PREVIEW: WEEKEND PORTUGUESE ACTION
Oguchi Onyewu will assume his customary role in the center of the Sporting defense when Nacional visits on Saturday, while Caleb Patterson-Sewell and Tony Taylor have home game against Penafiel.
Sporting CP - CD Nacional
After a seven game winning streak in the league was snapped by archrival Benfica just after Thanksgiving, Sporting will look to renew their title chase against 12th place Nacional.
Domingos Paciencia will likely field what has become his first choice backline, pairing Onyewu and Anderson Polga in the center with Portuguese international Joăo Pereira on the right and Argentine Emiliano Insúa on the left.
Likewise, leading scorer Ricky van Wolfswinkel will be counted on to shoulder the attacking load, though he will be without fellow Dutchman Stijn Schaars, who will miss his first club game in roughly nine months.
Valeri Bojinov, who was ineffective in Sporting's most recent cup match, is also expected to be replaced by twenty year old Peruvian attacker André Carrillo in the starting lineup.
Nacional will make the roughly 600 mile trip from the Atlantic island of Madeira to the Portuguese capital hoping to jumpstart their campaign.
The guests have been shut out five times on the season, but have also leaked goals at an alarming rate, conceding four or more goals three times in their eleven games.
Sporting will know better than to take the islanders lightly, however, as Nacional has finished in the top half of the standings each of the past three years, and has consistently taken points off the Lions as well, including a win and a tie last season.
Atlético CP - FC Penafiel
Despite suffering the second defeat of their campaign in their last outing, Atlético remain in first place and will continue their promotion chase when seventh place Penafiel visits the Estádio José Gomes.
Former New York Red Bull Caleb Patterson-Sewell, who had backstopped Atlético to seven shutouts before surrendering three goals in the loss to Moreirense, will assume his customary position in net for Joăo de Deus' side.
Fellow Yank Tony Taylor's role, on the other hand, is less secure.
The Florida native, in his third season in the Liga Orangina, had been a regular in Atlético's three-man front line before missing out entirely in the previous match.
For their part Penafiel will look to challenge the host's defensive record with their own potent offense, which is led by Brazilian forward Manoel who leads the league in scoring.