Rampant champions Benfica out to oust O Classico rivals Porto
Lee Gormley | February 11, 2016
Benfica v Porto
Leaders Benfica face third-placed Porto
The battle for Primeira Liga supremacy heats up this Friday night as Portugal’s two most successful sides collide at the Estadio da Luz, with hosts and league leaders Benfica hoping to continue their rampant run over rivals Porto.
Ahead of the latest O Classico, in-form defending champions Benfica will look to maintain their recent successful streak and overturn their poor fixture run, having won eight successive domestic games but only prevailing in one of the last four Porto meetings.
In contrast, the previously all-conquering Dragons have endured a downfall in recent seasons, including this one, after tasting defeat six times in 12 matches since Christmas and they are 23/10 with Coral to lose to nil here, with such a result potentially ending their title hopes.
Eagles soaring high in title defence
The historical rivalry between the country’s two most jubilant teams is echoed in their all-time head-to-heads, with only four victories separating them to date, Porto having won 90 match-ups to Benfica’s 86 successes, and 57 draws occurring. Another stalemate is available at 21/10.
Although, it’s the Eagles that have enjoyed more silverware success in recent campaigns, lifting the Primeira Liga crown the last two seasons under the guidance of Jorge Jesus, who of course has since departed for other rivals Sporting Lisbon.
Following a stuttering start to the campaign under the new management of Rui Vitoria, the Eagles are now soaring high domestically, having stormed to the summit once again with their previous league defeat coming back in October last year.
On derby day, though, anything can happen, and the visiting Dragons are 23/10 to secure three points on their travels, with Jose Peseiro’s men having won the reverse encounter narrowly 1-0, thanks to a late strike from Andre Andre.
Plenty of star names on show
With the influence of Portugal’s top teams in European competition having dropped in recent years, there are still plenty of star names within these two squads for this crucial domestic dust-up.
Former Inter Milan and QPR shot stopper Julio Cesar will take his place between the Benfica sticks once more, having been pivotal to his club’s title success last season and producing many astonishing saves during this term.
The former Brazil goalkeeper will need to be at his best again and is 29/20 to keep a second consecutive clean sheet, while on-loan Fulham forward Kostas Mitroglou will look to continue his stunning goalscoring revival, after bagging a hat-trick last time out. Manchester United fans will recognise Nicolas Gaitan, who has been linked to Old Trafford for countless seasons.
For the visitors, former African player of the year Yacine Brahimi will be a dangerous threat in attack, with the Algerian’s impressive link-up play with Miguel Layun set to cause the reigning champions problems, while Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas defends the posts.
Porto’s Peseiro aware of O Clasico importance
Third-placed Porto currently sit six points adrift of leaders and next opponents Benfica, but a victory on their travels here would blow the title race wide open, with Sporting only below in second place on goal difference, and the Dragons boss is aware of this fixture importance.
“We realise the importance of this game. We want to cut the gap to Benfica to three points. We have our strategy for the game, but Porto has its own identity and it makes no sense to radically change our usual game plan,” stated Peseiro, whose side are 15/2 to repeat their previous 1-0 fixture success.
With proceedings extremely tight at the league summit, both Benfica and Porto will be desperate to secure O Clasico bragging rights on Friday night and help boost their Primeira Liga title aspirations during this intriguing campaign.
Coral’s top tip: Back defending champions Benfica to overcome Porto to nil at 23/10.