Sports Mole previews Friday’s Primeira Liga clash between Sporting Lisbon and Rio Ave, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Meanwhile, the visitors head into this contest having ended a lengthy winless streak with a dominant victory over Portimonense, moving the club back into mid-table.
Having had to play their fixture at Nacional a day later than planned and being eliminated from the Taca de Portugal, it has been a testing time for the Sporting first-team squad.
While there was relief when they shook off the weather delay to see off Nacional, the disruption played its part in Sporting suffering a 2-0 defeat to Maritimo in the cup on Monday night.
The setback ended a 15-game unbeaten streak for Ruben Amorim‘s side, and the Sporting boss now faces the test of rousing his players on their return to league action.
With Porto and Benfica facing each other, Amorim knows that there is an opportunity to strengthen their position in the top two as the season nears the midway point.
Nuno Santos got on the scoresheet in the last league fixture, ending a two-month wait for his fourth top-flight goal of the campaign.
Only a week ago, Rio Ave were down at the lower end of the table having recorded just two points from a six-game spell since the start of November.
However, the 3-0 triumph over Portimonense has lifted the club into 10th position, easing the pressure on manager Mario Silva.
Vilacondenses remain eighth points adrift of fifth – their minimum target for the season, having earned a spot in the Europa League qualifying rounds earlier this year.
That said, sitting just three points above bottom-placed Famalicao, Silva and his squad will be solely motivated on ensuring that they do not become embroiled in a relegation battle during the first part of 2021.
Sporting Lisbon Primeira Liga form: WDWWWW
Sporting Lisbon form (all competitions): WWWWWL
Rio Ave Primeira Liga form: LDLLLW
Rio Ave form (all competitions): WLLLWL
Having rotated his squad for the cup tie with Maritimo, Sporting boss Amorim will recall a number of players to his starting lineup.
Silva made fewer alterations for Rio Ave’s meeting with Estoril, a game which ended in a surprise 2-1 defeat.
Nevertheless, given the level of their performance against Portimonense, Silva may be prepared to go with the team which started that fixture.
Manchester City loanee Ryotaro Meshino should start for the third match in succession after netting during that encounter.
Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Adan; Neto, Coates, Feddal; Porro, Joao Mario, Palhinha, Mendes; Goncalves, Santos; Sporar
Rio Ave possible starting lineup:
Kieszek; Pinto, Borevkovic, Santos, Amaral; Pele, Tarantini; Meshino, Geraldes, Mane; Dala
We say: Sporting Lisbon 2-0 Rio Ave
On the back of their recent league win, Rio Ave will be confident of causing an upset with little pressure on their shoulders. However, despite the quick turnaround for Sporting after their cup defeat, we expect the home side to get back on track in their search for silverware.
Top betting tip
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