Preview: Rio Ave vs. Benfica – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday’s Primeira Liga clash between Rio Ave and Benfica, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Both aiming to end their respective campaigns on a positive note, Rio Ave will welcome Portuguese giants Benfica to Estadio do Rio Ave for a Primeira Liga clash on Friday night.

Vilacondenses are looking to conclude their season with their impressive unbeaten run intact, whilst the Eagles are hoping to build on a handsome home success last time out.

Match preview

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Rio Ave extended their sensational unbeaten run in the Primeira Liga to 11 matches on Saturday afternoon, when Vilacondenses visited the home of relegation-threatened Portimonense and escaped with a share of the spoils following a four-goal thriller, but it could have been significantly better for the visitors.

Goals either side of the half-time whistle from Amine Oudrhiri and centre-back Renato Pantalon had put Rio Ave ahead as the final stages approached, although Portimonense were able to salvage a point from the contest in the 97th minute, when Helio Varela bagged his sixth of the term.

As impressive as an 11-game unbeaten streak is, Luis Freire‘s troops have only won two Primeira Liga contests during that period, explaining why Friday’s hosts only sit 10th in the top-flight standings, 24 points behind Vitoria de Guimaraes in the last of the European spots.

Last weekend’s draw at Portimonense means that Vilacondenses have gone an entire Primeira Liga campaign without winning on the road, with 25 of their 36 league points arriving at Estadio do Rio Ave, saving them from trouble at the wrong end of the table.

Having featured for Rio Ave during the 2024-15 term, Emmanuel Boateng‘s return to the club from China in 2022 has been a successful one, with the Ghanaian netting 13 times across a two-year period in the Primeira Liga.

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Having relinquished their Primeira Liga crown to arch rivals Sporting Lisbon this season, Benfica relieved some of their pain with a 5-0 thrashing of seventh-placed Arouca on Sunday, with the Eagles recording their biggest success since the 6-1 demolition of Vizela on February 18.

Roger Schmidt‘s side raced into a three-goal lead by half time thanks to strikes from Angel Di Maria, Orkun Kokcu and Rafa Silva, with the former adding his second following the break before substitute Casper Tengstedt rounded off a five-goal display with his fourth of the league term.

Heading into the final weekend of Primeira Liga fixtures, Benfica are cemented firmly to second position in the league table, eight points behind champions Sporting and a commendable 10 points ahead of third-placed Porto, who have a battle on their hands to hold onto their automatic ticket into the Europa League.

Unbeaten at their Lisbon base across their 17 Primeira Liga home clashes, the Eagles’ struggles on the road have cost them back-to-back Portuguese titles, with all four of Benfica’s defeats this term arriving in away fixtures, most recently at Famalicao on May 5 by a humbling 2-0 scoreline.

Having won the last 12 meetings between themselves and Rio Ave, Benfica will be very confident of ending their 2023-24 campaign on a high note this Friday.

Rio Ave Primeira Liga form:

Benfica Primeira Liga form:

Benfica form (all competitions):

Team News

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After being replaced during the half-time interval in the draw at Portimonense, Rio Ave winger Umaro Embalo could drop out of the side at the expense of Marios Vrousai.

Centre-back Helder Sa provided the assist for fellow defender Pantalon from the bench last weekend, and the 21-year-old could be rewarded with promotion to the starting XI.

Finding themselves four goals ahead after 60 minutes last time out, Benfica were able to rest a few legs ahead of this weekend’s final match, with Antonio Silva and Florentino Luis both going off early.

Danish striker Tengstedt could earn his eighth league start of the season if Schmidt opts to rotate his forward line for the last fixture of the campaign.

The Eagles will be without the services of right-back Alexander Bah due to a muscle injury, meaning that Fredrik Aursnes is a certainty to start in the backline for the visitors.

Rio Ave possible starting lineup:
Jhonatan; Pantalon, Santos; Patrick; Costinha, Idrissi, Gomes, Embalo; Joca, Ronaldo, Boateng

Benfica possible starting lineup:
Trubin; Aursnes, Otamendi, A Silva, Fernandez; Neves, Luis; Di Maria, Kokcu, Mario; R Silva

We say: Rio Ave 1-4 Benfica

With a top-half finish still a possibility, Rio Ave should be raring to go on Friday night, however the visit of Benfica looks set to be a challenging assignment.

The Eagles will be playing with no fear as the Primeira Liga title has already escaped them, meaning that the visitors should be relaxed enough to continue their rich vein of form in front of goal.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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