Sporting Lisbon v Porto: Hosts to hold firm at fortress Alvalade

Sporting Lisbon
Bruno Fernandes (bottom right) is Sporting's main man.

Sporting's excellent home record in this fixture means taking on favourites Porto while star man Bruno Fernandes is too good a price to miss out on, says Jamie Pacheco.

"You’d think that long invincible run will have to come to an end at some stage but I’ll wait until Porto have a stronger set of players than this one before putting money on that happening."

Sporting Lisbon v Porto
Sunday January 5, 17:30
Live on FreeSports

Fernandes carrying the side

Sporting Lisbon are third on 26 points, nine off Porto and 13 off Benfica who are first.

It's an all-too-familiar story for their fans, who are starting to accept that Portugal's so-called Big Three are now more of a Big Two plus one.

While their rivals seem to be able to uncover talented and inexpensive international recruits, who either become key players or are sold for huge profit, Sporting haven't been able to do that. That in return has meant they have less money to go out and buy more players from South America the following transfer window.

You wonder where they'd be in the table without skipper Bruno Fernandes. A target in the past for the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham, he's been one of the best domestic performers in any European league over the past few seasons. In 132 appearances for the Lions, he's amassed 61 and 51 assists. It's an easier league, yes, but the likes of Kevin de Bruyne would be pretty happy with those numbers. It will be interesting to see if this is the transfer window where he's finally given the chance to show what he can do on a bigger stage.

Tough season for Porto

Sergio Conceicao won't be particularly pleased with his team's efforts so far this season. They failed to qualify for the Champions League after a shock 3-2 loss at home to Krasnodar back in August at the play-off stage. They were 3-0 down after 34 minutes in that one and went out on away goals having won the first leg 1-0.

They did admittedly top their Europa League group and despite being in touching distance of Benfica, this isn't a vintage squad and quite simply, they're not playing great football.

The controversial Pepe is still the boss of their defence while another Portuguese international, skipper and holding midfielder Danilo, is the man that makes the side tick. He's struggling with a knee injury though and it would be a huge loss if he doesn't make it.

conceicao porto.jpg

Sporting invincible in this fixture

Porto are 2.26/5 to win the match. That's understandable given their position in the table and the fact they have a superior squad of players to choose from.

But Sporting's home record in this fixture paints a very different picture. Remarkably, Sporting are unbeaten in their last 12 matches against Porto across league and Portuguese Cup matches.

In the league the game ended 0-0 in each of the last two years, with Sporting actually winning in the two years prior to that: 2-1 and 2-0.

The managers and players may change but whatever it is the hosts have been doing over the last few years at the Estadio de Alvalade against Porto, they've been doing it pretty well.

Porto celebrate Dec 2017.jpg

You'd think that long invincible run will have to come to an end at some stage but I'll wait until Porto have a stronger set of players than this one before putting money on that happening.

So which way do we go? The home win at 3.412/5 or the draw at 3.55? I simply can't decide, so I won't! Keep both onside by laying the Dragons.

Goals market a real conundrum

There are some mixed stats regarding the over/under 2.5 goals market. 66% of Sporting's home games have gone 'overs' but just 28% of Porto's away games have had at least three goals.

It's a similar story in terms of matches between these two with a perfect five/five split over the past 10 matches.

The odds don't give us any assistance either given it's even-money the pair so best to leave this market alone.

Fernandes massively over-priced

There are some pretty stingy prices about Porto players to get a goal here. This is a tough fixture for them as I've said already so we can't be backing the likes of Ze Luis (6/4), Vincent Aboubakar (13/8) or Moussa Marega (9/5).

Instead, it's that man Fernandes you should be siding with. I was surprised to learn that he's yet to score against Porto in the league in four attempts but that's hardly reason enough to swerve him at 16/5. This is a man with 12 goals from 24 appearances this season (including internationals) and given that only once did he get two goals in a game, he's statistically practically an even-money chance for the season.

So I'm not sure the Sportsbook traders are giving him the respect he deserves. All the better for us.

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