Liga Nos Preview: Decisive weekend ahead at both ends of the table

The day that stops Portugal’s capital is arriving fast, though with the amount of tourists that have been swarming Lisbon into these past few months it’s hard to imagine the streets will be empty, and with this comes the decisions about who will be champions at the end of the season.

Benfica come into this match better than when they left the title bout against Porto, as the Dragoes weren’t able to beat Braga last week at Estadio Municipal de Braga, allowing their big rivals to stretch the lead from one to three points. It’s not a decisive lead just yet, but Porto had a job, until this weekend, of keeping Benfica at such a distance that it would require the Aguias to win all their matches as well until the end of the season.

As it happens now, Benfica has a big advantage going to Alvalade. Rui Vitoria knows that a draw would be enough to keep first place in the league, and that makes all the difference in the world for the reigning champions. Because at the point a week ago, it was necessary for Benfica to set a strategy that would involve winning at a stadium that will be boiling against them, eager to see their historic rivals lose the chance to get the Tetra (four titles in a row). Not only that, with Jorge Jesus’ managerial history, having gone from Benfica to Sporting, and last season being disputed until the final minutes of the last round, it’s natural to expect that the Leoes will be coming out with all their strength to try and rip the Aguias apart. But if that was one of the reasons Porto put so much faith in this match – as proved by their celebration in the end of the match at Estadio da Luz, with a draw – now that the Dragoes were unable to keep the distance, the scenario is set for Rui Vitoria to be successful. Because he can set up, pretty much, the same strategy that led him to beat Sporting last season, a counter attacking stance, taking advantage of Sporting’s high line.

It’s obviously virtually impossible to predict what will happen. It’s a big match between two good teams that will both want to get something out of this match, if only for bragging rights. Sporting know they need to win, not only to keep that dim of hope of an unlikely title but, especially, to put pressure on the two ahead and wait for one of them to crumble and snatch 2nd place.

As for Porto, they will be – secretly – in front of the tv screen like the whole country and hoping for a Sporting win that will allow the match against Feirense to be the one that will lead them to the top of the table. But they had a similar chance against VFC and they blew it. It’s going to be a decisive weekend for Liga Nos, and not only at the top, but also at the bottom. Nacional and Tondela face each other, and whoever loses will probably be confirmed as relegated. And if they draw they can wipe each other’s tears and start thinking about the 2nd tier. Decisions will happen this weekend in Portugal.

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