Just one point separated Portuguese Liga champions FC Porto and runners-up Sporting Clube de Portugal last season and they raise the curtain on what should be another exciting campaign in the Super Cup in Leiria on Saturday.
While Porto celebrated a fourth league title in five years, Sporting had to satisfy themselves with the Portuguese Cup, their first major honour since a domestic clean sweep in 2001/02. Porto, returning to Leiria after beating Vitória FC to lift this trophy for a 15th time last year, are in good shape again having seen off the likes of hosts Feyenoord and Liverpool FC to win last weekend's Port of Rotterdam Tournament. Their squad is missing only new recruit Ernesto Farias with a thigh injury and Argentina midfielder Lucho González, who is not match fit.
'Working very well'
It is not surprising, then, that Porto defender Bruno Alves is in high spirits. "We have been working very well and we have just come from a victory in Rotterdam," he said. "We are all prepared and focused on doing well. It's important for us to win this match. I hope our supporters can help us out by appearing in numbers in Leiria. I saw the Sporting friendly against Vitória SC and they have a very well-organised team. We will try to cancel that out."
Even the €30m departure of fellow defender Pepe to Real Madrid CF does not worry Bruno Alves. "Pepe is a great player and would be important for any team," he said. "However, Porto are well served as we have many options in central defence. I feel just fine playing alongside [new signing Milan] Stepanov, a quality player, but I am more used to playing with Pedro Emanuel. It is up to the coach who plays."
Sporting's five Super Cup wins puts them second on the all-time list behind their fellow UEFA Champions League group stage entrants Porto. They suffered a blow in their most recent game with a 1-0 defeat by arch-rivals SL Benfica in the Torneio Internacional do Guadiana in the Algarve, but their injury-free status means there is room for optimism. "We will be much better by the time we face Porto as we are going to correct some errors we’ve been making," said Anderson Polga, while João Moutinho added: "We have had a full week to prepare for the Super Cup and I'm confident we'll win it." The Liga season begins next weekend, with Porto at SC Braga and Sporting welcoming A. Académica de Coimbra.
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