Champions League crunch time for Portugal as Benfica and Porto face humiliating exits

The elimination of the Iberian nation's two biggest sides would merely prolong the Primeira Liga's poor recent record in Europe's top competition
By Craig Turnbull

Portugal will see their interest in the Champions League end at the Group Stage this season if Porto and Benfica fall short on matchday 6.

The Primeira Liga giants have failed to make a sustained impact at the business end of the competition for several years, though there were appearances in the quarter-finals in 2005-2006 and 2011-2012 for Benfica, while Porto won the tournament in 2003-2004 under Jose Mourinho, but have not come close to repeating that feat in the interim.

The disappointment looks set to be prolonged this term. Both clubs are perilously close to being eliminated from the competition and must better the results of the current second-placed teams in their respective groups to advance to the last 16.

In Group C, Benfica are third on seven points - equal on points with Olympiakos. However, they have a worse head-to-head record with the Greek side, who occupy second place. The visit of group leaders Paris Saint-Germain to the Estadio da Luz on matchday 6 does little to lift the optimism surrounding Benfica's chances of reaching the knockout stage, despite les Parisiens having already secured qualification.

Meanwhile, Olympiakos host Anderlecht this week having already demonstrated their strength in Piraeus, suggesting that they will have little trouble seeing off the inexperienced Belgians, who have already been eliminated.

Benfica know firsthand how notoriously difficult it is to win away in Greece, having lost 1-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium courtesy of Kostas Manolas' solitary strike, which did not only separate the sides on matchday 4, but could turn out to be a pivotal moment in their Champions League campaign.

Over in Group G, meanwhile, Porto are also staring at the prospect of missing out on Champions League football after Christmas.

The Dragons are currently third, a point behind second-placed Russian side Zenit heading into the final round of action. Porto must win against group leaders Atletico Madrid - who have qualified for the last 16 - and hope that Luciano Spalletti's side lose to Austria Vienna, whose Champions League exit has already been confirmed.

If that was not enough of a confidence booster for the Russians, then they can buoyed by their performance at the Dragao, where they pulled off a shock 1-0 victory against Porto thanks to Aleksandr Kerzhakov's late winner on matchday 3 - a result that might come back to haunt Paulo Fonseca's men. And indeed Portugal.

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