SL Benfica will be hoping to maintain pressure on FC Porto when they take on CD Tondela at Estadio Joao Cardoso on Friday.
While FC Porto and Sporting CP battle it out for a late twist in the Liga NOS title race, SL Benfica will be hoping to push for the direct Champions League places, when they lock horns with CD Tondela on Friday.
The Portuguese giants are currently third in the league table with 63 points on the board – four behind FC Porto, with just five games remaining. It is, therefore, a must-win game for Benfica as they look to finish in the top two in order to secure a direct entry in next season’s Champions League.
Despite a shock defeat to Gil Vicente earlier this month, Benfica have enjoyed a good run of form lately, notably scoring five goals twice in their last four matches. In Tondela, however, they could face a tricky opponent which has tasted only one defeat in their last five matches. They are also sitting comfortably in mid-table, and a win on Friday could help them potentially overtake seventh-placed Moreirense.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial encounter in the Liga NOS this Friday.
Team News & Tactics
— CD Tondela (@CDTondela1933) April 27, 2021
Tondela have emerged as quite a versatile side under the leadership of Pako Ayestaran. Although the Spaniard primarily favours a 4-3-3, he has not shied away from trying his luck with a three-man backline in the past.
This time, though, the former Valencia manager might want to persist with a 4-3-3 that offers his side much more solidity, in terms of shape and formation, with two defensive lines protecting goalkeeper Pedro Trigueira.
Mario Gonzalez is almost guaranteed to spearhead the attack for Tondela, having netted 13 goals in the league this campaign. He will be hoping for creative support from the wide attackers in Jhon Murillo and Salvador Agra.
In midfield, the combination of Jaume Grau, Roberto Olabe and Joao Pedro has worked well for Ayestaran, giving his side some much-needed balance in the middle of the park. They will be hoping to once again provide the cover for the four-man backline consisting of Tiago Almeida, Yohan Tavares, Enzo Martinez and Filipe Ferreira.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Trigueira; Almeida, Tavares, Martinez, Ferreira; Pedro, Grau, Olabe; Murillo, Gonzalez, Agra
SL Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus has recently switched to a three-man backline that has offered his side more balance and control in possession. It has served him well so far, giving him no reasons to tinker with his setup, heading into this encounter.
Lucas Verissimo, Nicolas Otamendi and Jan Vertonghen are hoping to continue forming the three-man backline, covering Helton Leite in goal, ahead of Odysseas Vlachodimos.
— SL Benfica (@SLBenfica) April 29, 2021
Alejandro Grimaldo and Diogo Goncalves should serve as the wing-backs in the 3-4-3 system. They are primarily expected to provide the width going forward, but are expected to offer defensive aid to the centre-backs whenever required.
It is needless to point out they are the weakest link in the Benfica backline, although, in Julian Weigl, the Eagles have someone who can drop deep if necessary, almost acting as an auxiliary centre-back.
The German’s involvement in the game is a bit doubtful thanks to the return of Gabriel Pires from suspension, but either of them is sure to accompany Pizzi in the double pivot that will hope to control the game with possession.
Finally, in the attacking unit, Haris Seferovic is unlikely to be unseated by Luca Waldschmidt, but coach Jorge Jesus might fancy starting Darwin Nunez on the flanks ahead of Everton, while Rafa Silva remains a guaranteed starter on the right-hand side.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leite; Verissimo, Otamendi, Vertonghen; Goncalves, Pizzi, Weigl, Grimaldo; Rafa Silva, Seferovic, Nunez
- CD Tondela have the joint-worst defensive record in the league, with their tally of 47 goals conceded only matched by bottom club Nacional.
- SL Benfica, in contrast, have the second-best defensive record in the league. Their tally of 21 goals conceded is only bettered by league leaders Sporting CP (15).
- Benfica have also kept a clean sheet in seven of their last ten matches, though they have conceded in each of their last three games.
- Tondela have not kept a clean sheet in their last eight league matches. Their last shut out came in late February, in the 1-0 win over Gil Vicente.
- Benfica face FC Porto in their next match – a genuine six-pointer that could go a long way in deciding the fate of the Champions League places in Liga Nos this season.
Player to Watch
Haris Seferovic is going to play a vital role for SL Benfica as they hope to finish the campaign ahead of arch-rivals FC Porto. He is the club’s top goalscorer this term with 18 goals in the league and his ability to act as a target man could be crucial as the Eagles hope to churn out a vital win ahead of midweek’s clash against Porto.
What makes Seferovic such a danger man for Tondela is his ability to cause problems inside the box. He can offer the physical presence and make life difficult for the opposition, so the key for the hosts will be to cut off the supply, although that will be a difficult thing to do, especially with Grimaldo and Goncalves making overlapping runs out wide.
CD Tondela 0-3 SL Benfica
SL Benfica have been in good form and the shift to a three-man backline has worked out quite well for them. And with Luca Waldschmidt and Gabriel Pires back in contention, they are likely to dominate the game, up against a Tondela side that has the joint-worst defensive record in the league. We are expecting a comfortable 3-0 win for the visitors.