Benfica v Porto, Superliga, December 20, 2009
Sunday night in Portugal sees the clash of the titans as Porto travel to Benfica. Currently in second place and three points behind leaders Braga, Benfica can open up a five-point lead over Porto.
While champions Porto are wobbling somwhat, Benfica, inspired by the magic of Argentine winger Angel Di Maria, and the goals of his compatriot, Javier Saviola, are revitalised.
Saviola has scored nine in his last 12 matches with his nightmare two years on the bench for Real Madrid a distant memory. The 28-year-old chose Benfica over several Premier League suitors and is enjoying his best football since his first three seasons at Barcelona. Di Maria, 21, who Real Madrid almost signed to replace Robinho 18-months ago, could have had a hat-trick in Benfica’s midweek Europa League win over AEK Athens, scoring twice and hitting the bar.
Benfica hope to welcome David Luiz back into the fold after the defender struggle missed the match with AEK with flu. Similarly, the Lisbon giants are also hoping to have South American midfielders Pablo Aimar and Ramires back in contention, after the duo picked up knocks in last weekend’s disappointing 2-all draw away at Olhanense.
Up-front, coach Luis Filipe Vieira has numerous striking options with Oscar Cardozo, Nuno Gomes and Weldon all looking to be the main man in the attack, while on-loan Barcelona midfielder Keirrison offers a different coming off the bench.
Porto, having lost the likes of lost Lisandro Lopez, Lucho Gonzalez and Aly Cissokho last summer, having still managed to stay in touch with the high-flyers in Portugal, and a win in the Clasico will leave the reigning champions in striking distance of claiming yet another championship this season.
The Dragons still have a fine array of talent in their ranks, particularly in the final third where the four-times reigning champs boast the likes of Hulk, Silvestre Varela (five goals in eight games), Radamel Falcao (eight goals in 12 games) and Ernesto Antonio Farias (five goals in 12 games).
Porto are a side who thrive on attacking football but they also have the ability to be defensively sound. At 31-years-old, keeper Helton has a wealth of experience between the stick, while continuing the spine of Porto’s team in the uncompromising centre-halves Bruno Alves and Ronaldo, as well as the battling central-midfielder Raul Meireles.
Last season saw the sides chalk up two 1-all draws, while Benfica have not actually beaten Porto since recording a narrow 1-nil victory back in Febraury 2006. Yet, with Braga the unlikely pace-setters this season in Portugal a point will be a disappointment to both teams, so we expect a high scoring match (8/11 to be over 2.56 goals) to prevail as both sides fight for the three points.
101predicts: Benfica 3 – Porto 1 (25/1)