FC Porto travel to play Benfica in the Liga Nos top-of-the-table clash

Whilst the league itself is not one of the most followed around the globe, with the average quality of the teams in the top tier being just under Ligue 1, almost everyone knows the teams that will have a huge, intense battle on this April Fools, one that will be a big help in determining who will be crowned champion in the end of May.

Three-time champions and leaders Benfica have been on the top of the league since round 4, but the quality of their play has been questioned somewhat in the last month and a half, with some scrappy results obtained to a very much in-form Mitroglu. The Greek former Fulham man has been excellent in this recent matches scoring loads of goals and even getting some assists to his name. And with the likes of Pizzi, Salvio and Jonas, getting the ball to the big target man will not be the issue Rui Vitória’s men. The big issue for Benfica has been their defensive consistency, especially with the absence of Ljubomir Fejsa, a player that is similar to a poor man’s version of N’Golo Kanté. He will be back for the big match, but his match fitness will surely be diminished and not enough to cover the problems that Benfica will have in the back. Since Grimaldo’s injury and with Luisão starting to really feel his 36 years old, their problems in the back have been compensated by the ease of goalscoring the the Águias have, but against a team like Porto, and their pace in the front things might get problematic for the champions in order to get a result that will help them get that historic, so desired 4 title in row.

FC Porto has a big question mark for this game and it has nothing to do with their tactics or even the players that will be playing but rather their morale to face their big rivals. They had the biggest chance to overtake Benfica two weeks ago but they were able to waste a lead at Estádio do Dragão against minnows Vit.Setúbal, and stay in a more pressured position for the big classic of Portuguese Football. Soares and André Silva have been prolific in their goalscoring, but when the Brazilian arrived at Porto, manager Nuno Espírito Santo has been opting to push the Portuguese striker to the wing or even to the bench. And in big matches, NES has been opting to resort to a more classic and sturdy 4-3-3 with Soares as the target man, but for this title clincher, he might be obliged to go back to the more offensive 4-4-2. It would be a much more risky tactic to go to, but the time to take chances is now, and with the pace and quality of his strikers, and the holes that Benfica has in the back, you would feel that Porto will have to just go for it to get that win and be back on top, the place they feel is theirs by right, as they’ve been the dominant team in the last 30 years.

The quality of the match might not be huge. They will be fights, arguments, and the importance of the game is such that the players will have the fear of making that big mistake that will be connected to the story of the whole season. Because this is exactly that. Due to the calendar order and how the teams have been so equal, this is the type of match that decides a full year for the teams involved. Playing at home and somehow surviving in the lead when nobody expected, Benfica is slightly favourite to the match but Porto has been the team growing in form, to a point that that draw was one that really shocked the whole country. Whoever finishes the match on top, though, will clearly be the team to have a strong advantage to win the league in the remaining 7 matches. Saturday 20.30 pm, Lisbon and the whole of Portugal will stop and watch their two biggest teams fight for their success in the 2016/17 season. Be sure to tune in!

About the Author

Pedro Maria Coito Castano
A football geek that can answer what's the height of that non-league midfielder. With no ability to play the game, but a keen eye to observe it, I've had a minor role as an assistant manager at an U-13 team in Portugal (Belenenses) and did some scouting for CS Maritimo (also from Portugal), and have a need to be ahead of everyone in terms of who the next big star will be