May 7, 2022. It is the penultimate matchday of the league season – Benfica are playing for nothing but pride, guaranteed to finish third for a second straight season, whilst Porto needed a point to secure the Primeira Liga title. Desperate to prevent their eternal rivals from celebrating the title at the Estádio da Luz, Benfica put up a fight and maintain 63% possession, registering 9 shots to Porto’s 10 and 2 shots on goal to Porto’s 5, but nevertheless unable to find a way past Diogo Costa in goal. In the 94th minute, Álex Grimaldo fired in a corner kick that was headed away by Pepe, with Pepê beating Adel Taarabt to the loose ball and racing from the edge of one box to the other, before chipping in a cross for Zaidu Sanusi to strike on the half-volley and beat Odysseas Vlachodimos with a composed finish into the top right corner. Two weeks later, Porto would cap off a historic campaign with their second domestic double in three years as well as a Portuguese record 91 points – that same week, Benfica announced their new manager: Roger Schmidt.
Despite losing various key players such as Chancel Mbemba, Fábio Vieira, and Vitinha in the summer, Porto would win their first three matches, including a win against second-tier Tondela in the Supertaça, before beating Sporting 3-0 in the first Clássico of the season. However, after losing 3-1 in the following match to newly promoted Rio Ave, Porto endured a turbulent run of form that would see them lose their first two Champions League matches as well as draw 1-1 to Estoril Praia, before closing out September with a 4-1 win against Braga to give the Arsenalistas their first defeat of the season. They have cruised through October with four wins and four clean sheets, moving two points ahead of Atlético Madrid and three points above Bayer Leverkusen with two Champions League matches remaining, and they will be looking to pick up a sixth consecutive victory and go level with Benfica atop the Primeira Liga table as they host their eternal rivals on Friday.
Porto v Benfica Bet Builder Tips
Porto to Win
Benfica have enjoyed a flawless start to the campaign under their German manager and have shown a knack for bouncing back from early deficits and getting themselves back into the game, but they have shown signs of vulnerability in their recent draws against Vitória and Caldas as well as their last-gasp victory against Vizela. The goals have dried up, with Benfica scoring one goal or fewer in four of their last five matches, and one reason could be fatigue. Roger Schmidt’s lack of rotation has seen various players drop their levels in recent matches, as seen in the last match when a Benfica side featuring five regular starters failed to find a way past a third-tier side and went to penalties to decide their fate in the Taça. It has also resulted in one major injury: David Neres. After joining from Shakhtar in the summer, the Brazilian winger quickly locked down a starting spot on the right side of Schmidt’s 4-2-3-1 with 5 goals and 5 assists in 13 matches before picking up a left thigh injury and missing the past three matches.
It remains to be seen whether or not Neres will be fit enough to be included in Benfica’s eleven, but one thing’s for sure: Schmidt’s options are not ideal. He can either rush Neres back to action and risk re-aggravating the injury, or go with Diogo Gonçalves, Julian Draxler or Fredrik Aursnes – if Neres misses out on a starting spot, expect Aursnes to be included in the line-up, a player who, unlike Draxler or Gonçalves, is not a natural attacking player. After joining from Feyenoord for €13 million plus €2 million in bonuses, the Norwegian was mainly used off the bench prior to Neres’ injury before impressing in the double pivot with fellow summer arrival Enzo Fernández in the win against Rio Ave and playing a withdrawn role on the left side of Schmidt’s 4-2-3-1. Whilst Aursnes has been vital in winning the ball back and using his physicality to his advantage in counter-attacks, he is a central midfielder by trade and does not offer quite the same explosion and incisiveness that Neres brings to the table. The one area where Benfica are light in depth in comparison to their two main rivals is the winger position, with attacking midfielder João Mário likely to start on the other flank alongside Aursnes if Neres is unavailable. If that is the case, expect Odysseas Vlachodimos to start in goal, Alexander Bah, António Silva, Nicolás Otamendi, and Álex Grimaldo in defense, Florentino Luís and Enzo Fernández composing the double pivot and Aursnes, Rafa Silva, João Mário and Gonçalo Ramos further forward.
Porto are dealing with their fair share of injuries with Wenderson Galeno, João Mário, André Franco and Pepe missing training on Wednesday. Galeno was limited for load management reasons and could be involved in the Clássico, but Pepe will undeniably be a massive loss for Conceição’s side. David Carmo has struggled to convince in central defense since arriving from Braga for €20 million whilst Fábio Cardoso – who spent eight years at Benfica’s academy before leaving in 2016 – has made five appearances this season, passing his latest test with flying colors in a 3-0 win vs. Bayer Leverkusen. Expect Cardoso and Carmo to play alongside Rodrigo Conceição – Sérgio’s 22-year-old son – and Wendell in defense, expect Diogo Costa to play in goal, expect Stephen Eustáquio to partner Mateus Uribe in the double pivot, expect Pepê and Otávio to compose the front four with Evanilso and Mehdi Taremi up top. The biggest question mark for Porto will be whether or not Carmo and Cardoso can step up against Gonçalo Ramos, but Benfica’s lack of width and service from the flanks could leave Ramos isolated up top. He has looked a lonely man at times in Benfica’s recent fixtures, and without Neres’s impact on the flanks, he may be in for a long night at the Dragão. In tense battles like this one, one thing that comes in handy is game-changers from the bench. Porto have that in ample supply with Gabriel Verón, Galeno, Toni Martínez and Danny Loader, whilst Benfica have Petar Musa, Rodrigo Pinho and Henrique Araújo capable of replacing Ramos and providing a dangerous threat up top, but precious little in the way of winger options. I’m expecting Porto to open the scoring against a Benfica side that has conceded first in six of their last 11 matches, and I’m expecting their game-changers to wreak havoc against a fatigued Benfica defense and pick up a victory at the Dragão to move level on 25 points with Benfica atop the league table.
A Goal to be Scored in Both Halves
Benfica have not tasted defeat since that 1-0 loss to Porto on May 7 and remain three points clear of Porto atop the league table, but they have nevertheless looked shaky on multiple occasions in recent weeks. After returning from international break with a 0-0 draw to Vitória – their first draw of the season – Benfica would draw twice to Paris Saint-Germain (two results that, admittedly, felt like victories given the general context of the performance), and they fell behind within six minutes of their most recent league match, before scoring four uninterrupted goals in a 4-2 win against Rio Ave. They are one of the last remaining undefeated teams in Europe alongside Real Madrid, Napoli, Atalanta, and Paris Saint-Germain, a statistic made all the more incredible given the fact that they have conceded first in six of their last 11 matches – coming back to win against Juventus, Rio Ave, Vizela and Paços de Ferreira, and grinding out a 1-1 draw on two occasions against PSG. Their most recent result would see them draw 1-1 to third-tier side Caldas, before winning 5-3 on penalties to book their ticket in the next round of the Taça de Portugal.
Porto, meanwhile, have opened the scoring first in each of their last five fixtures which have seen them score 17 and concede once, thrashing Braga, Portimonense, Leverkusen (twice) before taking care of business in the cup with a 6-0 win against third-tier Anadia. Eight of the last ten fixtures have seen Porto score the first goal, and Benfica have not kept a clean sheet against Porto since October 7, 2018 in a 1-0 win. Since the start of 2015, they have kept just one clean sheet at the Dragão – a 0-0 draw on December 1, 2017 – and their recent track record against Porto has been far from convincing. After that 1-0 win in October 2018, Benfica would lose 3-1 in the Taça da Liga semifinals before beating Porto 2-1 at the Dragão in a match that would see a total of eight yellow cards handed out, including two yellows in a minute for Benfica’s Gabriel Pires.
When Porto and Benfica kick off proceedings at the Dragão on Friday, it will be 1,329 days since that 2-1 win – the last time Benfica beat Porto in any competition. Conceição’s side have won seven of their last nine fixtures against Benfica, as well as their last three, and with Mehdi Taremi, Evanilson and Pepê wreaking havoc in attack, I’m expecting them to get the first goal in the Dragão. I’m also expecting both halves to feature a goal – Porto have what it takes to get an early goal and then punish Benfica’s high-line with their array of speedy game-changers like Gabriel Verón and Wenderson Galeno, whilst Benfica have typically been a side that turns it on in the second half under Roger Schmidt. I would not be surprised to see this one end up as a goal-fest in the Dragão.
Over 4.5 Cards
Benfica played Porto on four occasions in 2021, and three of those matches would see a red card handed out. Mehdi Taremi received his marching orders in the 71st minute after lunging into Nicolás Otamendi’s ankle in a 1-1 draw on January 15, 2021, a match that would see both sides pick up four yellow cards each. The two sides settled for a 1-1 draw four months later, with three Porto players getting booked and eight Benfica players picking up a yellow, with the following fixture seeing a total of seven yellows dished out. Evanilson scored a brace to lead Porto to a 3-0 lead after a half-hour before picking up a second yellow before the interval, with Porto defending deep with 10 men and holding on before Otamendi picked up a second yellow in extra time, with Porto prevailing 3-0 on December 23 to advance to the next round of the Taça de Portugal. This result was followed by the dismissal of manager Jorge Jesus, with Nélson Veríssimo taking charge on an interim basis.
Veríssimo’s first match in charge would see Benfica fall behind 2-0 with two quickfire goals from Fábio Vieira and Pepê, before halving the deficit within seconds of the restart via a goal from Roman Yaremchuk. Benfica’s hopes of a comeback were dashed three minutes later when captain André Almeida received a second yellow after lunging in with both feet and knocking Fábio Vieira to the ground, with Porto adding a third goal in the 69th minute via Taremi in a match that would see a total of nine yellow cards handed out. The penultimate matchday of the 2021/22 season would see Porto eke out a last-gasp victory with referee Luis Godinho handing out 14 yellow cards and continuing a pattern that has marked Clássicos between Conceição’s side and Benfica. The last 10 matches between the two sides have seen more than 4.5 yellow cards dished out in each fixture, and I’m expecting that to continue on Friday in what should be a heated night at the Dragão. The referee Joao Pedro Pinheiro is averaging 4.73 yellow cards per game, and the last time he oversaw a Clássico on February 11, 2022 in a 2-2 draw between Porto and Sporting, the two sides would combine for a total of four red cards and 12 yellow cards – including a second yellow for Sebastián Coates after the restart. Porto have seen more than 4.5 cards in six of their last seven matches, Benfica have seen more than 4.5 in four of their last five, and I’m expecting plenty of bookings for either side in what should be another heated Clássico.
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How to watch Porto v Benfica in the Primeira Liga?
📅 When is Porto v Benfica? / Friday, 21st October 2022, 20:15
🏟 Where is Porto v Benfica? / Estadio do Dragao (Porto)
📺 What TV channel is Porto v Benfica on? / BT Sport 2 🟨 …And who is the referee for Porto v Benfica? / J. Pinheiro 🇵🇹