismatic Jorge Jesus, is facing difficulty passing his ideas on to his players and the side are far from the consistency shown in the last campaign. After missing out on a Champions League knockout round spot, Benfica are now fully focused on domestic competitions, despite having a Europa League place to their name.
Benfica’s summer recruits have struggled to impose themselves and only young Serbian talent Lazar Markovic has shown glimpses of magic, with quality performances. The team’s defence is also not as solid as last term and they have already conceded 12 goals in 14 league games; and Benfica’s fans have by and large asked for the departure of Jesus, but the club’s president has opted to stick with the controversial coach.
Porto Still Adapting
Over at FC Porto, things are also far from perfect. The team were prematurely eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage and are now in the Europa League. Domestically, Porto once again won the Portuguese Super Cup, at the expense of a fragile Vitoria, but the club’s supporters believe the team have underachieved so far.
The Dragons new boss, young head coach Paulo Fonseca, led Pacos de Ferreira to a superb campaign last term, but has not yet fully convinced. He is still trying to impose his ideas and a new tactical plan on the team, but players are experiencing difficulties adapting to his demands. Newcomers Josue and Lica are enjoying good moments, but their performances are marked with inconsistency.
Porto lack imagination in the centre of midfield and that search for creativity has forced Fonseca to play Lucho Gonzalez as a deep-lying playmaker in order to build moves from further back. The team have improved slightly since Fonseca made that change, however the players are still finding it hard to adapt to the trendy 4-2-3-1 formation that the head coach continues to espouse.
Olhanense 2-3 Benfica (15/12; Primeira Liga)
Vitoria FC 0-2 Benfica (20/12; Primeira Liga)
Benfica 5-0 Gil Vicente (04/01; Portuguese Cup)
Rio Ave 1-3 FC Porto (15/12; Primeira Liga)
FC Porto 4-0 Olhanense (20/12; Primeira Liga)
FC Porto 6-0 Atletico (04/01; Portuguese Cup)
SL Benfica: Oscar Cardozo
FC Porto: Nabil Ghilas (doubt)
Players to watch
SL Benfica – Lima: The Brazilian forward was a key player for Benfica last year and this term things do not appear to be any different. Lima has scored seven goals in 13 games so far and is the team’s top marksman. The Brazilian, who is sometimes accused of being inconsistent, is nevertheless a constant threat for the opposing defence and his excellent positioning in the box often leads to goals.
FC Porto – Jackson Martinez: Even with the return of Ricardo Quaresma to the team, the player to watch for Porto is surely Colombian centre forward Jackson Martinez. He has contributed 12 of Porto’s 29 goals this season and, despite many tempting offers from abroad, is staying focused on his task. Together with Lucho Gonzalez, he is the most influential Porto player this term.
Benfica and Porto games tend to be very tight and close and this will be no different. Benfica might have a slight advantage in this game as they are in action at home and motivated to provide a good performance to honour the memory of Eusebio. On the other hand, Porto get a kick out of causing major upsets at the Estadio da Luz. The last time Benfica defeated Porto at home in a league game was back in 2009/10 and following that the Dragons even celebrated winning the league during Andre Villas-Boas’ era at their rivals’ home. Both are still looking for their best form of the season and for this reason the clash is likely to end as a draw. Benfica 1-1 Porto.
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