A month ago, as Benfica and Porto battled to a draw, it was expected that Liga NOS would be an exciting league to follow, with both teams separated by a single point and with the reigning champions still having to travel to Alvalade and face their big rivals Sporting, in a match that could potentially leave Rui Vitoria’s team outside of the top spot for the first time since the fifth round.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s Porto could not keep up with the Encarnados, and just before the big test for Benfica at Alvalade, they slipped up at Braga, allowing Benfica to increase their lead. And to make things worse for the Dragoes, they were not able to capitalise on the draw of the day before, as they were stopped organised defensive system that Feirense prepared to be able to get an historic point against one of the biggest teams in Portugal. For Porto though, that match meant something much bigger than keeping the three-point distance from their title rivals. Without Brahimi or Corona, the creativity was lacking and with the Algerian still out with a suspension and the Mexican lacking fitness still, the match against Chaves might prove even harder, not only because scoring goals could be an issue, but because Chaves are one of the good surprises of Liga Nos, having been promoted last season.
Porto will know, when they start their match, what Benfica did against Estoril. Rui Vitoria’s squad will play in front of a crowd much eager on celebrating the historic fourth title in a row. This is so important for Benfica fans as this particular record is one of the few, if not the only, in Portuguese football that is held by both Sporting and Porto but not the Aguias.
Sporting had a good chance of maybe trying to sneak into the title run, but drawing with Benfica means they are now eight points behind with four matches to go, a distance that is, surely, too big to recover from. But with Porto’s morale quickly dropping, Jorge Jesus might feel his team has a chance for the 2nd spot. Sporting plays last, on Sunday, and they will have the biggest match of the round as they will travel to Braga to face a team that is having a disappointing season for their standards, as they will debut their 3rd manager of the season after the sackings of Jose Peseiro and Jorge Simao. But it’s always a very hard fight at the Pedreira for the three ‘grandes’, as Porto can testify, and if Sporting really wants the 2nd spot, then a win will always be needed.