The only real positive for Sporting heading into this match is their previous track record against Porto at the Estadio Jose de Alvalade. Sporting has not been defeated by Porto for the league in Lisbon since the 2008/09 season, when Jesualdo Ferreira was Porto's manager. A 1-2 score-line with goals from Lisandro Lopez and Bruno Alves silenced the Sporting fans.
Not only was Sporting's current manager the last one to claim three points for Porto in Lisbon, but Joao Moutinho got the lone goal for Sporting in that match. Unfortunately for Sporting fans, he is now a Porto player, but will miss out on Saturday's match due to injury.
For those who follow the Portuguese League, or at least know of Sporting, they have always been considered one of the three big clubs in Portugal. This season, they have been far from that.
With a number of different managerial and player changes in the last two seasons, the Leoes are really struggling to find any sort of form or consistency. Despite their struggles this season, Jesualdo Ferreira is confident that his side will be ready for their big match on Saturday.
"It is in these matches that players raise their playing level," he said in his press conference on Friday. "What I can say is that I expect a difficult match. We are talking about a Classico, we are talking about a big history between both clubs. Tomorrow's match will have its own history, with us knowing that Porto is in first and they are the current leaders and this is a match of high importance."
Some of the Sporting players will get a chance to encounter some old teammates who have made their way to the Estadio Do Dragao. Russian international Marat Izmailov will face his former team for the first time since his January transfer to the Cidade Invicta.
Another return will be Liedson, who was a fan favorite for years with the Lisbon side.
Porto's manager knows how important this match is, but as always, he is fully confident that his side can pull off a positive result.
"Given Sporting's current form, they will want to win the match," Vitor Pereira told reporters. "But we are going there with the intention of winning. Over the previous years, Porto has struggled against Sporting at the Estadio de Alvalade. I have no doubts that it will be a well fought match. The title race is tight, so there is no margin for error on Saturday."
01-07-12 Sporting 0-0 Porto
11-27-10 Sporting 1-1 Porto
02-28-10 Sporting 3-0 Porto
02-04-09 Sporting 4-1 Porto (League Cup)
11-09-08 Sporting 1-1 (4-5*) Porto (Portuguese Cup)
10-05-08 Sporting 1-2 Porto
Although 30 points may separate Porto and Sporting in the domestic league, that will not really matter come Saturday afternoon.
Most Sporting fans will be extremely nervous, given Porto's current form, but last year the Dragoes won the league, but only managed a 0-0 at the Estadio do Dragao.
Having the last coach who defeated Sporting while managing Porto will also be a big boost of confidence for Sporting and their fans. Apparently, only Jesualdo Ferreira was able to figure out Sporting on their home turf, so having him on their side this time around will be a plus.
Sporting will desperately need to win this match. Failure to claim the full three points could see them drop to 13th, with a four point gap separating them from the relegation zone, depending on how the other matches play out.
Knowing that another loss could really kill their already limited confidence, the Sporting players will be up for this match, as they clearly have been for the previous three meetings in Lisbon between the two sides.
Porto on the other hand, will also want to win this match, knowing that the title race looks like it will come down to the wire. Failure to claim the full three points, could give Benfica a slight advantage heading into their match on Sunday in Aveiro, against Beira Mar.
Will Izmailov start? That is unknown, but it will be very interesting to see how the Sporting fans react to their former player now defending the blue and white. The same goes for Liedson, who makes his return to Alvalade, after spending a number of successful years in Lisbon.
Stopping Jackson Martinez will be a main concern for Sporting, given the fact that the Colombian striker has been scoring frequently, except for his mishaps from the penalty spot. The Porto number 9 has 22 goals scored in the domestic league, while Sporting as a team has only scored 20.
For Sporting, Rinaudo will be a key figure in the midfield. His presence has been very important for Jesualdo Ferreira's side, and without a Joao Moutinho on the other end to orchestrate Porto's offense, Rinaudo could have slightly more freedom, but the visitors have plenty of other notable options to replace the Portuguese international.
While this match will be hard to predict, all eyes will be on this Classico. Not only does it mean a lot for Porto and Sporting fans, but it will also mean a lot for Benfica fans. With the return of Izmailov and Liedson, could this match be destined for a winning goal from one of the former Sporting players? Or could Ricky Van Wolfswinkel add to his seven league goals for the hosts?
Sporting 2-2 Porto
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