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Monday, 21 October 2013 09:54

Montero on fire, Champions League back, Portugal await play-off fate

News round-up

bola-cover-montero-20131021.jpgFredy Montero’s astonishing start to his Sporting career shows no sign of letting up. The Colombian netted his second hat-trick of the season yesterday, as the Lions crushed Alba in the Portuguese Cup. Today’s World Cup play-off draw, the matches coming up in the next seven days, namely crunch games in the Champions League for Portugal’s representatives and the Porto-Sporting Clássico next Sunday, also feature in a Monday morning news round-up.

Goal-machine Montero

He came, he saw, he conquered. The famous phrase fits like a glove in relation to Colombian strikers Falcao and Jackson Martínez, who were immediate and roaring successes at FC Porto. When Sporting signed largely unknown Fredy Montero in the summer, few believed he would make a similar impact on Portuguese football. But so far he has.
Montero has played all eight games the Lions have contested in 2013/14. He has failed to score in just one of them. Yesterday’s hat-trick in the 8-1 thrashing of Alba in the Portuguese Cup third round took the 26 year-old’s total goal tally to 12 goals so far. If he continues at this rate, Montero may even surpass the feats achieved by his illustrious compatriots at the Estádio do Dragão.
And it is not only deeds from the recent past the Montero is threatening to exceed. The striker’s 12 goals in his first 8 games is one more than Mário Jardel scored for Sporting in the first eight games of his incredible 2001/02 debut season. The Brazilian striker went on to finish the season with 55 goals, propelling the Lions to a League and Cup double – the last time Sporting were champions of Portugal.
Sporting now have their minds firmly focused on next weekend’s 1st versus 2nd match at FC Porto. “That’s what we’re thinking about now. We have a week to prepare. It’s a tough game but we’ll be giving our all to try and win it,” said Montero.

Santa Maria giant-killers

Elsewhere in the Portuguese Cup the most notable result was the victory by minnows Santa Maria over top-flight club Nacional. The Madeira club may be in fourth place in the Liga, but a Telmo goal was enough for 3rd-division Santa Maria to dump them out of the competition. “Next up we want Porto or Benfica!” said Telmo post match.
The only other top-flight side to tumble were Belenenses, who were beaten by fellow Liga club Académica at the Restelo. The match ended 2-2 after 120 minutes, and Sérgio Conceição’s team came out top in the subsequent penalty shootout.
Benfica and FC Porto both took advantage of ties against weak opposition, Cinfães and Trofense respectively, to give some of their lesser used players a run-out. Both won 1-0 thanks to goals from wingers Olá John and Silvestre Varela. Two strikers got a rare start – youngster Ivan Cavaleiro for Benfica (his debut) and Ghilas for FC Porto – and although neither scored, both players put in displays that would have pleased their respective coaches.

Crunch week in Champions League

The two Portuguese giants now turn their attention to the Champions League, playing matches that could potentially make or break their campaign in this year’s competition. Porto host Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The Russian side come to Portugal with former Porto hero Hulk, as well as Portugal duo Danny and Neto in their squad.
Much of the focus is inevitably on the Brazil striker, who enjoyed four fabulous seasons for the Dragons. Hulk has made no secret of the fact he still harbours strong affection for the club, and O Jogo report that the Incrível has said he intends to take his photograph next to his statue in the new Porto museum. As for the match itself, with Zenit dropping points unexpectedly at home to Austria Vienna in the previous match, and Porto losing at home to Atlético Madrid on the same night, defeat for either team could seriously compromise their chances of advancing beyond the group stage.
On Wednesday night Benfica host Olympiakos, and the Eagles are also under pressure to collect the three points. “Second place in the group will be decided between us and Olympiakos,” admitted Benfica coach Jorge Jesus. The Greek side have enjoyed a near perfect start to their domestic campaign. A 4-1 win at the weekend made it seven victories and one draw from their opening eight games, which puts them top of the table, and Spanish coach Michel said: “We will go to Lisbon and play with confidence.”

Play-off draw

Today is an important day for the Seleção. Paulo Bento and his squad will learn who they face in the November play-off for the 2014 World Cup in the draw to be held in Nyon, Switzerland. France, Sweden, Romania and Iceland are the possible adversaries, with Portugal legend Luís Figo speaking for many by saying: “In theory, Iceland would be the best draw. It’s the most straightforward team, although nowadays in football theory is not the same as practice. They may be the weakest team in terms of renown, but on the pitch…”
PortuGOAL readers agree with Figo. At the time of writing 64% had voted for Iceland as “the opponent that would give Portugal the best chance of making it to Brazil”. Interestingly, the poll places Sweden as the most feared team, rather than France.  
by Tom Kundert
Comments (3)
Montero / Sweden
3 Monday, 21 October 2013 20:01
TCosta / USA
It is no great surprise that Montero has done so well in the Liga. When he was with Seattle, he doused my club team's (DC United's) hopes more than once.

Regarding Sweden, I feel the same way as others... arguably a more difficult draw than France. But the Seleccao can do it. Someone was commenting that Sweden has no equal to a Moutinho. I hope that's true, as his good form could be a deciding factor.
play- off
2 Monday, 21 October 2013 12:22
portugal-sweden going to be a hell of a match .
1 Monday, 21 October 2013 12:19
Sweden! Damn, was hoping for Iceland/Rom. Our defense needs to be much better than it has been to deal with the dangerous Ibra.

First leg in Portugal, FORCA!

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