Sporting CP will be hoping to strengthen their grip at the top of the Liga NOS table when they lock horns with a struggling Nacional side on Saturday night.

Sporting Lisbon will be aiming to take a step towards lifting the Primeira Liga crown when they face off against CD Nacional at Estadio Jose Alvalade in Matchweek 30 on Saturday.

Sporting entered the gameweek with a six-point lead over reigning champions FC Porto in second-place, although that could be halved to three points by the time the match kicks off on Sunday. The Lions haven’t lost a single game in the league this season and are unbeaten in their last 18 fixtures across all competitions, with their latest contest ending in a 1-0 victory over SC Braga.

However, there have been a few too many draws of late and the lack of goals has been a bit of a concer. But, with just five games remaining, another win this weekend would take Ruben Amorim’s side closer to the Liga NOS crown.

Nacional, meanwhile, are rooted to the bottom of the league table, having managed just 24 points from their 29 games so far. They are four points below Boavista who occupy the relegation playoff spot and six below 15th-placed Rio Ave. They did, however, pick up a rare win over Vitoria Guimareaes last time out and will be hoping to build on it to try and make a late push for survival.

The reverse fixture, played in January earlier this year, ended in a 2-0 win for Sporting Lisbon with goals coming from Nuno Santos and Jovane Cabral. Ahead of their latest meeting at Estadio Jose Alvalade this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Sporting CP

The league leaders will be without the services of Bruno Tabata, who is out injured while Antonio Adan, Tiago Tomas and Goncalo Inacio all miss out due to suspension.

Ruben Amorim will set his team up in a 3-4-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Luis Maximiliano. Zouhair Feddal and captain Sebastian Coates are certain starters at the heart of the defence but Inacio unavailability should open the door for Eduardo Quaresma, who has been linked with a host of Premier League bigwigs including Chelsea and Manchester United, to start in the three-man backline.

Pedro Porro and teenage prodigy Nuno Mendes are certain starters as the wing-backs on the right and left sides from where they will look to make constant overlapping runs and provide attacking support. Joao Palhinha will hold the fort down in the centre of the park while his midfield partner, Joao Mario, will look to provide the forward thrust from the centre.

The biggest attacking threat for Sporting will come from Pedro Goncalves, who is their top scorer this season, and will start on the right-wing while Nuno Santos gets the nod out on the left. Paulinho will slot in as the centre-forward for the Lions.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Maximiliano; Feddal, Coates, Quaresma; Porro, Palhinha, Mario, Mendes; Goncalves, Paulinho, Santos

Nacional

Nacional have a few injury concerns heading into the weekend clash as Lucas Kal, Francisco Ramos, Marco Matias and Daniel Guimaraes are all missing while Pedro Mendes is ineligible to play against his parent club. In addition, Vincent Koziello is also an injury doubt.

Manuel Machado is likely to refrain from making a whole lot of changes to the side that picked up a win against Vitoria SC last time out meaning Antonio Filipe lines up in goal, where he will be screened by the backline of Ruben Freitas, Pedrao, Julio Cesar and Rui Correia.

Ibrahim Abdullahi Alhassan ought to form the double pivot in the middle of the park alongside Larry Azouni, with the duo hoping to cut out the influence of the likes Mario and Goncalves. The creative onus will fall on the shoulders of captain Ruben Micael who will slot in as the No. 10 for the visiting side.

Joao Camacho and Witi ought to start as the wide players on the right and left sides respectively and look to hit in crosses into the box. The latter though could drop deep when Sporting have the ball, essentially forming a five-man defensive unit. With Pedro Mendes unavailable for selection, Bryan Rochez ought to get the nod as the lone striker.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Filipe; Freitas, Pedrao, Cesar, Correia; Alhassan, Azouni; Camacho, Micael, Witi; Rochez

Key Stats

  • Sporting CP are undefeated in their 29 matches in Liga NOS this season (W22 D7).
  • Nacional have lost their last five away games in Liga NOS.
  • Sporting CP are unbeaten in their last 19 fixtures against CD Nacional in all competitions
  • Nacional have conceded at least two goals in their last five away matches in the Primeira Liga.
  • Sporting have kept a clean sheet in 8 of their last 9 meetings against Nacional in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Pedro Goncalves

Embed from Getty Images

Hailed as the heir to Bruno Fernandes, the 22-year-old Goncalves has enjoyed a dream 2020/21 campaign, leading to interest from the who’s who of England. Since arriving at Sporting CP from Famalicao in the last summer transfer window, the attacking midfielder, who has largely been used out wide on the right flank has produced an impressive return of 17 goals and 4 assists in 27 Liga NOS matches, playing a critical role Sporting’s ascent to the top.

However, Goncalves is going through a bit of a rough patch of late, having managed to find the back of the net just thrice in his last 17 league matches which also has had an impact on the Lions’ performances in the final third. With only a handful of games left, it is important that the 22-year-old gets back to his goalscoring ways and leads his team all the way to the league title, starting with a strong performance against the bottom-feeders.

Prediction

Sporting CP 1-0 CD Nacional

Nacional picked up a rare victory last time out against Vitoria Guimaraes while also managing to keep a clean sheet. However, they are unlikely to stand a chance against the league leaders who haven’t lost a single game in the top-flight all season and are on an eighteen-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Goals have been a problem for Sporting of late though, but they should be able to pick up another narrow win, taking them a step closer to the title.

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