It had to come down to this – an O Classico match, a week before the end of the season, with a chance for Porto to sneak back up to the top spot in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, or for Benfica to finally get rid of their Dragao demons and possibly clinch the title a week early.
It’s been a Porto kind of world over the last few years, with the Dragons winning eight of the last 10 seasons, and Benfica settling for the other two. The record at the Dragao for Benfica when they come and visit is quite disappointing for the most successful club in the history of Portuguese football, winning only one league match there since 1991, and that was back in 2005. Since then? Four losses and two draws, including a 2-2 draw the last time these two teams met there (September 2011) and the last time they met in general, on January 13 in Lisbon.
Benfica come into the match a little less confident than they should have been. Holding a four point draw for quite some time, they slipped up at home against Estoril, drawing 1-1, and allowing Porto a chance to make it a two point lead once again. Both teams are still undefeated this season, which tells of their quality and also the overall weakness of the league in Portugal, but it also means Porto can turn this thing on its head by winning at home, while Benfica can settle for a draw and be comfortably set to win the title next week, or simply clinch it in Porto.
In terms of form, there isn’t much separating the two teams. Before the draw against Estoril, the only time Benfica dropped points in 2013 was that 2-2 draw at home against Porto and another one facing Nacional. They won nine straight matches before Estoril, including a 2-0 over Sporting in the derby.
For Porto, it was similar, although with one more draw to lament. They finished in a 0-0 with Sporting, after dropping points against Olhanense and before dropping two more against Maritimo. They beat Nacional 3-1 away last week to reclaim their chance of climbing to the top spot with a win over Benfica.
In terms of missing players, Benfica are stressed about the fitness of Enzo Perez, who has a thigh strain that might keep him out of the match. Porto have problems at their defensive line, with both Alex Sandro and Maicon questionable for the match.