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Porto primed to bounce back

Published: Monday 6 February 2006, 14.52CET
The coach and his team have come under pressure in recent weeks but FC Porto have the chance to extend their advantage in the Portuguese Liga tonight.
by Hugo Pietra
from Lisbon

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Published: Monday 6 February 2006, 14.52CET

Porto primed to bounce back

The coach and his team have come under pressure in recent weeks but FC Porto have the chance to extend their advantage in the Portuguese Liga tonight.

FC Porto have another opportunity to increase their lead at the head of the Portuguese Liga as Co Adriaanse's team play host to SC Braga tonight in the final fixture of the 21st round of matches.

Angry protests
Despite all the protests against the Dutch coach which reached a low point after the goalless draw with Rio Ave FC on 29 January when Adriaanse's car was vandalised, Porto could stetch their points advantage to seven following SL Benfica's 3-1 loss at UD Leiria.

Braga boom
However, Braga have not tasted defeat in the current season against any of the three leading sides - Porto, Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal, who climbed above Benfica over the weekend with a 1-0 home win against CD Nacional - and Jesualdo Ferreira's team have followed last season's success with another impressive showing. Currently on 39 points, a win would allow Braga to overtake Sporting and claim second place, two points behind Porto.

González returns
The good news for Porto fans is the recovery of influential Argentinian midfielder Lucho González, who did not play against Rio Ave because of injury. Benni McCarthy could join Adriano in attack after his return from international duty with South Africa in the African Cup of Nations but Ricardo Costa, César Peixoto, Bruno Moraes and Sokota are all injured.

Pressure on Porto
After a brilliant start which brought seven wins from their first nine league matches, Braga suffered a dip in form but have recovered in recent weeks to put pressure on the leading sides. Porto have encountered recent difficulties, losing in the 18th round against CF Estrela da Amadora 2-1 and managing only a 0-0 draw with Rio Ave in the last fixture. Adriaanse's players are feeling the strain while the coach is once again being criticised for changing the team's strategy and employing three defenders, but Porto can go a long way towards answering their critics with victory tonight.

Last updated: 06/02/06 20.22CET

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