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Nacional vs Benfica Preview

February 7, 2013 By Mike Goncalves
The road to a 33rd Portuguese League title continues for Benfica on Sunday against Nacional da Madeira.

With a record 32 Portuguese League titles, Benfica has missed out on their 33rd since they last lifted the trophy in 2010. Two years of watching their rivals FC Porto retain the title is not a pleasant scene, but looking back over the last 10 or 20 years, that is nothing new for the Aguias. 

Only a four goal difference separates Jorge Jesus' side from the top spot in the domestic league, but a trip to Nacional may not be the ideal place to make up that ground.

The hosts are not enjoying one of their most successful campaigns in recent years, but they generally tend to be a tough opponent when playing at the Choupana.


Nacional's Matheus has made it clear that he would like for his team to derail Benfica's title hopes on Sunday.

"Benfica is a big club. It is obvious that they are favorites for this match, but that is normally the case when they play domestic matches. Along with FC Porto, they are the two best teams in the league. Therefore, we know that we will have to work twice as hard than we normally do to achieve a positive result," said Matheus.

Knowing what him and his teammates will be up against, Matheus also took some time to share his opinion on Benfica's offense.

"I am not sure if Cardozo will play but looking at Benfica's squad, that is irrelevant."

"They have Lima, a player that I really enjoy watching, Rodrigo and many other players of great value, some of the best in the league."

"We have our own weapons, the quality and the desire to win. Everyone says that in Portugal, Benfica and Porto only lose by accident. Well, we are going to try and derail Benfica's title hopes on Sunday."

So it appears that Matheus has set the bar awfully high for his teammates on Sunday, but the true question is whether they will be able to meet those expectations.

Benfica could see themselves forced to alter their back line given the fact that Melgarejo and Maxi Pereira will only arrive back in Portugal on Friday from their international duty. 

Apart from them, Enzo Perez and Jardel have slight knocks but they should be available for the trip to Madeira.


Previous Matches

09-02-12 Benfica 3-0 Nacional

02-11-12 Benfica 4-1 Nacional

08-29-11 Nacional 0-2 Benfica

01-22-11 Benfica 4-2 Nacional

08-21-10 Nacional 2-1 Benfica

03-14-10 Nacional 0-1 Benfica



Benfica's invincible run in the domestic league has been tested a few times this season, but it has not come to an end. The Lisbon side will be hoping that when they get on the plane back to the Portuguese capital, they will have confirmed three more points in the league standings.

A determined Nacional da Madeira side stands in their way, but if their first meeting this season is any indication of what to expect Sunday, Benfica will have to be patient.

Their first meeting in the season ended in a 3-0 victory for Benfica, but it took them 51 minutes to get the first goal. Oscar Cardozo got things started, with Rodrigo making it 2-0 moments after, only for the Paraguay international to score his second in the final minutes.

For that match, Benfica did not have Lima available as he was still a SC Braga player. The Brazilian striker and his new teammate both have 19 goals scored this season, a number that puts Lima within some of Europe's elite.

With 10 goals scored in 2013, Lima finds himself along side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has managed to score in every match in the new year with the exception of the 2-2 draw against Porto at the Estadio da Luz.

Sunday will be another good test for Benfica with Nacional normally giving them a tough time. When you take a look at the last four matches at the Choupana in the league between these two sides, they have altered winning matches.

In 2009, Benfica was defeated 3-1 with goals from Nene, Ruben Micael and Miguel Fidalgo late in the match. Former Arsenal and Real Madrid star Jose Antonio Reyes got the only goal for the visitors in the match. 

Their next trip to the Choupana ended slightly better with a 0-1 victory over Nacional. A 65th minute goal from Oscar Cardozo was enough for Jorge Jesus' side to claim the three points.

It was now Nacional's turn to claim victory during the 2010/11 season as they emerged victorious after a 2-1 score line. Benfica will have felt the result unjust considering the amount of opportunities they wasted, but the hosts were able to capitalize on the few chances they had.

Last season, Jorge Jesus' men got back to winning ways at the Choupana as they managed a 0-2 victory. Goals from Oscar Cardozo and Bruno Cesar who has since moved to Saudi Arabia on a permanent transfer sealed the deal.

From the team that started against Nacional last season, Benfica will be missing Emerson, Javi Garcia, Axel Witsel and Nolito. None of these players mentioned are with the club anymore with the exception of Nolito who is on a loan deal with Granada.

Beating Nacional is a must for Benfica if they want to keep up the chase for the title, but it will most likely not come easy. Making things more difficult is the heated battle between Jorge Jesus and Manuel Machado. 

The two managers clearly do not see eye to eye and when given the chance, they enjoy mocking one and other. When Benfica defeated Nacional 4-2 at the Estadio da Luz, Jorge Jesus was seen waving four fingers around on the sideline towards Manuel Machado. 

Patience will once again be important for Benfica as well as Nacional. The hosts will be looking to hit Benfica on the counter attack while Benfica will want to keep possession of the ball throughout the match. 

If Benfica can set the tone right from the get go, Nacional will be forced to sit back, but if Benfica comes out timid and allows Nacional to pile on pressure early on, the Aguias could be in for yet another difficult 90 minutes at the Choupana. 

Looking at the previous history in this fixture, Nacional is due for a victory given the fact that they have altered their last four meetings.

Nacional 1-2 Benfica

Follow Mike Goncalves on Twitter



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