Porto into knockout round

Two days, three victories, and a memorable Champions League matchday for Portuguese teams. FC Porto continued their superb form in this year's competition, completely dominating Athletic Bilbao tonight, winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Jackson Martínez and Yacine Brahimi to book their place in the knockout round with two group games still to go. The Dragons are two points clear at the top of Group H and well positioned to win the section.

Benfica scraped to a 1-0 win in a hard-fought match against Monaco at the Estádio da Luz yesterday, man-of-the-moment Talisca netting a late winner to put the Eagles back in contention. Jorge Jesus' men remain in last place in Group C but just one point separates the Portuguese champions, Zenit and Monaco with two matches remaining.

A terrific match in Lisbon tonight saw Sporting roar back from 1-0 down to race to a 4-2 victory over German outfit Schalke 04 (see the PortuGOAL twitter feed for blow-by-blow account of events at the Alvalade). Goals from Naby Sarr, Jefferson, Nani and Slimani gave Sporting a well-merited three points, and puts the Lions in with a chance of continuing in the competition beyond Christmas.

Tune in to the new PortuGOAL podcast, available tomorrow afternoon, which will discuss the Champions League situation and all the latest domestic football news in Portugal.

 

 

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  • What a great result for Portuguese clubs. 3 Portuguese clubs and 3 wins. I'm very happy :D. What was looking like a horrible season in the Champions league has completely turned itself around and our co-efficients have a chance of stabilising as Italian team Juventus and Roma have crashed after fast starts.

    Portuguese Clubs:

    Sporting have actually been a lot better than their 4 points suggest. They were robbed of a draw in Germany and let the win slip in Slovenia. If those results go their way then they should be 7 points and almost qualified. In saying this though, I think the injustice of what happened in Germany and the fact that they enacted some type of justice tonight with the win may in gact inspire their with the confidence to grab second place. They just need a home win against Maribor to secure at least third place and look good for second behind Chelsea.

    Porto have absolutely dominated the group and have been carrying the Portuguese flag in Europe this year. By the end of the match day 5 game against BATE, they might have even secured first place. None the less, a draw or win at home against Shachtar or even a draw most likely gives them top spot in the group.

    Benfica, face a tricky situation in the next game against Zenit because they really need a win or possibly even a draw to stay in contention for second place. Third place however looks quite likely due to the fact they have a better head to head record against Monaco and play Leverkusen in the final game at home knowing that by that stage Leverkusen would have already qualified for the knockout stages in first place and therefore resting their first teamers.

    In contrast tyhe Europa league teams have been horrible but looking ahead, Braga, Guimaraes and even Belenenses have been great this year and are all improving and strengthening so we might have a team capable or getting out of the group or at least getting some wins next season.

    Steve

    from Melbourne VIC, Australia
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  • Hear that this was the 2nd time that in the Champions League Group stage, all 3 Portuguese teams won their match within the same round. It's very difficult to come back from being 4th after the 3rd group stage round but it seems very possible for both Benfica and Sporting.

    If Leverkusen beats Monaco next round would lock in their first place meaning that the final game in Portugal for them has less meaning. In the case of Benfica, I think this makes the Zenit match as the hardest left and potentially the deal breaker.

    As for Sporting, the next match should be an easier win but in their case I think there is a higher case that the top team in the group (Chelsea) could drop points which could make the final match in Chelsea a must win for both teams. I think it would be hard enough facing a passive Chelsea which is already qualified but a Chelsea needing a win could be too much but never say never in this sport.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well done to all 3 teams for their impressive CL results this week! Porto are already through, while Benfica and Sporting are both back in contention after really poor starts to their campaigns. Congrats to Porto for already qualifying, although it has to be said that their group was as favorable a draw as one could possibly hope to get in the CL. Bilbao have been totally out of sorts since the start of the season, in both the CL and in the Spanish Liga, BATE have been simply awful (with all due respect), while even Shakhtar are not as strong as they were a few years back. Still I'm taking nothing away from Porto though, you can only play what's in front of you and to qualify with 2 matches to spare, even in a group like this, is impressive. Well done to them.

    Benfica and Sporting are both in similar positions now after their huge wins this week. Both are now in contention to qualify after slow starts, but both have big work to do. Sporting should beat Maribor at home in the next match, but of course they have to travel to Chelsea on the last day. Unless Chelsea win in Germany in their next match, they will likely still need something from the last match to guarantee top spot. So Sporting are in with a shout but still have lots to do.

    Similar story for Benfica. A much improved defensive display against Monaco ensured we got the better over them over the 2 matches and the massive win this week puts us in real contention to qualify now in what was always going to be a tight group. We still have a lot of work to do though, getting a positive result in the cold of Russia will definitely be difficult, but certainly possible. That match will be like a final as Zenit also need to win it at all costs. As has been stated, Leverkusen could already be qualified (perhaps even in first place) by the time they come to Da Luz for the final match, but no point in Benfica thinking beyond the Zenit match for now. For both Benfica and Sporting, it's 2 finals coming up!

    On a final note, for anyone still doubting whether Ricardo Carvalho should be back in the Selecao first team, they must simply watch a Monaco match! He's still a beast of a CB even at 36, and Benfica's attack simply couldn't get past him from open play (thankfully we took our chance from the set piece). He still looks as strong as he ever was in actual fact, and is a shoe in for the Selecao first team imo.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    A step closer to qualification..

    Well done to Sporting. We knew they were head and shoulders above Schalke 04 as they showed in the home and away so it's good to get their revenge. I also believe in the case of a tie in points accumulated, they've won the head-to-head via away goals rule. Sporting can qualify by simply winning out the next 2 games. Not an easy thing to do but if Chelsea wins next game they secure 1st place ahead of match day 6 and gives Sporting a great chance (all they need is a draw) to qualify. Taking into account we beat Maribor at home.

    Benfica's path to qualification is a lot more trickier. I knew Leverkusen would be the frontrunners of this group as soon as I saw what they did to us albeit Zenit sitting atop at that time. I loved the way Benfica competed against Monaco. Salvio and Gaitan did an excellent job tracking back and winning possession. The effort was there unlike the past matches in this CL campaign. Next is a must win game vs. Zenit in Russia. It's going to be very difficult but if they show the same determination there is always a chance. This will lead to also needing just a draw on the final day at home vs, an already qualified team.

    Porto's team is stacked and we did fully expect them to qualify from Group H. The question now is can they hold off Shakhtar for first place? A team that has been decimating their opponents recently. Jackson Martinez rescued a point the last time these teams met. Or will it be like 2 years ago when they let it slip away to PSG at the last minute?

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  • Add ons:

    I have had a thought about the chances of Sporting and Benfica in the next two match days and I have the following thoughts

    Sporting

    The obvious is a Sporting win at home to Maribor. Schalke have been pretty poor and if Chelsea can secure a win or a better than 1:1 result against them then they will guarantee top spot in the group and most likely field a weakened team for the final game against Sporting. A Chelsea win at Schalke means that Sporting just need a draw at Chelsea to progress even if Schalke beats Maribor away. The worst result for Sporting is if Schalke beats Chelsea (highly unlikeley though) which would mean they need to win in the final game and hope

    Benfica:

    So I am going to disagree with most here and say that beating Zenit should not be the priority as Benfica can still qualify even with a draw. It is far better for Benfica to sit back deeper, countering them with the hope they can defend well and snatch a goal because attacking them away is not the best idea as they tore Benfica apart in the first game. Obviously a win will be great, but if Benfica loses to Zenit then they can no longer qualify for the knockout rounds (by virtue of an inferior head to head against Zenit), and a Monaco win in the final game against Zenit means that Benfica finish in fourth even if they beat Leverkusen. The best scenario for Benfica is a Monaco loss to Leverkusen coupled with a win but at least a draw against Zenit, which would bring all teams on 5 points (this is the Benfica - Zenit draw scenario) going into the final round. In this scenario a Benfica win at home against the already qualified in first place Leverkusen means at least 3rd spot and the only result that can stop them from getting 2nd is a Zenit win away in Monaco, which is unlikely given their poor away record.

    So in summary:


      Sporting need a home win and hope for a Chelsea win or better than 1:1 draw at Schalke
      Benfica should play for a draw at Zenit and if they win then great and hope for a Monaco loss or draw in the game against Leverkusen which will give Leverkusen top spot


    Look forward to everyones thoughts as always :)

    Steve

    from Melbourne VIC, Australia
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  • Guest - Nelson Oliveira

    Re: Andre's comments about Carvalho, it's a damn shame he (and Tiago) didn't play for the Seleccao this past summer. Damn, damn shame.

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