Key Man: Fredy Montero
Updates from Sunday, Feb. 9
Jan Hagen has the latest on the match, which was postponed due to high wind and debris on the pitch:
Official: Benfica vs Sporting postponed! Over 60.000 people came for nothing, due to heavy wind blowing garbage/cladding at the pitch.— Jan Hagen (@PortuBall) February 9, 2014
KICKTV posted an image of the scene:
The clash of the top-two takes place on Sunday, as Benfica host Sporting Lisbon in a match which could make or break either side's respective title ambitions.
Unbeaten at home so far this season, Benfica will be looking to avenge their 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Gil Vicente last weekend.
Lima's penalty gave Jorge Jesus' men the lead at Estadio Cidade de Barcelos, however, the side let their lead slip and, ultimately, dropped two points after Vitor Goncalves netted just ten minutes later.
That was certainly not the first time that Benfiquistas have dropped points this season, however, the side still sit two points clear of Sporting Lisbon at the top of the Primeira Liga table, largely thanks to Lima and Rodrigo, who have scored eight and seven goals respectively.
Sporting have plenty of striking options themselves, but no-one more productive than Fredy Montero, who has bagged himself 13 goals so far this season—one third of Sporting's total goals.
However, Montero and his side could do nothing to prevent a 0-0 draw at Academica last weekend, in a result that effectively cost Sporting the chance to take the lead in the title race.
With just 13 games remaining this season, it's a critical situation as both sides look to etch their name into the history books and prevent Porto from successive title victories.
Last time these two met was back on Aug. 31, when both sides shared the spoils following a 1-1 draw—Montero and Lazar Markovic grabbing the headlines on that occasion.
Who will win?
When: Sunday, Feb. 9
Where: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
Time (U.S): 1 p.m. ET
Time: (U.K): 6 p.m. GMT
Watch: (U.S): Premium Sports.
Watch: (U.K): Not Available
Live Stream: Not Available
Odds (via SkyBet): Benfica (8/13), Draw (13/5), Sporting Lisbon (9/2)
Top Storyline: Can Sporting and Benfica hold on to their top stars?
As the league hots up, both clubs remained reasonably unscathed from the battering of the January transfer window.
Nemanja Matic remained Benfica's only high-profile exit, returning to Chelsea for a lucrative £21 million fee—income that would allow his former employers to consider their options in the summer.
And similarly at Sporting Lisbon, William Carvalho, who was linked with a move to Manchester United, per Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail:
And that's not all, as left-back Marcos Rojo came very close to securing a permanent move to Fulham on deadline day, only to see his Premier League move scuppered at the last minute, per Portuguese journalist Goncalo Lopes:
Moves to keep the pair have helped the side's chances of regaining the title but is it only a matter of time before Portuguese football's big-hitters move to another country, and thus, weaken their side's chances of future success?
This, coupled with the lack of Champions League qualification for either club, should results deteriorate, could help prompt exits away from Portugal—and at a reduced price, should the players opt to force their way out in search of European football.
Of course, for now, both clubs will be looking to their stars to help gather this year's bounty of silverware and bragging rights from their divisional rivals.
But no doubt, eyes will be cast upon on the exit door as this season pans out, with Benfica's Oscar Cardozo already publicly stating that he'd like to leave the club this summer, per A Bola (h/t to Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express).
Prediction: Benfica 2-2 Sporting Lisbon