Unsurprisingly, FC Porto and Benfica sit on top of the Primeira Liga after five weeks of play, both with four wins and one draw. Their contests have been fantastic throughout the years, but Porto were dominant last season, winning 2-1 away to Benfica and 5-0 at the Dragao. These are different teams than last season, though, so a repeat shouldn't be expected.
For one, Radamel Falcao has departed. Kleber looks like an adequate replacement, but he is not Falcao. Benfica have lost a few players of their own, most notably David Luiz and Fabio Coentrao. In that 5-0 loss to Porto, Benfica made the audacious decision to start David Luiz at left back where he was absolutely eaten alive while playing out of position. It was a terrible tactical decision in a match that Porto were probably going to lose anyway.
The cornerstones of Hulk, Helton, Alvaro Pereira, Jorge Fucile and Joao Moutinho are the same, but Porto have undergone some other subtle changes beyond just the loss of Falcao and the acquisition of Kleber. The two young South American starlets that were brought into the team last year, James Rodriguez and Nicolas Otamendi, have transitioned from being key bench players to key fixtures in the starting XI. Unfortunately for Porto, they will be without James, who is suspended after picking up a red card last week.
Benfica have undergone what has been more or less a total overhaul. With the money earned from selling the aforementioned Coentrao and Luiz, as well as Ramires and Angel di Maria, Benfica have purchased a number of talented young players from South America and Europe, building an incredibly deep and talented side. One of those new players - Enzo Perez - is unavailable, but the likes of Axel Witsel, Nolito, Ezequiel Garay and Joan Capdevilla will all be in the 18.
Porto's base formation is a 4-3-3, while Benfica's is a 4-2-3-1. Both teams are able to utilize different types of personnel to create favorable matchups or play as aggressively and conservatively as they like. Though we know exactly what kind of base formation each team is going to use, this could still be a very interesting and unique tactical battle. This one is going to be more about the individual selections and instructions than it is the formations, and the interesting parts of the tactical battle will be who starts and what their roles are, not what formations the teams line up in.
Porto vs. Benfica kicks off at 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm local time on Friday. It can be seen on ESPN3.com in the USA, and we'll have coverage right here at SB Nation.