Newly-crowned Portuguese champions Sporting CP will clash against fierce rivals SL Benfica in the Derby de Lisboa at Estadio da Luz this weekend in Liga NOS.

After 19 years of living in the shadows of the likes of FC Porto and SL Benfica, Sporting CP finally won their first Portuguese Primeira Liga title since 2001. It has been an agonising wait for the capital club, who have had to go through many a ordeal during this barren run. But Ruben Amorim & co. clinched the Liga NOS title with a narrow 1-0 win over Boavista earlier in the week.

It has been a remarkable season for the Lions, who are yet to lose a single game in the league and they will be hoping to achieve an ‘Invincible’ season with just two matches remaining, with the first of the two coming against local rivals Benfica on Saturday at Estadio da Luz.

With the title race over, Benfica will now have their sights set on a second-place finish and qualification to the UEFA Champions League. However, the Eagles are currently four points off of FC Porto in second and will need to win both their remaining fixtures and hope that their rivals end up dropping points. Jorge Jesus’ men go into the encounter on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, securing a 3-1 win over Nacional last time out.

The reverse fixture, played in February earlier this year, saw Sporting eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Benfica, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from Matheus Nunes. Ahead of the latest edition of the Derby de Lisboa coming our way this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Benfica

Benfica are set to be without as many as five players for the clash as Andre Almeida, Andreas Samaris, Jardel and Tiago Araujo all miss out with injuries whereas Gilberto is suspended for accumulation of cards. Jorge Jesus opted to set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in midweek but is likely to revert to the 3-4-3 system against their local rivals on Saturday.

Helton Leite ought to be the man guarding the Benfica goal. He will be shielded by the three-man defensive unit of Lucas Verissimo, Nicolas Otamendi and Jan Vertonghen, with Diogo Goncalves and Alejandro Grimaldo lining up as the wing-backs from where they will look to provide constant attacking outlets on their respective flanks.

Former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl will look to hold the fort down in the centre and provide security to the defence while Pizzi will look to provide the forward thrust.

Rafa Silva and Everton ought to be stationed on the right and left flanks respectively from where they will not only pose a goal threat but also look to create chances for centre-forward Haris Seferovic, although Goncalo Ramos is also an option at Jesus’ disposal.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leite; Verissimo, Otamendi, Vertonghen; Goncalves, Pizzi, Weigl, Grimaldo; Rafa Silva, Seferovic, Everton

Sporting CP

Sporting are also missing some players with Pedro Porro, Bruno Tabata and Tiago Tomas sidelined with injuries while Zouhair Feddal is out with suspension for accumulation of cards.

The visitors will also line up in their usual 3-4-3 formation, mirroring their local rivals’ setup on Saturday evening, with former Real Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan manning the goal. Sebastian Coates will lead the three-man defensive unit where he will be partnered by Goncalo Inacio and Luis Neto, who ought to step into the side to replace the suspended Feddal.

With Pedro Porro missing, Joao Pereira ought to line up as the right-sided wing-back while there is no looking past teenage prodigy Nuno Mendes on the opposite flank, with the duo tasked with providing offensive support when Sporting break forward. Joao Palhinha and Joao Mario should be the two central midfielders for the new champions.

Up ahead in attack, Pedro Goncalves is a certain starter on the right side from where he will look to drift inwards and aim at goal regularly while Nuno Santos slots in on the left. Paulinho, who scored the only goal of the game against Boavista, ought to start as the centre-forward for Sporting.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Adan; Inacio, Coates, Neto; Pereira, Palhinha, Mario, Mendes; Goncalves, Paulinho, Santos

Key Stats

  • Sporting CP haven’t lost even one of their 32 games in the 2020/21 Liga NOS.
  • Benfica have won 10 of their last 12 matches in Liga NOS and haven’t lost any of their last five.
  • Sporting CP boast the best defensive record in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, having conceded just 15 goals in 32 matches. They have kept a clean sheet in each of their last four games.
  • Benfica have won each of their last three home games against Sporting across all competitions. The Eagles have scored two or more goals in each of those encounters.
  • Benfica have the second-best goalscoring record (62) with only FC Porto finding the back of the net on more occasions this season (67).

Player to Watch

Pedro Goncalves

One of the chief driving forces of Sporting Lisbon’s successful 2020/21 campaign, Pedro Goncalves has enjoyed a dream debut season for the club after making the move last summer. In 30 games in Liga NOS, the 22-year-old has produced an impressive tally of 18 goals and 4 assists – making him the joint top-scorer in the competition alongside Benfica’s Haris Seferovic.

Goncalves’ exploits with the Lions have led to interest in him from the Premier League. With only a couple of games left in the season, it will be an opportunity for the Portuguese star to end the season on a high and give his suitors more reasons to splash the cash on him in the summer transfer window.

Prediction

Benfica 0-1 Sporting CP

Benfica come into the game on the back of a good run of form and with most of their regulars set to be recalled after being benched last time out, they will be in with a shout of winning on Saturday. However, Sporting have time and again shown the resilience to come out on top this season and are likely to rely on the steely resolve of their defence to bag another narrow win over their arch-rivals this weekend.

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