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Friday, 08 November 2013 21:55

Portuguese Cup preview: Lisbon giants go head to head at the Luz

Porto travel to Guimarães

portuguese-cup-close-up.jpgWedged between a midweek of European matches and Portugal's all-or-nothing World Cup playoff against Sweden, one could almost be forgiven for forgetting that it is the 4th round of the Portuguese Cup this weekend. Almost.

Thanks to the vagaries of the draw, the three habitual favourites face a massive challenge to remain in the competition, with two ties thrown up that are usually reserved for the latter stages of the competition:
Benfica v Sporting and Vitória Guimarães v FC Porto.

Memorable encounters

Pride of place goes to the Lisbon derby at the Estádio da Luz on Saturday night. If the game is anything like the last two encounters in the Portuguese Cup between the city rivals, we are in for a memorable night in the Portuguese capital. In 2004/05 Benfica edged out Sporting in a penalty shootout after a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Luz. Three years later and the two sides put on another electric spectacle, this time at the Alvalade, and this time it was the green half of Lisbon smiling at the end, after a 5-3 victory. Those results show this fixture is always difficult to predict and requires an astute mind, or a lucky one, to place a successful wager. Find sports betting help at GamblingSites.com.

The resurgent Sporting are unrecognisable from last year's debacle. The Lions have conciliated consistent results with stirring displays, losing just once all season, at FC Porto. They are in joint second in the table, level with Benfica, and just three points behind leaders Porto. After a sluggish start to the 2013/14 campaign, Benfica are starting to show signs of clicking into gear. The Eagles were desperately unlucky to lose in Athens in the Champions League on Tuesday after completely dominating the game from start to finish, creating chance after chance, only to be undone by a freak performance of goalkeeping from Roberto.

When the old foes went face to face on the last day in August it ended in a 1-1 draw, and it is difficult to predict which way this one will go. "I believe Sporting will go toe to toe with Benfica. They are having a season in keeping with the prestige and history of the club. Since the first matches this season Sporting have shown they are a much stronger team than last year," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus. "But we have home advantage, which is always important, and we have been improving game by game. The match against Olympiacos was one of our best performances of the season."

Benfica's top scorer, Oscar Cardozo, injured his ankle in Greece, and Jesus would not be drawn on whether the big Paraguayan would be fit for the game. On the plus side, both midfielder Fejsa and striker Rodrigo are expected to be fit again and ready for selection.

Sporting have no injury worries and Leonardo Jardim selected the same squad as for the 3-2 win over Marítimo last weekend. "We are not going to change our DNA, our way of playing, just because we are facing Benfica," promised Jardim.

The match kicks off at 7.45 pm local time in the Portuguese capital.

Northern battle


The following day, Sunday, the other big match of the 4th round takes place at the Dom Afonso Henriques stadium, in Guimarães, with the current Cup holders (pictured, right, celebrating their win at Jamor in May 2013) hosting the current Portuguese champions.

Despite being top of the table, Porto have looked far from convincing for most of the season, and are precariously close to making an early exit from the Champions League. Paulo Fonseca batted away criticism regarding his team's recent displays, particularly their poor defending. "It's not difficult to see that problems exist, but we are working hard to solve them. Our goal is to win this competition, and to do so we have to get past this obstacle," he said.

The Dragons can draw inspiration from the two meetings between the clubs this season. Porto won the curtain-raiser to the new campaign, the Portuguese Super Cup, with a convincing 3-0 victory and followed that up with a 1-0 triumph in the league. But as Vitória proved in last year's final against Benfica, they are more than capable of surprising theoretically stronger teams on their day.

Kick off at 7.30 pm local time in Guimarães.

Full 4th round schedule

Ribeirão (CNS) - Penafiel (II)
Arouca (I) - Chaves (II)
Tondela (II) - Paços de Ferreira (I)
Olhanense (I) - SC Braga (I)
Fafe (CNS) - Aves (II) 
Rio Ave (I) - Sertanense (CNS)
Beira-Mar (II) - Feirense (II)
Cova da Piedade (CNS) - Gil Vicente (I)
Camacha (CNS) - Atlético (II)
Covilhã (II) - Leixões (II)
Vitória SC (I) - FC Porto (I)
Famalicão (CNS) - Estoril-Praia (I)
Vitória FC (I) - Santa Maria (CNS)
Marítimo (I) - AD Oliveirense (CNS)
Benfica (I) - Sporting (I)
Académica (I) - Académico de Viseu (II)
I: Liga Zon Sagres (Top flight)
II: Liga 2 Cabovisão (2nd tier)
CNS: Campeonato Nacional de Seniores (District Leagues)
by Tom Kundert

Comments (3)
Great Match
3 Sunday, 10 November 2013 12:05
Boy I was way wrong. Great intensity and we needed every bit of it.
My Pre-Game thoughts
2 Saturday, 09 November 2013 17:51
Although I believe that the Taca de Portugal still means something, I would play the same guys that faced Cinfaes.
Yes we're facing Sporting, but it's early in the competition.
At the very least I would like to see Oblak in goal and let Ivan and Mori start.
Our CB's, Matic, Enzo and Nico should sit.
Taking Bets
1 Saturday, 09 November 2013 11:46
...I wonder if Sporting fans will mention how many Portuguese players they have on their team...I wonder if I will actually care the slightest about who anybody of their team is.

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