"The best tribute to Eusébio would be victory against Porto – I am sure it was his wish for this game," said SL Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira ahead of Sunday's Portuguese Liga 'Clássico'.
Sporting Clube de Portugal, FC Porto and Benfica are tied on 33 points at the summit heading into this weekend's return to league action following the winter break. While Sporting go to fourth-placed Estoril Praia, all eyes will be on the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica – venue for this season's UEFA Champions League final – for the visit of the Dragons, a week after the death of Benfica legend Eusébio. A minute's silence will be held before kick-off in honour of the 'Black Panther', who passed away aged 71 last Sunday.
Though it is sure to be an emotional day in Lisbon, the focus will be on the pitch come 17.00CET, when the teams meet for the first time since Porto's added-time home win in May – a victory that ultimately earned them their third title in a row.
It is a 'Clássico' and I am sure it will be a great match between two great teams," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus after last weekend's 5-0 success against Gil Vicente FC in the Portuguese Cup fifth round. "Both sides want to win and Benfica must be at a high level to do so. The team are confident and closer to showing their true worth. I've been involved in a good number of 'Clássicos' and I know when you play well and win you became more confident."
Porto also come into the game having started the year with a bang, defeating Atlético CP 6-0 in their cup tie with the help of two goals from Silvestre Varela. "It is always good to win before such an important game," said the Portuguese international. "Goals are always a reason for confidence and a win with it is even better."
Porto, who have not won on their last six visits south to face a side from the capital, could be buoyed by the return of old boy Ricardo Quaresma, who signed last week following a spell with al-Ahli Club of the United Arab Emirates. "
I am really proud to wear this jersey again," said the 30-year-old.
Benfica, meanwhile, have not beaten Porto in the Liga since the last time they were champions, in 2009/10. Jesus will have goalkeeper Artur back from injury but may opt to stick with Jan Oblak, who has not been breached since taking his place between the posts three games ago. "When you have good players, this is a positive headache; a bad headache is to want a solution but not have one," said the Benfica coach.
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