Teams: SPORTING CP & Portugal NT
Europe is watching...
Sporting seek glory in Eagles' nest
Saturday, 28 April 2007
by Hugo Pietra from Lisbon
One side look certain to leave the Estádio da Luz with their title hopes in tatters as SL Benfica host Sporting Clube de Portugal in Sunday's Lisbon derby.
Four points behind leaders FC Porto with four games to go, the Lions of Sporting can ill afford to lose any more ground, while the Eagles - a further point adrift - can pretty much kiss any lingering chance of success goodbye if they fail to overcome their neighbours. A draw might be the best result for Porto, who visit city rivals Boavista FC on Saturday.
On a roll
Paulo Bento's Sporting are on a roll, having won their last six Liga matches, including a victory at Porto. Indeed, they are unbeaten since a 2-0 home defeat by Benfica in December. Benfica, meanwhile, are getting back on their feet after a 3-0 triumph at CS Marítimo ended a run of three draws for Fernando Santos's side. Following their UEFA Cup quarter-final exit, forward Fabrizio Miccoli, who scored twice at Marítimo, says Benfica are determined to finish the season on a high: "We have to win all our remaining matches, including the derby."
The return to fitness of captain Simão should help towards that end, although Brazil defender Luisão is unlikely to recover from a knee complaint in time to play. For Sporting, Carlos Bueno is the only definite absentee and Bento should be able to call on influential forward Liedson despite some injury concerns.
Even if neither side are capable of outstripping Porto in the championship stakes, the difference between finishing second and third is a massive one. The runners-up slot brings direct qualification for the UEFA Champions League, with the third-placed finishers going into the third qualifying round in August.
Sporting's Portugal defender Marco Caneira is full of confidence and eager to face Benfica. "We are more than ready," he said. "We have won our last six matches though Benfica also won their last game. They have an excellent team, but we are looking forward to playing at the Estádio da Luz and achieving our goal - the three points."
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”