Sporting CP and Benfica face each other tonight at Estádio José de Alvalade, in the most prestigious derby of Portugal.
Going through turbulent times, the Lions hope to recover some ground to their main rivals tonight. They trail Benfica by 16 points already, and the Portuguese League hasn’t even reached his halfway point yet. Silas, the Sporting manager, could lose Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United during this winter transfer window, something that if it were to happen, it would weaken even more the team from Alvalade. Sebástian Coates is suspended and Luciano Vietto won’t participate on the derby due to an injury occurred in his last fixture against Vitória de Setubal. It’s still unknown how Silas will lineup, if with 3 at the back or if he’ll stay with his regular formation to counteract Benfica’s offensive firepower. Even though they are practically removed from the title race, the Lisbon Derby is always a match where neither team wants to lose, bringing the best out of the players. In front of their fans, Sporting will be looking to add 3 points in Bruno Fernandes last match as a Lion.
On the other hand, Benfica doesn’t seem like losing points anytime soon. Bruno Lage’s team hasn’t performed very well in their last two fixtures, but still came out on top, as they seem to have the capability of winning even when things don’t go so well for them. They added Julian Weigl from Borussia Dortmund to an already strong squad, making them clear cut favourites for the Portuguese title. The doubt for this match is to see how Lage will lineup in Alvalade, given Gabriel has recovered in time to participate. Rafa is another player that came back from a long absence, giving Benfica another quality option for the wings, however, he’ll start from the bench tonight. This could be a decisive match for the Eagles, as Porto will receive Braga and could lose ground if they don’t win at home. Benfica’s record at Sporting’s home turf in the last 10 years have been frankly positive. They collect more wins there than the home team, so historically, this matchup benefits the current Portuguese champions than Sporting.
Even though Benfica’s the better team, I’m expecting a close match between the two teams. This has the chance of being a high paced affair, with lots of goal opportunities.
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