This Friday, Primeira Liga fans around the world will be glued to their television sets, computers, and even perhaps their phones and tablets. Why? Well, the famous Estadio da Luz will be playing host to the second Classico of the 2015/2016 campaign, and naturally, any clash between two of the biggest clubs in Portugal is one not to miss.
Two-thirds of the famed “Big Three”, Benfica and Porto have dominated Portuguese football’s landscape since the inception of the Primeira Liga in 1934. It was Porto, nicknamed the Dragões (Dragons) who lifted the inaugural league title in May 1935, having earned 22 points in round-robin system that featured eight teams. And in something that clearly would foreshadow things to come, the no. 2 and no. 3 sides were none other than Sporting CP – the other member of Portugal’s big trio – and Benfica with 20 and 19 points respectively.
Between Porto and Benfica, they have won a whopping 61 top division titles (34 and 27 respectively), with Sporting CP having picked up 18. Only on two occasions: Belenenses, during the 1945/1946 season and Boavista during the 2000/2001 campaign have any other team but these three been crowned champions of Portugal.
Given this, it is no surprise that matches involving any combination of these three garners a great deal of hype and interest; however arguably the biggest is the aptly-titled classic which pits the two largest cities in Portugal – Lisbon and Porto- against each other. It’s Benfica vs. Porto. The Águias (Eagles) vs. the Dragões. And the 234th meeting will be coming up in less than 48 hours.
Some may say that indeed, politics has no place in football, but like any major derby, it certainly is firmly entrenched in the background of one of Europe’s oldest rivalries. From the first exhibition match on April 28, 1912,which finished as a 8-2 rout in favor of Benfica, to their last meeting 103 years later on September 20, 2015, which resulted as a 1-0 win for Porto each and every single minute of a battle between the Águias and the Dragões is more than just a game. It’s a cultural identity. It’s the clash of different ideologies. And more important, it’s a tussle between Portugal’s two most successful teams – who interestingly, have never met in European competition.
Sporting CP will certainly have their eye on this Classico, as they presently sit in second, behind Benfica on goal difference and six points ahead of Porto. As such, this match could have huge repercussions on the title race: whoever emerges victorious could find themselves taking one step closer towards lifting the trophy, whilst the loser could find themselves playing an undesirable and difficult game of catch-up.