by Zack Lambert
October 16th, 2020
FC Porto at Sporting CP
Spread: Sporting (0, +0.5); O/U: 2, 2.5
Moneyline: Porto +110, Sporting +240, Draw +235
Time/Location: 3:30 ET, José Alvalade Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal
Porto are resting third in the Primeira Liga table after the first international break and they’ll be looking to boost their own stock with a win over Sporting. The club sold and loaned some very important players before the window was up and are especially vulnerable at left back and in the defensive midfield. Through three league matches the Porto club have been very impressive on the offensive, scoring ten goals. However, five against Boavista and three against a 10-man Braga leaves the glaring loss to Maritimo as a bad taste on the tongue.
The defense anchored by Pepe has been very good in recent seasons and it’s shaping up to be nice again this season, but no Alex Telles and no Danilo Pereira is going to hurt a bit. Telles was arguably the most talented player on the team and was consistently pouring balls into the box and net, closing his Porto account with two goals and two assists in those three matches. The left side of the pitch has been extremely strong in general with Otávio and Oliveira also contributing to goal regularly. Corona and Marega, wno fill out the top line, will need to be dominant in the upcoming fixture.
Through two games Sporting have been about the exact opposite of Porto. They can still score goals, two per game so far, but their defense looks top notch so far. Well, at least in the Portuguese league. Matches against Paços and Portimonense have resulted in zero goals allowed and the back three, Luís Neto, Zouhair Feddal, and Seb Coates, plus goalkeeper Antonio Adán, are four of the team’s highest rated players to date.
Despite the good looks so far, I want to talk about their Europa League match against LASK for a moment. The match finished 4-1 to the Austrians with Coates receiving a red and the back in general being absolutely crushed. If that’s the Sporting we’re going to see moving forward then there’s going to be some big issues with clubs like Porto and Benfica.
The midfield has been very strong for the Lisbon club so far. Apart from simply being talented, they’re extremely young and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had one of the lowest average ages of any midfield in Europe. Nuno Mendes has been mercurial in the left through two matches and Wendel, Porro, and Nunes have also been really reliable. If Sporting are to come away with a win then it will be because of the quality of their midfield in the central third of the field.
Analysis and Pick
Calling matches early in the season is always a tough thing, especially when squads have made recent sales and the clubs are generally bigger in size. The volatility early in the season is rampant and norms aren’t found until later in the season. Porto is scoring over 3.25 goals per match and Sporting is on pace to allow zero goals this season. Neither projection is attainable and thus we’re not really sure where the teams will settle.
Sorry for rambling, onto the predictions. This match is massively important because whoever takes the most points from these fixtures against each other will be in the best position to challenge Benfica at the top of the table. I made it clear in my European Roundup that no one would be able to take out the front runners this season, but taking points from this match will be integral in coming close, which makes it even tougher to call because I’m not sure how conservative the coaches will be.
I like Porto to put the press on early and often and close down avenues, pressuring the back three into forcing errors. They’ll throw seven players into high positions regularly and hope that they can earn a quick goal to get into a comfortable position. Sporting will be fine with that because their youth and athleticism in the midfield will allow for those players to sell out on defense and counter attacks. This is going to be a very high paced game and despite the better attack being on Porto’s side, I believe it favors Sporting.
Quick counters and parking the bus is always a risky type of strategy but it can work if the team executes well enough. Porto are more talented than Sporting so in my mind, even if Sporting do have the advantage the skill of Porto can negate it to a degree. I believe both teams will score in the match but I doubt much more will come from it. A 1-1 draw seems just right for the two giants of Portuguese football.