It's the game of the season over in Portugal where Benfica host Porto on Sunday night knowing that a win will just about wrap up the league title. But the Benfica faithful may just have to settle for a draw, says Jamie Pacheco...
"You can also see how it would sort of suit both teams as well. Benfica obviously because their fate would be in their hands while Porto will be more than aware that Benfica still have to go to Sporting Lisbon and Conceicao will think they’ll drop points there. It’s never a bad result to go to Benfica and not lose so he might just take that."
Benfica v Porto
Sunday April 15, 18:00
Familiar territory for Benfica
For the past two seasons Benfica have gone down to the wire first with Porto then Sporting Lisbon for the Portuguese Superliga title. On both occasions they came out on top courtesy of getting the result they needed in a crucial game against their main rival towards the end of the season. And that's exactly the scenario we're in again here and this time it's Benfica who certainly hold the trump card.
They're one point clear of Porto and they're at home so the message is very clear: don't lose this, win your other remaining games (not as hard as you'd think in this league for a team like Benfica) and you're champions again.
Porto will be thinking it should never have come to this. The fact that Benfica touched odds of [28.0.] on the Betfair winner market tells you all they need to know regarding how much off the pace they were at the start of the campaign.
Left-back Alex Grimaldo, a real class act who was a youth team player at Barcelona is struggling to be fit but should make it. Of greater concern though is star man Jonas, an outside bet to make Brazil's squad for the World Cup. He missed their tight 2-1 win over Setubal last week with the sort of niggle that has been keeping him out of games all season but he'll definitely be risked here even if he's nowhere near 100% fit. This is after all the title decider.
Casillas in, Danilo out
Sergio Conceicao will be absolutely kicking himself. Four matches ago they hadn't lost a single game all season. Now they've lost two and Belenenses and Pacos Ferreira aren't the sort of side he would normally have had sleepless nights about facing.
The former Porto and Lazio winger knows this is the biggest challenge in Portuguese football, to get a win at the Estadio da Luz, and it doesn't help that he's without the excellent Danilo who's just the sort of powerful ball-winner who's worth his weight in gold in tight matches like this.
The great Iker Casillas will be in goal for Porto. He's almost certainly leaving at the end of the season which would make this his last big game in Portuguese football.
The draw is always a good place to start in matches between Portugal's Big Three. Teams hate losing against their rivals and are sometimes a little too cautious to the extent that they'd rather not lose than look to win.
And backing the stalemate has certainly been the way forward between these two in recent times. In fact, all of the last three between them ended with the points shared. There were two 1-1s last season and a 0-0 when they played at the Dragao earlier in this campaign.
You can also see how it would sort of suit both teams as well. Benfica obviously because their fate would be in their hands while Porto will be more than aware that Benfica still have to go to Sporting Lisbon and Conceicao will think they'll drop points there. It's never a bad result to go to Benfica and not lose so he might just take that.
It's also worth pointing out that even apart from how close they are in the league table, these are two very evenly matched teams. All logic points to the draw being the best bet at [3.3].
Overs looks tempting at 11/10 but you'd be surprised how negative the big Portuguese teams can be in games like this. And as we've seen already, the last three games between these two all had less than three goals.
A better option would be to go for both teams to score at a shorter 8/11 which brings that very possible 1-1 scoreline into the equation. Tempting but not quite tempting enough.
If Jonas does start, you could probably say there's some value about him getting a goal here at 5/2. After all, the Brazilian does have 33 goals from 28 matches this season in the league. He hasn't always been the most reliable goalscorer in these Big 3 games but when he plays, the whole team is set up to create chances for him so at the very least he'll give you a decent run for your money.
Or you might consider tricky winger Eduardo Salvio, who has a healthy return of seven goals from 18 starts this season. He's 11/2.
For Porto Vincent Aboubakar (7/2) and Moussa Marega (16/5) are their two big goal-getters. The former has 15 goals, the latter has 20. But interestingly, neither of them has scored in any of Porto's last six matches. He's not a guaranteed starter by any means but if he is, Uruguyan right-back Maxi Pereira might be worth a look at a barely believable 70/1. He played at Benfica for several seasons, loves these big games and scored against Benfica in a 1-1 draw back in the 205/16 season.