Next Wednesday, April 16, 2014 (12:45 PM Pacific), FC Porto will travel to Lisbon to measure forces with SL Benfica for the second leg of the Portuguese Cup semi-finals. Back at the end of last month, FC Porto defeated their capital city rivals 1-0, thanks to a powerful header from Jackson Martinez at Estadio do Dragão, on the first leg of this season’s competition semi-finals.
Contrary to SL Benfica, the Dragons are going through a complicated moment. The team was eliminated from the UEFA Europa League last week after being completely hammered at Andalusia against Sevilla 4-1 and, despite an alleged poor performance from the referee, the Portuguese should have done better.
The new FC Porto interim head-coach, Luís Castro, who recently took the helm of the team after the departure of Paulo Fonseca, restored some of the confidence the Dragons used to have in the recent past; nevertheless, he cannot operate any miracles and erase all the mistakes the club has done this season.
After having implemented some changes in the team on last weekend’s clash against SC Braga, Luís Castro will certainly return to his usual options on the match against SL Benfica. Mangala and Reyes (the Mexican centre back who is becoming more and more important at the team as the time goes by) should return to centre of the defence, Defour and Herrera should compose the midfield triangle alongside with Fernando and the flamboyant winger Quaresma will certainly occupy his place up in the front.
For next Wednesday’s match, Luís Castro, will not be able to count on the experienced Brazilian goalkeeper and team’s captain, who will miss the rest of the season due to a severe injury.
As for SL Benfica, this is undoubtedly being a very positive season so far. The Lisbon side are comfortably sitting at the top of the table, with a seven points advantage over Sporting CP and fifteen over FC Porto, and they are expected to already be coronated champions on the next round of the Portuguese league.
Jorge Jesus’ side has also been highly motivated recently. The team granted a place at the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, where they will measure forces with the all-powerful Juventus, after easily beating the Dutch side AZ Alkmaar on the previous round of the competition.
For the Cup clash against FC Porto, Jorge Jesus is not yet certain if he will be able to count on the experienced Brazilian centre back Luisão and on the Serbian defensive midfielder Fejsa, since they are not fully recovered from the recent physical ailments that have affected them. On the other hand, the versatile wing back Silvio and the Portuguese international midfielder Ruben Amorim will surely miss the match due to injury.
On the first leg match, FC Porto put up a vintage performance and completely dominated their rivals, although they have only scored once and that advantage might not be enough for the Dragons to claim their place in the final if the team isn’t able to withstand SL Benfica’s predictable pressure and their asphyxiating attacking game. For the current Portuguese champions, the Cup might be their “season saviour” after the disastrous campaign this term; thus, they will certainly use everything in their power for next Wednesday’s match. This being said, the most likely outcome is 1-1.
SL Benfica (4-4-2) – Artur – Maxi Pereira – Garay – Jardel – Siqueira – Enzo Pérez – André Gomes – Gaitán – Markovic – Lima – Rodrigo
FC Porto (4-3-3) – Fabiano – Danilo – Mangala – Reyes – Alex Sandro – Fernando – Defour – Herrera – Quaresma – Varela – Jackson Martinez
Referee: Pedro Proença
Venue: Estádio da Luz
TV Info: RTPi (live stream)