Two Portuguese heavyweights will do battle in round 22 of the Primeira Liga when Porto play host to Sporting Lisbon at the Estadio do Dragao on Friday.
The reigning champions are currently six points off the hosts in the league standings and will be seeking to close that gap and keep their title defence right on track.
Preview: Porto vs. Sporting Lisbon
Porto continued their charge to unseat current champions Sporting Lisbon and pick up their 30th league title last Sunday when they cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over Arouca.
Following an uneventful first half at the Estádio Municipal de Arouca, Vitinha broke the deadlock nine minutes after the break before defender Chancel Mbemba opened his account for the season three minutes later to make sure of the result.
Porto have now won 11 games on the trot, scoring 29 goals and keeping five clean sheets since December’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid in Group B of the Champions League.
Sergio Conceicao’s side, who have also made it to the semi-finals of the Taca de Portugal, remain the only side yet to lose a game in the Primeira Liga this season, as they continue to impose themselves in all departments of the pitch.
The Dragoes have now won 19 and drawn just two of their 21 games this season to collect 59 points and sit at the summit of the Primeira Liga standings, six points ahead of Friday’s visitors, who are currently in second place.
This fine run of results has been owing to dominance at both ends of the pitch, as they boast the division’s second-best attacking record with 55 goals, while conceding the second fewest at the opposite end of the pitch with just 14 — with only Sporting Lisbon conceding fewer.
Sporting Lisbon, on the other hand, made it two wins from two in the Primeira Liga last time out when they saw off Famalicao 2-0 at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
In-form forward Pablo Sarabia made no mistake from 12 yards out as he calmly converted his sixth-minute penalty before Matheus Reis sealed the win with his goal three minutes after the hour mark.
Prior to that, Ruben Amorim’s side edged out Santa Clara and Benfica to clinch the Taca de Liga title two weeks ago, before returning to the Primeira Liga on February 2 to claim a 4-1 win over rock bottom Belenenses.
Sporting Lisbon have now won all but one of their seven games across all competitions, with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Braga when the sides met on January 22 being the only exception.
Next up for the Leoes is an opposing side who they are unbeaten against in each of the last four meetings between the sides since 2020 and they will feel confident of coming away with the desired results this weekend and keeping the hopes of a domestic treble alive.
Porto will take to the pitch without the services of Wilson Manafa after the Portuguese defender picked up a muscle problem against Benfica on December 31.
Other than that, the Dragoes head into the game with a clean bill of health and no suspension concerns, giving Conceicao close to a full strength squad at his disposal.
Despite failing to find the target against Arouca last time out, Evanilson has been in fine goalscoring form, scoring seven goals in his last seven games, and the Brazilian forward should lead the attack once again.
With the departures of Jesus Corona and Luis Diaz, we expect to see Fabio Vieira teaming up with the 22-year-old up top for the fourth game on the spin.
Meanwhile, Pedro Goncalves was forced off the pitch midway through the game against Famalicao last time out after picking up an injury and the 23-year-old is a doubt for Friday’s game.
Should he fail to return to full fitness in time for the game, his replacement Bruno Tabata could come in for what will be his first starting appearance in the league this season.
With his strike against the Vila Nova, Paris Saint-Germain loanee Sarabia has now registered 14 goals and assists in 16 games and the 29-year-old will definitely be one to keep an eye out for.
Porto possible starting lineup:
D Costa; B Costa, Cardoso, Mbemba, Wendell; Vitinha, Uribe, Grujic, Pepe; Evanlison, Vieira
Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Adan; Porro, Inacio, Feddal; Esgaio, Palhinha, Santos, Nunes; Tabata, Sarabia, Paulinho
We say: Porto 2-2 Sporting Lisbon
Friday’s game sees two of the biggest sides in the Primeira Liga go toe to toe and we expect another thrilling contest at the Estadio do Dragao. Both sides boast a fine crop of world class talent and despite their fine defensive record this term, we expect plenty of goalmouth action. We predict the spoils will be shared in this one with both sides settling for a point a piece.