FC Porto will host archrivals Benfica in the latest edition of the Clássico on Friday night. It will be matchday 13 but there is more at stake than usual this early in the season. Each of Portugal’s Os Tres Grandes could find themselves on top of the league by the end of the night.
Current leaders Porto, slipped up last weekend against Aves. And with both of their closest rivals winning, their lead is down to two points over Sporting and three over Benfica. And to make the occasion even more dramatic, Sporting will be playing Belenenses earlier in the day, with that match ending just as Porto-Benfica kick off.
PortuGOAL previews tomorrow’s big match.
As mentioned, Porto drew 1-1 with Aves last weekend. It was only the second time this season the club dropped points in the league. The other was the scoreless draw with Sporting CP in October. To make matters worse, winger Jesus Corona was sent off and will miss this match. It will be the first of two important matches over the next week for the Dragons. The northerners need to beat AS Monaco on Wednesday in order to make sure they progress in the Champions League.
Benfica is a different case entirely. They have already been eliminated from European competition and will not have to deal with that distraction. And after a poor start to the season, the club have moved up the table and have reduced the gap between them and their opponents on Friday to just three points. The Eagles have won four consecutives league matches. The latest victory was a 6-0 thrashing of Vitória Setúbal on Sunday.
Tactics and matchups
FC Porto has a healthy squad at their disposal, and despite the result against Aves, Sérgio Conceição is not expected to make many changes. Corona’s suspension means we will likely see either André André, Oliver Torres or Sérgio Oliveira in the starting line-up. Tiquinho Soares started in place of Moussa Marega upfront last time. Conceição could decide to recall the Malian international, who had been in terrific form before picking up an injury.
Benfica released their 21-man squad early on Thursday. Rúben Dias is still recovering from surgery on his appendix and will not be available. Gabriel Barbosa and Douglas were also left out. Given their recent success, Rui Vitoria should stick with the same 4-3-3 formation we saw against Vitória Setúbal.
Clássicos are never short of good storylines and this one is no different. This will be the first meeting between two of Portugal’s most promising young goalkeepers in José Sá and Bruno Varela. It will mark the first time since 2010 a match between these two clubs will include two Portuguese goalkeepers. It will also be the first time in almost 50 years that both goalkeepers are under the age of 25.
FC Porto will no doubt try and test Benfica’s aging centre-back pairing of Luisao-Jardel. While Benfica, sensing Porto may be vulnerable, will seek to catch their hosts off guard by applying pressure from the onset.
Two more curiosities worth pointing out is that Jonas, the Primeira Liga’s top scorer with 15 goals, has scored in every one of Benfica’s last TEN league matche. Benfica coach Rui Vitoria will be looking to get a monkey off his back. He has never beaten Porto in his managerial career in 17 matches.
It should be a good one.
FC Porto: José Sá, Ricardo Pereira, Marcano, Felipe, Telles, Danilo, Herrera, Sérgio Oliveira, Brahimi, Marega, Aboubakar
Benfica: Bruno Varela, Almeida, Luisao, Jardel, Grimaldo, Fejsa, Pizzi, Krovinović, Cervi, Salvio, Jonas
Quote / unquote
FC Porto coach Sérgio Conceição on favourites tag: “In matches like these it’s difficult to say who is the favourite. I guess the home team is always the favourite because they are playing in front of their own fans. Every rivalry like this one has its own history, but we have to concentrate on this match, while honouring the club and its colours at the same time.”
Benfica coach Rui Vitória on the importance of the match: “Getting a result in a match of this magnitude is always important. There will be more matches after this one. But we never know which one will be decisive. We need to concentrate on being prepared for a match like this where adrenaline is always at the highest level.”
By Rui Miguel Martins