Next Saturday, May 10, 2014 (10:00 AM Pacific), FC Porto will take on the already coronated Portuguese league champions SL Benfica at Estádio do Dragão for the last round of Liga ZON Sagres this season. The clash between the two Portuguese football giants does not have any special meaning regarding the final league standings, but one thing is certain: neither team wants to lose to their biggest rivals especially on the last match of the season.
The former Portuguese champions FC Porto had a season to forget. The team has only managed to win a single trophy (the Super Cup Candido de Oliveira) in the beginning of the campaign, and put up some miserable performances throughout the season, which culminated in a early eliminations from the UEFA Champions League, a shameful defeat at Sánchez Pizjuan against Sevilla on the UEFA Europa League Quarter finals and the elimination from both domestic Cups at the hands of SL Benfica. FC Porto will end at the third place of the table, behind their all-time rivals SL Benfica and Sporting CP, regardless what might happen next Saturday at Estadio do Dragão.
The Dragons are on very negative row of results with two consecutive defeats, first against SL Benfica for the Portuguese League Cup, and last weekend against the relegation threatened Olhanense at the Algarve.
For the match against SL Benfica, FC Porto’s interim head coach, Luís Castro (who will be replaced by former Barcelona goalkeeper and Spanish Youth Squads manager Julen Lopetegui), is not yet certain if he will be able to count on the Algerian striker Nabil Ghilas, who is still recovering from a recent injury, but he will surely welcome the return of Ricardo Quaresma, who was sidelined last week due to injury.
As for SL Benfica, the match at Estádio do Dragão will probably be just another one in their path to glory this season. The already coronated new Portuguese champions have lifted another trophy this week (the Portuguese League Cup) at the expenses of a surprising Rio Ave that made a brilliant campaign until the final.
SL Benfica’s manager, Jorge Jesus, claimed this week that he will implement several changes in the team for the match against the Dragons because of the UEFA Europa League final his team will try to win next Wednesday. In fact, the minds of the Eagles’ players will certainly linger on next midweek’s match against Sevilla and not the Liga ZON Sagres clash against FC Porto.
SL Benfica have had a brilliant season this term so far, with top class performances and with a share deal of humbleness, something they lacked in the past, particularly during the last campaign when they ended up losing every single competition they were in. The team looks very different now, as Jorge Jesus and his players seem to have learn from the mistakes of the recent past.
For the clash against FC Porto, Jorge Jesus will not be able to count on the versatile Portuguese side back Sílvio, who will miss the rest of the season due to injury, and he is not yet certain if the Serbian defensive midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa will be fully fit from the injury that stroke him recently.
Next Saturday’s “Clássico” will represent a decent opportunity for FC Porto to wipe their face clean after such an embarrassing season and although they might play against a more relaxed and “second choice” Benfica’s side, the Dragons should not expect any favours from the current Portuguese champions, who will surely go to Estadio do Dragão to win the match and to sink their all-time rivals even deeper in the mud. This being said, the most likely outcome will be 1-1.
FC Porto (4-3-3) – Fabiano – Danilo – Mangala – Maicon – Alex Sandro – Fernando – Defour – Herrera – Quaresma – Varela – Jackson
SL Benfica (4-4-2) – Artur – André Almeida – Jardel – Steven Vitória – Siqueira – Enzo Pérez – Djuricic – Sulejmani – Ivan Cavaleiro – Markovic – Cardozo
Venue: Estádio do Dragão
Capacity: 50 948
Referee: Rui Costa
TV Schedule: Premium Sports (USA)