Suspension Reduced for Fernando Santos


Fernando SantosAfter deliberation, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced today that Fernando Santos’ suspension would be reduced from eight games to two games. Santos, the current Portuguese National Team coach, earned his eight-match suspension during last summer’s World Cup, where he was in charge of the Greek National Team. During the second round match against Costa Rica, Santos was expelled from the match, because of an alleged remark he made to the referee.  Continue reading

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PortugalFutbol.net is still searching for quality writers to add to the content of the site. In the past month, the site has welcomed Mitchell Rua and Orlando Machado, and has been able to improve quality and quantity of content. Though we now have three individuals working on the site, we are still in search for more.

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Luis Neto Signs for Zenit


Luis Neto

Neto

Siena to Zenit

After months of speculation regarding his future, Luis Neto has finally made the move away from Siena. A number of teams were reportedly interested in signing the defender, including Juventus, Roma, Dinamo Moscow, and Fenerbahce. Neto, however, has chosen to move to the snow-covered fields of Russia to meet up with fellow countrymen Bruno Alves and Danny at Zenit St. Petersburg. The Russian season has not yet begun, as the country is gripped by a bitter winter. If Neto can replicate the form that earned him plaudits at Siena, he will have no problem holding down a starting spot at Zenit. The price? 6 million Euros.

Who Will Make the Cut for Gabon Friendly?


The Portuguese National Team is scheduled to meet Gabon a little less that two weeks from now, and after a string of sub-par performances, they will be looking for a resounding win. International friendlies are often used to try out new players to the national team setup, but experimentation must be used in moderation. Paulo Bento surely knows this better than anyone at the moment. If he experiments too much, he risks the chance that the team may under-perform  If he doesn’t experiment enough, he will be accused of failing to change a team that isn’t getting results. In other words, Bento must find the right balance for the team. Let’s take a look at who may make the cut.

Goalkeepers

The goalkeeper situation is surely one that Bento won’t lose sleep over. With Beto (Braga), Rui Patricio (Sporting), and Eduardo (Istanbul BB) all regulars for their respective clubs, he can easily justify their inclusion. In fact, all three are enjoying wonderful seasons. Rui Patricio’s heroics have ensured that Sporting isn’t having an even worse season, while Beto has sparkled for Braga, both in the Champions League, and also the Liga Zon Sagres, where the team sits just behind Benfica and Porto, in third. Even Eduardo, who hasn’t had an easy time lately, is playing well for Istanbul BB, currently at 12th place in the Turkish league.

The main other contender is Mario Felgueiras, who has been in scintillating form for Romanian outfit CFR Cluj this season, namely in the Champions League. Felgueiras joined the Romanian team from Braga after an extremely successful loan to Brasov last season, and at only 25, Felgueiras still has much of his career ahead of him, as opposed to Eduardo and Beto, who are both 30.

Bento, however, will likely call only two goalkeepers for this friendly, as it is not sensible to have one goalkeeper sit the bench for no reason. Rui Patricio is a shoo-in, with the other spot up for grabs between Beto, Eduardo, and Mario Felgueiras.

Prediction: Rui Patricio, Beto

Defenders

On the contrary, picking defenders will be much more of a labored task for Bento. Pepe (Real Madrid) and Bruno Alves (Zenit) have been the foundation for the Seleccao defense ever since Ricardo Carvalho stormed out, and have generally impressed. Because Bento is not really one for experimentation, those two look certain picks. Elsewhere in the center of defense may be Sereno (Valladolid), Neto (Siena), Nuno Andre Coelho (Braga), Rolando (Porto), or Jose Fonte (Southampton). Sereno and Neto are starters for their respective clubs, and have accordingly been called to the Seleccao for some previous games, but have not made their debuts. Due to an injury to Douglao, Nuno Andre Coelho is getting a chance to shine at Braga, and much the same as Sereno and Neto, has yet to earn his first cap, despite having been called before. Rolando and Jose Fonte are not enjoying good seasons, however, but for different reasons. Rolando is not a starter for Porto anymore after the emergence of the Otamendi-Maicon partnership. For Jose Fonte, however, holding down a starting spot is the least of his worries. His defense at Southampton is the worst in the Premier League this season, having already let in 26 goals, only 9 games in. Nevertheless, he is playing at a more competitive stage than both Rolando and Nuno Andre Coelho, so a call may not be out of the question.

On the wings of defense, it seems Portugal has almost an embarrassment of riches. The obvious choices are Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid) on the left and Joao Pereira (Valencia) on the right. Though neither of their respective seasons have been strong, they are still definite picks, though Fabio Coentrao is injured, and thus ineligible for selection. The last spot must be picked from Miguel Lopes (Porto), Eliseu (Malaga), Nelson (Real Betis), and possibly even Cedric (Sporting). Eliseu is currently in the form of his career for Malaga, both in the Champions League and La Liga, while Nelson is also having a good time of it in La Liga for Real Betis. Miguel Lopes is seeing intermittent playing time for Porto this season, while Cedric has established himself as a starting right-back for Sporting.

Prediction: Pepe, Bruno Alves, Neto, Nuno Andre Coelho, Miguel Lopes, Joao Pereira, Eliseu

Midfield

Bento will likely be pulling out his hair when he begins to choose the midfield. Joao Moutinho (Porto) and Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev) both are obvious choices. They have enjoyed successful starts to the season in their respective leagues, but success has also come in the Champions League. Whereas Moutinho and Veloso are obvious choices, Raul Meireles (Fenderbahce), Custodio (Braga), Ruben Micael (Braga), and Hugo Viana (Braga) aren’t as much. While Ruben Micael, Custodio, and Hugo Viana are both enjoying wonderful seasons for Braga, and Raul Meireles is enjoying a good start to life in Turkey at Fenerbahce, none are guaranteed call-ups.

Three other midfielders who may earn the call are Manuel Fernandes (Besiktas), Carlos Martins (Benfica), and Ruben Amorim (Braga). Manuel Fernandes has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the Turkish league at the moment, while Ruben Amorim is becoming an integral part of the successful Braga team this season. Carlos Martins, however, is not having a good season at Benfica. He has hardly seen any playing time, and a call-up may only happen on the basis that he has been with the Seleccao for some time now. Also, Danny (Zenit) has recovered from his injury, and though he is out of match practice, a call-up is certainly not out of the question. Paulo Machado (Olympiakos) has enjoyed a good start to life in Greece, and is currently impressing in the Champions League.

Prediction: Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Ruben Micael, Hugo Viana, Custodio, Manuel Fernandes

Forwards

The striker position is one that arguably needs the most tinkering out of all other positions. Though Helder Postiga’s (Zaragoza) scoring rate for the Seleccao has been impressive, he has been accused (rightfully so) of missing crucial opportunities. Hugo Almeida (Besiktas) is considered even more of a culprit, so much that he wasn’t even called on for the Seleccao’s previous selection. Both strikers, however, have been in good form for their respective clubs so far this season, so a call-up would be merited, but possibly not a starting spot. Eder (Braga), Nelson Oliveira (Deportivo), and Nuno Gomes (Blackburn Rovers) have all been in varying degrees of form for their respective clubs, and a call-up is possible for any of them also. Eder’s inclusion in the squad is almost a definite. The striker has risen to prominence this season after his performances for Braga in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Champions League. He is currently the Liga Zon Sagres top scorer with six goals (in five games), and a starting spot is probable. Nelson Oliveira is certainly a star for the future, and his performances for Deportivo at the beginning of the season were promising, but he has since failed to live up to the hype. That having been said, a call-up is certainly not out of the question. While Nelson Oliveira is just beginning his career, Nuno Gomes is at the end of his. Gomes made a surprise move to England this summer to join up with second-tier side Blackburn Rovers. He has since shown that he still has the killer instinct in front of goal after scoring four so far this season. Due to his age, and the other striking options, a call-up is unlikely, but still possible.

One of Portugal’s strongest positions is on the wing. Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (Porto), and Pizzi (Deportivo) are shoo-ins to make the squad. Ronaldo has enjoyed a wonderful season to date, and being our captain and a former world player of the year, his inclusion is a no-brainer. Nani, on the other hand, is not having a wonderful season. The winger has been in and out of the team at Manchester United, and a recent row with coach Sir Alex Ferguson has all but ensured his departure this January. That having been said, his skill is undeniable, and a spot in the team is practically guaranteed. Varela has been in great form this season for Porto, having won the starting wing spot back after the departure of Hulk to Zenit, and a call-up is likely. Another player in great form is Pizzi, who is playing at Deportivo, currently on loan from Atletico Madrid. The winger has established himself as one of the most vital parts of the team at Deportivo, with his double against Barcelona proving just that. Though he hasn’t made his debut for the Seleccao yet, it surely isn’t that far away.

Other wingers that may make the grade are Bruno Gama (Deportivo), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), and Salvador Agra (Real Betis). All three have been in and out of their respective teams, but all possess undeniable talent.

Prediction: Nelson Oliveira, Eder, Helder Postiga, Pizzi, Ronaldo, Nani, Varela

Full Predicted Squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio, Beto

Defenders: Pepe, Bruno Alves, Neto, Nuno Andre Coelho, Miguel Lopes, Joao Pereira, Eliseu

Midfielders: Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Ruben Micael, Hugo Viana, Custodio, Manuel Fernandes

Forwards: Nelson Oliveira, Eder, Helder Postiga, Pizzi, Ronaldo, Nani, Varela

 

*Ricardo (Academica), Ruben Ferreira (Maritimo), and Nuno Andre Coelho (Braga) have been pre-selected, but are not necessarily guaranteed a spot in the final squad.

Opinion: Will Tottenham Swoop for Moutinho?


News came out today that Croatian midfielder Luka Modric had completed Tottenham to Real Madrid for a staggering 33 million euros. This move thins out what was an already thick midfield in regards to talent. On Tottenham’s roster are the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Rafael Van der Vaart, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jake Livermore, Scott Parker, and Sandro, all of whom are, or have been, regular internationals. Though it appears that more spending in the midfield may not be necessary, it appears that it will nevertheless happen.

All summer, Tottenham have been linked with a host of midfielders, in response to the almost imminent departure of star man Modric. One such player is Porto’s Joao Moutinho. Currently a mainstay of the Porto team, Moutinho dictates the play on the pitch. When he plays, Porto looks noticeably better. When he is benched, the team suffers. His role is that of a box-to-box midfielder. Gifted with loads of stamina, Moutinho will bounce around on the pitch, winning balls, and distributing them out. He’s not simply a tough player, though. At Porto, Moutinho has formed a reputation for being able to play a killer ball through the middle or out to the wings. This is much the same as Luka Modric at Tottenham. The two are similar in their basic strengths, but the are some minor differences (Modric is a better passer, Moutinho is scrappier). The gist of all of this is that Joao Moutinho and Luka Modric are similar players. Keep that in mind.

Joao Moutinho was born and raised a Sporting Lisbon player. He joined the Under-14 Sporting Lisbon team in 1999, aged just 13. He stayed at the club all the way until 2010, when Porto controversially purchased him. He, along with Miguel Veloso, was the crown jewel of the club, as he and Veloso’s development was because of the team’s youth setup. Moutinho was made vice-captain at age 19, and soon after, was named captain. It seemed like he would be a mainstay at Sporting for years to come. That was not to be the case however. An Andre Villas-Boas-led Porto bought him at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and he has never looked back. This move was a curious one, as Moutinho was arguably in the darkest part of his career at the time of his move to Porto. He had just been excluded from the Portuguese team at the World Cup, and had just come off a sub-par year with Sporting. On top of that, he was moving to a club in the midst of a change of managers; from one extremely experienced manager to an unproven rookie. Porto, it should also be said, had only achieved third place in the league the season before. Because of all of this, his move to Porto was a strange one, but it proved to be extremely fruitful.

It now appears that Moutinho may be reunited with Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham. Last season, when Villas-Boas was the Chelsea boss, there was speculation that he would move for Moutinho. It’s no secret that Villas-Boas is a fan of Moutinho, but with the coach also weighing up moves for French international Yann M’Vila, Dutch international Ibrahim Afellay, Shakhtar star Willian, and American international Clint Dempsey, will a move for Moutinho actually happen?

Tiago Ilori Debuts for Sporting


Due to a mini injury crisis in the Sporting Lisbon defense, Domingos Pacienca handed a start to 18 year-old center-back Tiago Ilori against Leiria yesterday. The youngster was given a squad number at the beginning of the season, and though he has primarily been with the youth team this season, he has made the bench for one of the team’s Europa League matches. Tiago Ilori performed admirably enough during the match against Leiria, as Sporting ran out not-so-easy winners. The only glaring mistake on his performance came when he failed to judge a lofted ball over his defense; a mistake that led to Leiria’s only goal. The game ended 3-1 in Sporting’s favor, with Tiago Ilori establishing himself as a player for the future.

Orlando Sa Shines on Debut


Fulham’s new number 9, Orlando Sa, made his debut in a Carling Cup clash with English giants Chelsea, which Fulham lost on penalties. Orlando Sa was handed a starting spot alongside Bryan Ruiz up front, and did not disappoint. Orlando Sa showed great control and movement throughout the game. It appears that the forward has formed a great partnership with Bryan Ruiz, which will certainly pay dividends in the future. Goal.com gave Sa a 7.5/10 rating, one of the highest of the game. Orlando Sa has surprisingly been given the number 9 shirt ahead of the likes of Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele, which certainly shows the faith that Fulham coach Martin Jol has in the striker.

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Pizzi Debuts for Atletico


Pizzi has made his highly anticipated debut for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. Well, it was highly anticipated for me. Pizzi is a player who has shown huge amounts of potential over the past couple of seasons for Pacos Ferreira, on loan from Braga. At the beginning of this season, Braga announced that the winger would stay in the first team, and that he would join the team for their pre-season. Pizzi joined them, and was one of their stand-out performers. Much was expected of him, but few expected him to make a move to one of the biggest teams on Spain. He did however, moving to Atletico Madrid on a bizarre loan move. After joining up with the team, he made the bench for Atletico’s first Europa League group stage game, against Celtic. Today, however, Pizzi finally made his debut in Atletico’s 4-0 drubbing of Racing Santander. His debut was hugely overshadowed by Falcao’s hat-trick. Speaking after the game, Pizzi expressed his delight in making his debut for Atletico, stating that “It’s the best team I’ve ever been in during my career. We have players with great quality and it’s a great club.” If Pizzi continues his hard work and impresses the Atletico Madrid coach enough, the Spanish club have the ability to activate a clause in Pizzi’s loan contract to buy the winger for 15 million euros. Right now, that seems a little steep. Come January, that may seem a bargain.