LISBON: Porto might have been handed a pathway to regaining the Portuguese championship from Benfica but coach Sergio Conceicao says watching their arch rivals implode has only served to make his players nervous.
The two sides perennially battle for dominance in Portugal but Benfica have suffered a horror drop in form since the return from the Covid-19 lockdown, allowing Porto to go six points clear with five games left.
Benfica lost 2-0 at struggling Maritimo on Monday but the result hardly emboldened Porto for their match later that night at Pacos Ferreira.
“We can’t think too much about what the others are doing because then we end up not doing our job,” said Conceicao after his side’s unconvincing 1-0 victory moved them onto 70 points, six clear of Benfica.
“In fact, there was some anxiety in the game due to the fact that players were aware of other result, which is something they now have easy access to,” he added.
“The total focus has to be on our work. We depend only on ourselves and we have to win our games. Crisis at other clubs is not our concern.”
Benfica will look to cut the deficit when they host Boavista on Saturday while Porto host Belenenses the following day. Porto finished two points behind Benfica in last year’s title race but were champions in 2018.
Overall Benfica have won 37 championships to Porto’s 28. The pair have been won every league title since Sporting Lisbons 2002 success.
On Tuesday, Benfica said in a statement to Portugal’s CMVM market regulator
the club are negotiating with coach Bruno Lage to end his contract after the team’s dismal run continued with the Maritimo loss.
The club said the talks were aimed at ending Lage’s contract with “immediate effect.”
After Monday’s game, club president Luis Filipe Vieira said that Lage had offered his resignation without saying whether it had been accepted.
“Our coach came to me at the end of the game and said with great dignity: ‘President, I am putting myself at your disposal because I understand that things are not good for Benfica,’” Vieira told reporters.
Lage himself gave a separate post-match interview but did not mention that he was resigning.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2020