If You’re Going To Watch One Primeira Liga Match All Season…

March 2, 2012 — by Suman1



If You’re Going To Watch One Primeira Liga Match All Season…

March 2, 2012 — by Suman1

…make it O Clássico, “arguably the most important match in Portuguese football,” kicking off later today at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (aka the Estádio da Luz):

SL Benfica vs. FC Porto, 3:15pmET (available via in the US; see here for other TV listings)

Not only is it a classic and heated Portugese rivalry, the two clubs are currently battling it out at the top of the Primeira Liga table–even on points with identical records, with Porto ahead on goal differential.

Here’s what the top of the table looks like:

Team Pld W D L F A Diff Pts
1 FC Porto 20 15 4 1 47 13 34 49
2 Benfica 20 15 4 1 47 16 31 49
3 SC Braga 20 14 4 2 42 16 26 46
4 Sporting CP 20 11 5 4 31 16 15 38
5 Marítimo 20 11 5 4 30 22 8 38

We have to admit, we’re not close observers of Portuguese domestic football, and hence the only times we’ve seen either of these clubs play has been when Porto has played in the Europa league, last season en route to their title in that competition, and over the past few weeks when they were eliminated by Manchester City.

Actually, here is what we wrote last spring, ahead of Porto’s victory of Sporting Braga in the Europa League final:

They’ve had a remarkable season: they won the Liga Sagres going away, going undefeated in the process (27 wins, 3 draws, 0 losses).  They were also undefeated in their Europa League group, and marched through the knockout phase, beating a couple Spanish and a couple Moscow clubs along the way: Sevilla, CSKA Moscow, Spartak Moscow, Villareal.  (Braga dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in their group behind Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal, although they did defeat Arsenal 2-1 at home in November. In the Europa knockout phase, they beat Polish Lech Poznan, before upsetting Liverpool, then Dynamo Kyiv and finally another Portuguese power, Benfica, in the semis.)

For today’s match, keep your eye on the handful of rising stars on their squad, quite a few of whom are South American: the Brazilians Fernando and Hulk (yes, the Hulk); Colombians Falcao and James Rodríguez; Argentine midfielders Fernando Belluschi and Nicolás Otamendi; Uruguayan defenders Fucile and Álvaro Pereira. They also have a few Portuguese internationals (midfielder João Moutinho, winger Silvestre Varela, the Cape Verdean-born defender Rolando).

All of those players are still with the squad, with one big exception–striker Falcao was sold over the summer to Atletico Madrid.

For reference, here’s Porto’s current squad:

No. Position Player
1 Brazil GK Helton
2 Brazil DF Danilo
4 Brazil DF Maicon
5 Uruguay DF Álvaro Pereira
6 Colombia MF Fredy Guarín
7 Argentina MF Fernando Belluschi
8 Portugal MF João Moutinho
10 Uruguay MF Cristian Rodríguez
11 Brazil FW Kléber
12 Brazil FW Hulk (captain)
13 Uruguay DF Jorge Fucile
14 Portugal DF Rolando
15 Portugal DF Emídio Rafael
17 Portugal FW Silvestre Varela
No. Position Player
18 Brazil FW Walter
19 Colombia FW James Rodríguez
20 Angola FW Djalma
21 Romania DF Cristian Săpunaru
22 France DF Eliaquim Mangala
23 Brazil MF Souza
25 Brazil MF Fernando
26 Brazil DF Alex Sandro
27 Argentina FW Juan Manuel Iturbe
30 Argentina DF Nicolás Otamendi
31 Brazil GK Rafael Bracalli
35 Belgium MF Steven Defour

And Benfica’s:

No. Position Player
1 Brazil GK Artur
3 Brazil DF Emerson
4 Brazil DF Luisão (captain)
6 Spain MF Javi García
7 Paraguay FW Óscar Cardozo
8 Brazil FW Bruno César
9 Spain FW Nolito
10 Argentina MF Pablo Aimar (vice-captain)
12 Portugal FW Yannick Djaló
14 Uruguay DF Maxi Pereira
16 Portugal FW Nélson Oliveira
19 Spain FW Rodrigo
20 Argentina MF Nicolás Gaitán
No. Position Player
21 Serbia MF Nemanja Matić
24 Argentina DF Ezequiel Garay
27 Portugal DF Miguel Vítor
28 Belgium MF Axel Witsel
30 Argentina FW Javier Saviola
33 Brazil DF Jardel
34 Portugal DF André Almeida
36 Portugal DF Luís Martins
37 Portugal MF Rúben Pinto
38 Spain DF Joan Capdevila
39 Portugal GK Mika
47 Portugal GK Eduardo (on loan from Genoa)