(From left) Benfica’s Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, defender Andre Almeida, Mexican forward Raul Jimenez, Serbian midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa, Swedish defender Victor Lindelof, Brazilian defender Luisao da Silva, defender Nelson Semedo, Argentine midfielder Eduardo Salvio, midfielder Pizzi Fernandes, forward Goncalo Guedes pose / AFP PHOTO / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA
We witnessed El Clasico last weekend and despite all the hype that surrounded the fixture, it turned out to be an anti-climax as both teams played out an uninspiring 1-1 draw. However, it wasn’t all that boring in the other big matches we previewed last week as the Rome derby and the ‘el cashico’ both lived up to expectations with wins for Roma and Chelsea respectively. This weekend we will be shifting our attention away from Spain and focusing on their Iberian neighbours, Portugal, where a massive derby will take place tomorrow.
The Lisbon derby between Benfica and Sporting is the most important football derby in Portugal and the heated rivalry between both sides began right from the first match ever played between them as there was an interesting plot to that game. Benfica was founded 1904, while Sporting came into existence two years later in 1906. In 1907, eight Benfica players moved to Sporting before their first ever clash and one of the defectors, Candido Rodrigues, scored the opener for Sporting before Benfica founder and midfielder Cosme Damiao put the ball into his own net in the second half, leaving the final score 2-1 for Os Leoes and since then, both clubs have experienced major highs and devastating lows, yet incredibly the derby has remained. Though FC Porto have won seven out of the last ten Portuguese league titles, the gap between them and the big Lisbon teams has narrowed, helping to make the derby particularly relevant as of late.
Immensely compelling and frightening in its ferocity, with an estimated 8.4 million Portuguese citizens pledging their allegiance to either club(the country’s estimated population is about 10.3 million), this is one of the fiercest derbies in world football. After losing 1-0 away to their rivals, Benfica in 2011, the Sporting Ultras, Juventude Leonina 1976 set fire to the Estadio da Luz, taking their loss to the extreme. The display of allegiance and the behaviour of the fans before, during and after the game is best witnessed than described. The rivalry has been further strengthened by class division, the original Estadio da Luz was built with cement and funds donated by fans, creating the image of Benfica as a blue-collar club. Sporting, on the other hand, have royalty to thank for their existence as the founder Jose Alvalade was backed financially by his viscount grandfather, a man handed his title by King Carlos I of Portugal.
Portuguese legend, Eusebio, who played for Benfica and largely helped them become a force in Europe, is another dividing factor between both sets of fans. The forward played for Sporting feeder team, Sporting Clube de Lourenco Marques in Mozambique during his teenage years, after twice being rejected by Benfica’s own feeder side Grupo Desportivo de Lourenco de Marques and when the time came for him to move to Portugal, Sporting couldn’t offer an attractive contract, while Benfica Coach Bela Guttmann received a tip off about the player and decided to sign him. That deal proved to have a major effect on the fortune of both clubs as Sporting became underdogs, while Benfica became the top dogs in Portugal and also a force in Europe. When Eusebio arrived, both teams had won ten league titles each and neither were relevant in Europe. By the time the Black Panther left Benfica fifteen years later, they had won the European Cup and appeared in three other finals. Benfica also had league 21 titles, while Sporting only raised their own tally to 14.
Sporting’s last league title came over a decade ago, winning the Primeira Liga in the 2001-02 season, while Benfica have won the league five times since Sporting last secured a Championship.
Tomorrow’s fixture is expected to be a huge cracker as both teams are just seperated at the top of the table by two points, with Benfica in pole position, while Sporting are second. However, Sporting seem to be the in-form team heading into this fixture domestically as they have won their last three league games, while Benfica have been only able to get one win in their last three.
In midweek, they had similar results as they both lost in the UCL, however, Benfica could afford the loss as Dynamo Kiev’s 6-0 thrashing of Besiktas ensured the Portuguese’s side progression into the knockout round of the competition, but it wasn’t the same for Sporting as their 1-0 loss to Legia Warsaw knocked them out of Europe totally. Sporting have been enjoying the upper hand in this derby in recent meetings, winning three and drawing two of their last five meetings until Benfica were able to get a win in their most recent fixture in March. My advice on this game will be a double chance bet on Benfica because they have been very good at home; winning ten of their last eleven league games at the Estadio da Luiz. You can place that bet on www.nairabet.com and make some money for yourself.
There will be another derby in Europe this weekend and that will be the Derby della Mole in Italy, which is the local derby between Juventus and Torino, the two biggest clubs in Turin, which is the capital of Piedmonte, the second biggest region in Italy. It is the first derby of Italian football and the oldest meeting between two teams based in the same city. This rivalry has been dominated by the Old lady and they have won eleven of the last twelve fixtures between these sides. Juventus have won nine of their last eleven matches in the Serie A and few will bet against them making it ten tomorrow, while for Torino, they have been pretty decent themselves this season as they lie seventh on the log with three wins from their last four games. The big profile loan move of Joe Hart from Manchester City to Torino at the start of the season put a bit of spotlight on the club at the start of the season. Andrea Belotti and Iago Falque have seventeen league goals between them and are spearheading the attack of the team, while the playmaking and scheming abilities of Adem Ljajic, Marco Benassi and Danielle Baselli have also helped bring balance in the middle, while contributing thirteen goals to the cause. There seem to be a quiet revolution going on at Turin, with Torino quietly and steadily getting better over the years. Juventus are spoilt for choice upfront with Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala all fit and raring to be unleashed against Il Toro.
There will be another massive clash in Italy this match week when second placed Roma, who were victors over city rivals Lazio in the Rome derby last week, host third placed AC Milan. The two sides are separated by just a point and this will be a very important encounter in the Serie A this season as the result of this game will be very significant. A win for either side will see the winner stay in touch with leaders Juventus, while a draw will help Juventus open a six point gap at the table provided they win their own match against Torino. Both teams have identical records in the league with ten wins, two draws and three losses. They have also picked up four wins a loss and a draw from their last six games, so it’s safe to say they are on the same kind of form right now. Edin Dzeko has been the main man for Roma this season, scoring twelve goals in fifteen league games, while Mohamed Salah and Diego Perotti have added thirteen goals from the wings. For Milan, goal scoring has been a bit of problem for them as they have scored only two league goals more than the aforementioned Roma trio and their strikers will need to deliver if they are to leave the Capital with anything at all.
Some other games to watch out for in Europe this weekend will be Manchester United vs. Tottenham in England, Cologne vs. Dortmund & Schalke vs. Leverkusen in Germany, PSG vs. Nice in France and CSKA Moscow vs. Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia. You can log on to www.nairabet.com to place your bets on any of these weekend’s matches and as usual, I will leave you with a list of twenty-five games to serve as your guide for this week.
Arsenal v Stoke (Arsenal win)
Chelsea v West Brom (Chelsea win)
Leceister City v Manchester City (Double chance for Man City)
SERIE A (Italy)
Fiorentina v Sasuolo (Double chance for Sasuolo)
Atalanta v Udinese (Double chance for Atalanta)
Inter v Genoa (Double chance for Inter)
LA LIGA (Spain)
Osasuna v Barcelona (Barcelona win)
Real Madrid v Deportivo La Coruna (Real Madrid win)
Espanyol v Sporting Gijon (Double chance for Espanyol)
Bayern Munich v Wolfsburg (Bayern win)
Cologne v Borussia Dortmund (Double chance for Dortmund)
Freiburg v Darmstadt (Double chance for Freiburg)
LIGUE 1 (France)
Lyon v Rennes (Double chance for Lyon)
PSG v Nice (Double chance for PSG)
Bordeaux v Monaco (Double chance for Monaco)
PSV v Go Ahead Eagles (PSV win)
Heerenveen v Excelsoir (Double chance for Heerenveen)
JUPILER LIGA (Belgium)
Standard Liege v Westerlo (Standard Liege win)
PRIMEIRA LIGA (Portugal)
Braga v Pacos Ferreira
Feirense v Porto
Aberdeen v ST Johnstone (Double chance for Aberdeen)
SUPER LIG (Turkey)
Besiktas v Bursaspor (Double chance for Besiktas)
Galatasaray v Gaziantepspor (Galatasaray win)
Rapid Vienna v Ried (Double chance for Rapid)
Dinamo Zagreb v Lokomotiv Zagreb (Dinamo win)