The top four finishers of the 1st Football League look to confirm favoritism in the quarter-finals of the Portuguese Cup, where Benfica, the title holder, faces the most thorny task in Guimarães.
The Lisbon-based team, who occupy second place in the championship, will play on Tuesday the first of two meetings with Vitória de Guimarães, fifth place, who will meet three days later for the 18th day of the I Liga, which should even give greater importance, with a view to regaining the national title.
Benfica, 26-time UEFA Cup winners, substantially more than rivals Sporting and FC Porto, both with 16 titles, try to reach the third consecutive victory since Bruno Lage replaced – with a provisional coaching label – coach Rui Vitoria, after the triumphs over Rio Ave (4-2) and Santa Clara (2-0).
The incarnates should not be able to count on advanced Jonas and Rafa, second and third best scorers of the team, with six and five goals, respectively, but coach Bruno Lage may even spare other usual starters in a stadium where Benfica does not lose since 2012, has since added six wins and a draw.
Sporting, a fourth-ranked player in the Primera Liga and a runner-up last season, also finds in Feirense an opponents of the main but theoretically more accessible stage, installed in the 16th and third-to-last place of the championship, on which the ‘ ‘to present a balance of 13 losses and only a triumph in 14 clashes with the’ lions’.
Alvalade’s team seems to be losing gas after an encouraging start under Dutch coach Marcel Keizer, having suffered in the last five games two defeats and a draw on Saturday to host FC Porto (0-0 ), who kept her eight points clear of the championship lead.
To the national champion, who crossed the first round of the championship with comfortable advantages over the main pursuers, is reserved the less complicated task, in the stadium of Leixões, sole survivor of the second step, in which occupies the 11th position, is in the race for a title that has escaped since 2011.
Sporting coach Sérgio Conceição, defense Maxi Pereira and midfielder Danilo, who joined the injured Aboubakar and Otávio, can contribute to the return of Pepe, newly hired to Besiktas, although the game of Alvalade also caused damages between the sportinguistas (sporting’ fans), with the injury of Bruno Gaspar.
The Desportivo das Aves continues to defend the title, the first of the club, achieved in a surprising way last year, when receiving Sporting Braga, in the expectation of counteracting the trend dictated by the classification of I League, in which the minhotos are classified quarters and the Avenses occupy the 18th and last position.
The semi-finals of the Portuguese Cup, which will be played in two hands, have already been defined during the draw of the ‘quarters’ and may provide a derby between Benfica and Sporting, if Lisbon rivals move on, which opens the way for a clash between FC Porto and Sporting Braga, if they confirm the favoritism on Tuesday.