PREVIEW: WEEKEND PORTUGUESE ACTION
Oguchi Onyewu and Sporting will hope to keep the pressure on the league leaders with a win in an away game at Académica, while Caleb Patterson-Sewell and Tony Taylor will try to end Atlético's recent skid.
Académica de Coimbra - Sporting CP
Sitting four points back in the title race, Sporting will be anxious not to lose any more ground on Porto and Benfica before the holiday break, though a road trip to sixth place Académica hardly guarantees points.
Sporting's starters should be well rested as Domingos Paciencia opted to field an almost entirely second choice lineup in their inconsequential Europa League loss to Lazio on Thursday, though Onyewu was one of two regulars to be named in the starting eleven.
Despite the short rest, Gooch is still expected to anchor the Lions defense against Académica, whose attack is led by Guinea-Bissau stiker Éderzito and midfielder Adrien Silva, who is actually on loan from Sporting.
Sporting have won eight of their last nine league matches and will enter Coimbra, home to an historic university founded in the 13th century, having lost just one away game in Portugal this season.
CD Aves - Atlético CP
Coming off their worst two game stretch of the season, an away defeat to Moreirense and a home tie with Penafiel, Atlético's lead at the top of the Liga Orangina standings has dwindled to a single point.
Caleb Patterson-Sewell, whose impressive early season play has reportedly drawn the interest of Sporting among others, will assume his customary role in net, while Tony Taylor will likely start on the right side of Atlético's front line.
Taylor will hope to get on the score sheet for the first time since September to relieve some of the burden from Tiago Caiero, who has carried Atlético's attack this season with six goals, including the team's last three tallies.
On the opposite end, Patterson-Sewell will have to contend with a balanced, if inexplosive, Aves attack. The hosts have seen eight different players record goals this season, though none have struck more than three times.
A win on Sunday would give Atlético a good chance to distance themselves from their fellow promotion chasers as second place Moreirense and third place Estoril face off earlier in the weekend.