Benfica vs. Porto: Three Players To Watch For Each Team

We are still six days away from the highly anticipated clash between Benfica and Porto which will take place on Sunday at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. The Classico, as they call it in Portugal will nearly stop the entire country as well as the millions of Portuguese football fans across the globe.
These two sides have made incredible contributions to help shape Portuguese football, and they have also played a big part in raising awareness for the Portuguese League. 

Sunday will be the 114th meeting between these two sides at the Estadio da Luz in all competitions since their first meeting back in 1912.

A few months short of a decade worth of breath taking matches, Benfica and Porto fans will all have their own opinions on who they believe can be the difference maker. We will take a look at three players from each side that could be and rightfully so, should be, influential in the match this weekend.

Oscar Cardozo - Benfica

The Paraguay International has not always been a fan favorite since his arrival at the Estadio da Luz in June of 2007. His lack of pace was just one concern for Benfica fans, but what Cardozo lacks in pace, he makes up for it with his goal scoring ability.

Strength and his venomous left foot are his two strongest attributes on the pitch, but as of late, Cardozo has managed to find a way to get his teammates involved. From his cheeky flicks to his inside out passes behind the opposing defenders, Cardozo has begun to show the football world a different side of himself.


This season, Cardozo has enjoyed a spectacular campaign and it is just reaching the halfway mark. 21 goals in 19 matches in all competitions is certainly a reason to be high in confidence. The Benfica number seven is just six goals from reaching his total goal tally from last season, and he can achieve that well before the end of the season.

Sunday he will once again prove to be a headache for Porto's defenders as his eye for goal will be a cause for concern. Whether it is from a corner kick, the run of play or even a free kick, Cardozo will be aiming to help Benfica claim their first victory at home against Porto in the league since 2009/10 season when Javier Saviola got the lone goal.

Nicolas Gaitan - Benfica

The Argentine International was rumored to be very close to leaving Benfica last season after he had put on some magnificent performances, but the Benfica number 20 still remains in Lisbon. After missing out on the first half of the season due to fitness and injury problems, Gaitan made his return to action against Maritimo last month.

Since his return, Gaitan has been a pleasant breath of fresh air for not only Benfica fans, but neutral fans who enjoy watching football. His ability to carry the team forward with one of his jaw dropping runs is quite a scene to see.


Unfortunately for Gaitan, his downfall since arriving at Benfica has been his attempt to do too much instead of keeping things simple. He would often try to take on multiple defenders while Benfica was in the middle of a transition from defense to offense and would get caught on the ball. That led to the frustration of not only the Benfica fans, but also of head coach Jorge Jesus.

Having him back for the second half of the season gives him a chance to start with a slight advantage when it comes to fitness in comparison to his teammates and opponents. Not having played competitively until mid December means he hasn't had those slight knocks or that muscle fatigue that some players may have already had to deal with and recover from.

Playing a match at home against Porto will be just another added motivational factor for Gaitan, despite his recent performances having been enough to motivate him.

Benfica will most likely look for Gaitan to bring them some pace and creativity when they break on the attack. His ability to adapt to multiple positions in the midfield as well as the attack will make him difficult to man mark. 

His fresh legs and his current run of form should be enough to see the Benfica midfielder put on yet another memorable performance at the Estadio da Luz.

Ezequiel Garay - Benfica

The 26 year-old Benfica central defender will have a tough task against second place Porto. With team captain Luisao out of the squad and his availability in doubt for the match, Garay will be an important factor. His experience and knowledge of the game will be crucial with the Argentine already having a better idea of Portuguese Football in his second season in the Portuguese capital. 

Benfica fans quickly fell in love with Garay's style of play since day one. Many doubted his ability considering he was a former Real Madrid player and he didn't get much of a chance to play at the Bernabeu. Truth be told, he has done an incredible job to prove his doubters wrong since putting on the Benfica uniform.

Tactically he has been exceptional in the Benfica back-line. His vision of the game and the ability to anticipate things before they happen are just two of his strong points. Generally very clean in the tackle and also very cautious with the ball at his feet, Sunday will be another match for the international scouts to enjoy.

Garay will be put to the test considering he will have to keep a close eye on Porto's Jackson Martinez. The Colombian striker has caused havoc for opposing defenders since his arrival in Portugal so Garay will need to have a perfect game if he and his teammates expect to keep the Porto striker off the score-sheet.

Jackson Martinez - Porto

Martinez has been a prolific goal scorer on every team he has played for and Porto has been no exception. With 12 appearances for the Azuis e Brancos, Martinez has already netted 11 goals across all competitions. Considering he only arrived in Portugal this season, Jackson's reputation while in Colombia and Mexico has certainly followed him to Europe.

Whether it is with his right foot or his left foot, Martinez will be sure to punish you if you allow him just enough time on the ball. 

Tactical awareness on and off the ball has been vital for Martinez and his success. He may not always be on the end of a mouth watering pass or an individual play, but he somehow always manages to be in the right spot at the right time, which in the end, is what counts.

Fans don't care if you score with your thigh, your knee or even your chest, all they care about is the end result and Jackson Martinez has helped Porto achieve success this season.

His pace and strength could prove to be an issue for Benfica's defenders with Luisao most likely out of the match. Garay may have Brazilian defender Jardel by his side, so Martinez will be sure to target Jardel as much as possible. 

In his first match at the Estadio da Luz, Martinez will be hoping it will be a memorable one.

Joao Moutinho - Porto

The former Sporting CP prospect was dealt to Porto after members of Sporting's board of directors stating that Moutinho was a spoiled apple. After making that trade, one can only wonder if those same directors were serious about their remarks or even if they had ever really watched Joao Moutinho play.

Moutinho has been an important piece to Porto's midfield since his arrival as he has been just as important for the Portuguese National Team. 

Small in stature, Moutinho's ability to make tackles and get involved is impressive to say the least. He had been highly regarded during his time at Sporting, but his move to Porto helped shape his career for the best.

One could argue that Moutinho's ability to set the tone in the midfield is unlike most in the Portuguese League. While not being flashy, Moutinho has quietly established himself as a box-to-box midfielder for club and country.


He can not only help his side defend and absorb pressure when needed, but Moutinho is also able to make his way up the pitch and make late runs into the box when needed. From simple short passes to exquisite through balls, Moutinho has the ability to pick apart any back line if he is given too much time on the ball.

Along with Lucho Gonzalez, Moutinho will be a vital piece to the Porto puzzle at the Estadio da Luz on Sunday. Having played in a number of these matches with Porto and Sporting, Moutinho knows the meaning behind this Classico. No one likes to lose, especially against their rival. 

Moutino will have another chance to show the world his value as he will go up against a more physical Nemanja Matic in the Benfica midfield, but that certainly won't stop the Portuguese International from leaving it all on the pitch.

Silvestre Varela - Porto

With Colombian International James Rodriguez ruled out of Sundays match with a muscle strain, Portuguese International Silvestre Varela will almost certainly get the start.

Just like his fellow countryman Joao Moutinho, Varela isn't the biggest player, but his pace, creativity and his liking to play against Benfica will make up for his lack of size.

Varela normally enjoys these matches as he tends to run Benfica defender Maxi Pereira into the ground. His relentless pace is something the Benfica defenders won't be looking forward to. With that astonishing pace, comes the possibility of being able to dribble, shoot, cross or pass with both his feet. 


With Varela out wide, depending on who Jorge Jesus sends out, Vitor Pereira could well opt to start Varela on Melgarejo's side. The young Paraguay International has struggled at times with his new position, so Varela's pace and experience could certainly cause problems for the young Benfica defender. Varela's only problem against Melgarejo could be that their pace  could cancel each other out.

But regardless of what side Varela plays on, the Portuguese forward is certain to cause problems for anyone who stands in his way. And for Benfica's sake, they will need to make sure they don't overlook his ability to latch on to loose balls in the box. He tends to make late runs into the box and  has proven to be a specialist in knocking in the second ball in or around the box.

His performance offensively could set the tone for Porto considering Rodriguez is out. If Varela is unable to establish himself in the match, Vitor Pereira could opt to send in debutante Izmailov who is on the verge of signing a two and a half year deal with Porto from Sporting.



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