The Portuguese title could be won and lost this weekend when Sporting Clube de Portugal take on leaders FC Porto in a Liga 'clássico'.
Since the arrival of coach Paulo Bento, Sporting have improved steadily with every match. Consistent in defence and powerful going forward, last season's UEFA Cup finalists have won their last ten league games, conceding just two goals, to move within two points of Porto. The northern side, however, are on a similarly impressive run. Five straight victories have come with as many clean sheets, to vindicate coach Co Adriaanse's decision to switch to a three-man defence. They will be the visitors on Saturday, but the pressure will be on the hosts to perform - a situation that could suit Porto.
Sporting captain Sá Pinto will retire at the end of the campaign and would love to go out on a high with a 'clássico' win and a Portuguese title. "I would like to say goodbye as a Portuguese champion and I want to win against Porto," he said. "We need the three points in order to win the title." The 33-year-old is sure his side can deal with the occasion, saying: "We have been under pressure for 12 matches, including several 'finals'. We will be playing decisive games until the end of term. When you come to a club like Sporting you have to cope with pressure. We must be mentally strong."
Sporting's major concern surrounds the fitness of Brazilian Liedson, but Sá Pinto insists a brief lay-off with an injured right thigh should not unsettle the striker. "He has been playing regularly and the two days he was out of training won't affect his performance," he said. Porto have confirmed that midfielder Lucho González will be ready after recovering from a twisted knee. César Peixoto, Tomislav Šokota and Bruno Moraes all have long-term injuries, while full-back Marek Čech is doubtful with thigh trouble.
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