Football: Porto get nervous even as Portuguese arch-rivals Benfica falter and coach offers to quit

Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao (left) and Pepe at Estadio Capital Do Movel, in Portugal, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LISBON (REUTERS) - Porto might have been handed a pathway to regaining the Portuguese football 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 (June 29), after which coach Bruno Lage offered his resignation 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 president Luis Filipe Vieira said: "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'.

'At the moment, the situation is untenable because it seems that everyone wants me to leave. From tomorrow, (Tuesday) I won't be Benfica's coach any more'."

Vieira, who did not take questions, did not confirm that he had accepted the resignation and there was no further comment from the club. Lage, who replaced Rui Vitoria as coach in January last year, himself gave a separate post-match interview but did not mention that he was resigning.

Benfica, who suffered a shock 4-3 home defeat by Santa Clara in their previous match, will look to cut the deficit when they welcome Boavista on Saturday (July 4) 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 37 championships to Porto's 28. The pair have been won every league title since Sporting Lisbon's 2002 success.

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