Primeira Preview & Prediction (PPP) – Round 21


Will Hernani return to haunt his former club?

Will Hernani return to haunt his former club?

It’s the weekend of love in the Liga NOS and around the world, and, dare I say, I’m in quite the jovial mood with regards to my predictions. But, much like being in a relationship, that feeling of warmth can dissipate rather quickly.

Now, I’m still fighting an uphill battle with a 14-22 overall record up to this point, but, things are starting to improve and I’m starting to show a little consistency in this game. Last week saw me go 4-5 for the second round in a row and, with the exception of that disastrous 1-8 result a couple of weeks ago, I’ve pretty much been hovering around the .500 mark. I don’t know about you but that’s a lot better than I expected when I decided to give this series a go.

This is a new round though – the 21st round of play in the newly named Liga NOS – and, from the looks of it, it’s going to be quite an interesting one to take in.

Last week was all about unpredictability what with all the changes in personnel over the days prior, and well, we certainly got some in the results. In particular, it seemed like no lead was safe as, of the 21 goals scored in total, 8 of them came in the last 10 minutes of the game. It was quite the spectacle and reminded me of why I love this league and Portuguese football so much.

Building on the events of the last couple of weeks, and, the idea of unpredictability itself, the theme for this week seems to be identity. Or, to put it another way – who are we and what are we made of?

This is, in a lot of ways, a make or break weekend for every team in the league. Teams like Academica, Arouca, and even Guimaraes may just find themselves sitting disheveled on the couch eating a tub of ice cream asking “What if…?” at the end of the season if they don’t turn things around as soon as possible. And, what of Penafiel and Sporting? Will they be able to bounce back and continue to play well following heartbreaking results?

This weekend, perhaps more than most other weekends, will go a long way towards determining what the league table looks like at the end of the year, and, I think many of these clubs are aware of that. So, don’t be surprised to see a number of cagey matches over the next few days. Teams will not only be looking to be cautious with their opponents, but, in a philosophical sense, they’ll be looking to discover themselves as well.

Here are my picks for this Valentine’s round of play:     Continue reading

Top 5 U-24 Liga Players from 2013/2014 Season…Outside the Top 3


Some players come into the spotlight because of playing for a big club. Their performances may not be any more noteworthy than other players’, but they continue to get press recognition because of the club that they play for. As a result, there are sometimes players whose solid performances fly under the radar; players who do not get as much hype. In Portugal, there has become a domination from teams known as “The Big Three.” Made up of Sporting, Benfica, and Porto, the “Big Three” has not been as clearly defined in recent seasons (Pacos Ferreira finished third in 2012/2013, Braga has risen to prominence, as has Estoril). This past season, however, “The Big Three” were back again with Benfica finishing 1st, Sporting 2nd, and Porto 3rd. As stated above, players from clubs outside of the “Big Three” in Portugal sometimes don’t really rise to prominence until they earn a move to one of the “Big Three” or abroad. That’s not to say their performances aren’t worthy of recognition. So, Portugal Football has decided to list the…

Top 5 Under-24 Liga Zon Sagres Players from the 2013/2014 Season…Outside the “Big Three”

Joao Mario - Vitoria Setubal1. Joao Mario – Vitoria Setubal (on loan from Sporting Lisbon)

The very fact that Joao Mario tops our list despite only spending half of a season at Vitoria Setubal says a lot. A center midfielder by trade, Mario is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s top prospects. In his 15 league appearances for Setubal, Mario helped his team to notable draws against Benfica and Sporting, and played a large role in the team’s impressive season. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a starting spot with the Portuguese Under-21 team and a role in Sporting’s first team for this season.

Andre Andre - Vitoria Guimaraes2. Andre Andre – Vitoria Guimaraes

The oldest on our list, Andre Andre has become an irreplaceable part of Rui Vitoria’s side. Andre has garnered attention abroad from his performances this season, and it comes as no surprise. The center midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions, leading the team through a campaign both in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb are said to be interested in Andre, but if he gets another solid season under his belt, there will likely be larger clubs interested.

Bebe - Pacos Ferreira3. Bebe – Pacos Ferreira (on loan from Manchester United)

Bebe was the laughing stock of English football after his ill-fated move from Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010. And to a certain extent, he still is. But not in Portugal. Bebe was on loan this season at Pacos Ferreira from Manchester United. Though the side struggled, barely managing to avoid relegation, Bebe shone. The Manchester United man struck 12 times for the team in only 27 appearances. These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that he scored these from his primary position out wide. His scoring exploits made him the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and Manchester United have opted to take him on their pre-season tour most likely as a result of his performances. But Manchester United will have to fend off interest from Benfica, who are reportedly very interested in acquiring his services.

Ricardo Horta - Vitoria Setubal4. Ricardo Horta – Vitoria Setubal

Last season was possibly the best debut season Ricardo Horta could have hoped for. A product of both Benfica’s and Vitoria Setubal’s youth setups, Horta was promoted to Setubal’s first team this season. After impressive performances early in the season, Horta was awarded a starting spot and never looked back. Finishing the season with seven goals in 34 appearances on the wing, Horta was named to the Portuguese Under-20 team’s Toulon Tournament squad, scoring the deciding goal in the third place match against England. Malaga are said to be very interested and extremely close to signing the player, and it comes as no surprise. And he’s only 19!

Danilo Pereira - Maritimo5. Danilo Pereira – Maritimo

A product of Benfica’s famed youth academy, Danilo Pereira first rose to prominence at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he performed admirably in Portugal’s midfield, helping them to a second place finish. A move abroad ensued, and after some more spells abroad, Pereira ended up at Maritimo last season. Pereira appeared 28 times for the Madeira-based club, helping them to a mid-table finish. His performances drew the interest of Sporting, who many speculate see him as the natural successor to William Carvalho.

Oliveira and Sana Dropped Due to Injury


Nelson Oliveira and Lassana Camara have both been dropped from the Portuguese Under-21 team, due to injury. Both Oliveira and Sana, as he is called, impressed for Portugal during this summer’s U-20 World Cup. They have more than earned their call-ups, but their U-21 debuts will have to wait. Pele, of Genoa, and Joao Silva, currently on loan at Vitoria Setubal from Everton, have been called up as able replacements. Joao Silva has been in fine form this season, already scoring twice this season. Pele has yet to play for Genoa, but like Sana and Nelson Oliveira, he was impressive in the U-20 World Cup.

Bento Names Squad of 21


Portugal coach Paulo Bento has named a squad of 21 for the team’s upcoming friendly with Luxembourg next week. The game is the Seleccao’s last warm-up game before their continuing Euro 2012 qualification  campaign. The most notable inclusions in Bento’s squad are Andre Castro, Nuno Gomes, and Quim. Nuno Gomes and Quim were previously Benfica stalwarts, but are both now at Braga. Both seem to be on the out for the Seleccao, but Bento evidently still has a plan for them. Andre Castro had an impressive season on loan from Porto at Sporting Gijon. The midfielder impressed a lot at Gijon, quickly establishing himself as a starter.

Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Benfica), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Quim (Braga)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Zenit), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Sporting), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid), Silvio (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Castro (FC Porto), Andre Santos (Sporting), Joao Moutinho (FC Porto), Raul Meireles (Liverpool), Ruben Micael (FC Porto)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Danny (Zenit), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Postiga (Sporting), Nani (Manchester United), Nuno Gomes (Braga), Varela (FC Porto)

Everton Loans out Silva


English Premier League giants Everton have loaned out their U-21 international, Joao Silva, to UD Leiria, for the remainder of the season. Joao Silva moved from Aves, in the Liga Orangina, to Everton, in the English Premier League, over the summer for a fee believed to be around 1 million pounds. Silva has since not found any playing time at the club, although his talent has been shown well for the Portuguese Under-21 team. Joao Silva broke onto the Portuguese football scene last season after he finished the season (his debut season) in second overall on the goalscoring charts for the Liga Vitalis. Everton were quick to snap him up, and after an assuring pre-season, Silva was given a first team number, and has spent much of his time with the first team. Now, he will join Lieira on loan, where he will hope to gain some playing time.