Football - PREVIEW-Leaders Porto aim to inflict more pain on bruised Benfica

Porto travel to Pacos de Ferreira on Sunday for the finale of the Portuguese Premier League knowing a win would secure a third successive title and complete a terrible week for arch rivals Benfica.

Reuters

The Lisbon club, one point behind, will hope for one final twist to a drama-riddled championship when they host second-from-bottom Moreirense in a simultaneous kickoff (1730 GMT).

Benfica's dream season collapsed like a house of cards after two stoppage-time defeats in one of their most painful weeks, first at Porto to throw away the league lead and then in Wednesday's Europa League final against Chelsea.

By contrast, Porto coach Vitor Pereira, whose side were four points behind Benfica just two rounds ago, have beaten the odds since to close in on the top objective of the season.

"We have everything to secure the title," he said. "But we still have a complicated match to go."

Pereira has persevered to stave off criticism from fans, pundits and the media that his football tactics fall short of the flamboyance and dominance of previous bosses like Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho.

Porto looked below par when they were knocked out by Malaga in the Champions League last 16 and also from the domestic cup but they kept performing in the league and made the most of Benfica's few mistakes.

Surprise package Pacos de Ferreira, who secured a best-ever third position in the league and along with it a place in next season's Champions League qualifying round, stand between Porto and the league trophy.

"Pacos had an exceptional season and they really were the third-best side in Portugal this year," Pereira said.

"We must go there with full focus and motivation and keep emotional control."

NIGHTMARE

Twice European champions Benfica still cannot quite grasp how quickly the tables turned in both the league and Europa League after Wednesday's dramatic 2-1 defeat at the hands of a last-gasp header from Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Benfica players walked off the pitch in tears thinking back on a season which went from memorable to nightmarish in just five days. Coach Jorge Jesus was visibly distraught but found respite in the comforting words of a past hero of his.

"The trophy is Chelsea's but I was proud when one of my early career idols, Johan Cruyff, hugged me at the end and told me Benfica were a great team that played his kind of football," Jesus said.

Benfica dominated possession against Chelsea thanks to some neat passing but were left ruing their many missed chances and defensive mistakes.

With two final battles still ahead, one in the league this weekend and then the cup final a week later, most fans were not bitter and preferred to praise the coach and squad for their efforts.

Hundreds of Benfica supporters went down to cheer the squad when they arrived at Lisbon's airport late on Wednesday.

"We flew Benfica's flag up high against Chelsea although, at the end, the players tumbled on the pitch as if they had been shot," Jesus said.

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