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Benfica pitch for success in Dragons' den

Published: Saturday 7 February 2009, 11.44CET
FC Porto host SL Benfica in the sides' 150th league meeting on Sunday, with the Lisbon club's Spanish coach Quique Sánchez Flores adamant the Eagles will be "very competitive" as Portugal's top two go head to head.
by Hugo Pietra
from Lisbon
Benfica pitch for success in Dragons' den
Nuno Gomes and Bruno Alves in action in the sides' last Liga meeting, a 1-1 draw in Lisbon ©AFP
Published: Saturday 7 February 2009, 11.44CET

Benfica pitch for success in Dragons' den

FC Porto host SL Benfica in the sides' 150th league meeting on Sunday, with the Lisbon club's Spanish coach Quique Sánchez Flores adamant the Eagles will be "very competitive" as Portugal's top two go head to head.

FC Porto host SL Benfica in the sides' 150th league meeting on Sunday, with the Lisbon club's Spanish coach Quique Sánchez Flores adamant that the Eagles will be "very competitive" as Portugal's top two meet at the Estádio do Dragão.

Competitive situation
Just one point separates the top two in Portugal after 16 games, with Sporting Clube de Portugal snapping at both sides' heels as they play SC Braga at home. A fourth successive Liga title is the main priority for Jesualdo Ferreira's Dragons, as evidenced when they fielded a reserve eleven in their 4-1 midweek league cup defeat against Sporting. Ferreira shrugged off the defeat, saying: "The match against Benfica will be different, because it's for the championship and not a knockout competition."

'Getting better'
Former Valencia CF boss Sánchez Flores went into his side's semi-final against Vitória SC with a different attitude, fielding a full-strength side and being rewarded with a 2-1 win and a place in the final. While his opposite number at Porto felt it wiser to rest his biggest stars for the league game, Sánchez Flores was eager to keep Benfica's competitive edge honed ahead of their trip north. "We have been working hard and getting better step by step," he said. "I'm sure we are going to be very competitive at the Estádio do Dragão."

Upper hand
Successes in the last two decades have seen Porto gain the upper hand in the 149 previous Liga meetings between the sides, with the Dragons having 57 victories to the Eagles' 52. In 74 games in Porto itself, the home side have won 45 to Benfica's 12. Redressing that balance a little would be a massive lift for Benfica, but Argentinian Pablo Aimar was wary of placing too much pressure on his side. He said: "It is a 'clássico'. It will be an important game for us and obviously difficult, but it is still too early to say if it will decide the league."

Last updated: 08/02/09 21.39CET

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