Week in Review – Portuguese Football Highs and Lows

Vitoria Guimaraes have been excellent under head coach Rui Vitoria, and currently find themselves at 3rd in the league.

Vitoria Guimaraes have been excellent under head coach Rui Vitoria, and currently find themselves at 3rd in the league.

It was an interesting week in Portuguese Football with the Big 3 in action. Porto kept pace with Benfica and Sporting had a rough game that ended their unbeaten run. Definitely many a headline made by the Tres Grandes in the English press, so let’s round-up the week’s news. Continue reading

Portuguese Liga Week in Review: Round 2

William Carvalho - SportingWith the transfer window about to close shut in only a matter of days, the amount of news is beginning to ramp up. Orlando Mac takes a look at the big stories over the past week. 

Porto, Benfica, Sporting Win, Champions League Success, Carvalho Saga Nears an End, and Azzurri on the Cheap

It was a busy week for all the Big clubs in Portugal, which made for a lot of interesting reading so here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in the Liga.

FC Porto got an important win for the club qualifying for the Group Stage in the Champions League. They also helped the Liga as a whole beating out French side Lille 2-0 at the Dragao (3-0 on Aggregate), boosting the Primeira Liga’s Co-efficiency points in Europe. Brahimi was a star again.

The William Carvalho story has taken another twist as Manchester United bump ahead of Arsenal, in the race for the impressive Portuguese National Team’s World Cup star. Sporting CP has dropped their asking price (although many strings attached) causing a frenzy of headlines.

Benfica in interesting news was turned down by Palermo striker Abel Hernandez. He would rather stay in Italy or move to a lower level EPL team instead. Good riddance I would say because clearly playing in a 5th rate league or not in the Champions League is better for his career.

FC Porto’s wonder boy Ruben Neves was given global attention again as FIFA posted an article praising the 17 year old on their website. Two weeks in and the young midfielder a U-17 star for Portugal has really made a name for himself.

SLB international midfielder Ruben Amorim hit the headlines unfortunately in a bad way, as he ruptured ligaments in his knee that will see him out of action for 6 months. It was a bad break for Ruben as Defensive Midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa was out with injury and it looked like he was going to get a lot of first team action in that role. Fortunately for Benfica they have Andre Almeida in the wings that could be a big star at the position.

Portuguese International Nani reported and got in action for Sporting CP helping them to a win. The bonus was that Bruno de Carvalho got Manchester United to foot most of his wage bills in the Rojo deal.

Joao Cancelo the talented Benfica fullback got a loan deal with Valencia who looks to give him some first team playing time. Cancelo was very impressive in pre-season this year for SLB and fans look forward to him taking big steps this season.

With Liverpool FC exchanging one troubled striker for another which seems fitting, AC Milan looked to replace Balotelli by poaching FC Porto’s monster attacker Jackson Martinez. They not only sent in a low-ball bid to Porto for Martinez they also wanted to make installment payments for him over a few years, in true Italian style. Someone should explain to the Italian Chiefs living in their fishbowl that the Primeira Liga is above them now, and that they will have to pay more and sell for less in dealings with the Big 3. We have 2 Big clubs (Benfica #5 & Porto #11) both hovering around the top 10 in European Club Charts they have none. MESSAGE TO AZZURRI: Enough with the tampering and lowballing Liga players.

Once again another interesting week in the Headlines for Portuguese Football, keep it locked here to PortugalFutbol.net for your Portuguese Futebol fix, and follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

Orlando Mac

Silvestre Varela Loaned to West Brom

Varela - Portugal V Luxembourg

Silvestre Varela

Porto to West Bromwich Albion (loan)

After first-team chances looked slim this pre-season, Porto winger Silvestre Varela has left the club on loan. The winger, who had been an undisputed starter over the past few seasons now will join English Premier League side West Brom on loan until the end of the season. There is no mention of whether or not West Brom will have the option to sign him at the end of the loan, but with his Porto future up in the air, there’s every possibility an option does exist. 

After a disappointing 2013/2014 campaign, Porto renovated their squad heavily. Head coach Paulo Fonseca was sacked and was replaced by former Spanish U-21 team head coach Julien Lopetegui. With Lopetegui came a host of Spanish players, including Adrian (Atletico Madrid), Oliver Torres (Atletico Madrid), and Cristian Tello (Barcelona). Other players were brought in from clubs such as Real Madrid, Granada, and Feyenoord. These signings spelled the end of Varela’s time at Porto, at least temporarily. 

Though Varela is taking a step backwards in term of quality of club (from Porto to West Brom), he is certainly stepping up in terms of league quality. The English Premier League has formed a reputation for being one of the most competitive leagues in existence at the moment. Varela will now have the opportunity to play against some of the finest opposition in world football, which will do nothing but help his chances of appearing for the Portuguese National Team. 

Porto Edge out Lille in 1st Leg of Playoff

Photo: Lusa

Photo: Lusa

2014-15 UEFA Champions League Play-Off Leg 1

LOSC Lille 0-1 FC Porto

Chances at a Premium as Tello Makes the Difference

In a game that could potentially impact European coefficients, FC Porto met French side Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in the first of two legs in qualifying for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League group stage. Both sides came into the match in good form, taking home three points in the last round of domestic play with professional displays. Ambitious clubs with European pedigree, both camps were confident of a positive result in the North of France; with anything but qualification expected, but a Herrera strike in a scrappy, albeit professional display, from the Dragons put them in the driving seat ahead of the second leg at the Dragão.

LOSC Lille: Enyeama; Souaré, Baša, Kjaer, Béria; Mavuba, Balmont (Lopes 62), Gueye; Kalou (Roux 76), Corchia, Origi (Mendes 72)

FC Porto: Fabiano; Alex Sandro, Maicon, Martins Indi, Danilo; Neves (Evandro 74), Casemiro, Herrera; Oliver (Quaresma 88), Brahimi (Tello 60), Jackson Martinez

René Girard played a defensive-minded 4-3-3 with playmaker Marvin Martin out with a hamstring injury from the win against Caen. Mavuba played as the holding midfielder, with fullback turned winger Corchia operating on the right. Belgian World Cup star Origi operated on the left flank, with Salomon Kalou the playing through the middle.

Lopetegui lined up with an adaptable 4-3-3 formation, sometimes resembling a 4-2-3-1, with Casemiro’s inclusion raising some eye brows, coming in for sacrificed captain Quaresma, as the ‘number 6.’ This liberalised Ruben Neves in a more advanced position, becoming the youngest Portuguese player since Cristiano Ronaldo to play in the Champions League. Herrera set up shop further forward, with Brahimi and Oliver Torres on the flanks.

Lille tentative in scrappy half

FC Porto started the opening period the better of the two sides; occupying space well and demonstrating quality through the middle in accounting for 70% of possession in the opening thirty minutes.

In this regard, the Dragons lacked quality in the final third as they struggled to carve out opportunities against a stubborn Lille defence with a tentative approach. The first instant of danger came in the 12th minute from a Neves effort that was always going wide, saved by Nigerian keeper Enyeama.

Jackson tried his best to change this, involving himself as much as possible, running in behind the Lille back four and dropping back in support. Neves continued to impress in a largely uneventful encounter, playing in a beautiful free kick for Jackson, who just missed it with his head. The difference was a tug on the Colombian’s jersey with a decent penalty shout.

On the other side, Lille continued to struggle; mustering their first shot on goal on the 34th minute mark with a tame deflected effort from Corchia. But the best chance of the match by a mile fell to the French from an Origi cross on the cusp of half time. Having turned Maicon inside out, the Liverpool loanee, quiet up to that point, teed up the lively Corchia for a blocked shot only yards out from goal, wastefully skying the second effort over the bar.

Lopetegui makes his move

The complexion of the match in the second half remained unchanged from its predecessor, with opportunities at a premium, as Porto dominated possession with little to show for it and Lille happy to sit back.

Brahimi and Torres both looked lively going forward, with some fine touches and ball movement, as well as Ruben Neves, emitting an air of confidence from the deal ball, taking on shots from distance and the opposition.

Origi attempted to change the match’s rhythm, trying to stretch the Porto defence in drifting to the left with Kalou down the middle, unusual considering Origi’s pace in one-upping Maicon on a few occasions.

At the hour mark Lopetegui decided to play his first hand with the bright Brahimi coming off for Tello. The Barcelona loanee made an instant impact similar to that a few days prior against Maritimo, exchanging a neat one-two with his head as Neves played him into space, leaving Souaré in his wake. The Spaniard checked his run and delivered a sumptuous cross to Martinez, whose magnificently saved effort on goal from a leap was dispatched emphatically into the back of the ol’ onion bag from Herrera, much to the delight of the travelling Tripeiro faithful.

Lille up the tempo

Immediately afterward the goal, Girard made his first move, throwing on Manchester City loanee and Portuguese youngster Marcos Lopes, joining Neves with his European debut, for the largely ineffective Balmont.

Tello continued to run riot, nicking the ball of Mavuba and following it up with a lovely ball to Jackson who got too excited in being caught offside.

Origi, continued to show promise as the game wore on, taken off for boyhood Porto fan Mendes.

In open play, Lille still continued to struggle to muster opportunities, although a different story from the deal ball, with a drilled free kick from Corchia evading a Souaré header as Fabiano made a clutch save; Mendes close on the follow up.

The largely ineffective Kalou was brought off for Roux with Girard playing with two recognised strikers. Lopes sat behind, with Mendes and Corchia adding width in a largely attacking formation.

Lille continued to gain a strangle hold of proceedings, although still not troubling the Porto back four in the final third, as The Great Danes lacked fluidity in their passing game. Porto was fine to sit back and play on the counter; Herrera dropping back in midfield with Casemiro as Evandro, took up the number 10 role.

The last opportunity for the game came from Lille. Lopes raced past Casemiro with a burst of speed after a couple of step overs, playing a ball into the box, with Corchia leaving it for substitute Roux. The Frenchman’s expertly taken touch made space for a shot, only to be denied the shared spoils by Maicon.

At the half-way point of the tie it is Porto that holds all the cards. René Girard will regret not forcing the issue on home turf, with late flurries not hiding this fact. Lille will rue golden opportunities from Corchia and Roux after a tentative start, but based on the balance of play, the better side won. Lopetegui and his men will take a crucial away goal back to the Dragão in vying for their 19th appearance in the Champions’ League group stage as they meet in six night’s time.


Mitchell Rua

Carrico Getting His Career Back on Track

photo courtesy foxsportsasia.com

photo courtesy foxsportsasia.com

Daniel Carrico

Reading to Sevilla

According to sources coming out of Portugal, Daniel Carrico has signed for Sevilla, after the club met his release clause of 1.8 million euros from Reading. The defender had been on loan from the English club for the entirety of last season, and after some impressive performances, Sevilla decided to make the move a permanent one. Now, Carrico can look to the future and attempt to put a nightmare-ish last two seasons behind him. Initially touted as Portugal’s golden boy when he burst onto the scene at Sporting during the 2008-2009 season, Carrico became a victim of Sporting’s fall from grace. Loss of favor from Sporting’s managers coupled with injury meant that Carrico has found it tough until recently. At Sevilla this past season, though, Carrico has flourished as the side impressed in La Liga and were eventual champions of the Europa League. It will be interesting to see if this move helps Carrico’s chances of playing for the National Team.

Marcos Lopes: Star of the (Near) Future?

Marcos "Rony" LopesFor those who follow the English game closely, the name Marcos Lopes may ring a bell. For those who don’t follow the English game very closely, prepare to hear that name more and more as time goes on. Marcos Lopes is a winger/attacking midfielder who turns out for Manchester City’s youth teams. And he doesn’t just turn out…He’s one of their most important and exciting prospects. Last year, having just turned 17, Marcos Lopes entered the pitch for Manchester City’s main team in an FA Cup draw against Watford. Although he was only on the field for a matter of minutes, the winger still managed to pounce on a rebound and score on his debut. The goal made him the youngest ever goalscorer for Manchester City. And it wasn’t just an accident. At the end of that season, Lopes was named the Manchester City Academy’s Player of the Year. As a result, he was made captain of the youth academy team for this season, 2013/2014.

Marcos Lopes - Watford debutOne may think that making a breakthrough at a club with a caliber such as that of Manchester City would be harder than, say, a team such as Aston Villa or Sunderland. That assumption is totally correct. Ahead of Lopes in the pecking order at City are the likes of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, and James Milner. Seasoned internationals. Bought for millions. This is what makes Marcos Lopes’ situation all the more special. Still only 17, he is already having a go at the first team. Time will tell whether or not he continues to receive opportunities, but there is still one thing that may greatly influence his development: his coach.

Marcos Lopes - Manchester City academyWhen Lopes debuted for the first time on that fateful night against Watford, the coach of Manchester City was Roberto Mancini. The fact that Lopes was considered for first team action under Mancini speaks wonders for the player’s work-rate and dedication. During his tenure, Mancini had tons of cash at his disposal and typically looked to purchase talent rather than develop it. Marcos Lopes’ debut wasn’t a fluke. Over the summer, Mancini was replaced with Manuel Pellegrini, who had a much different philosophy. Pellegrini had just left Malaga, a club who had originally been gifted with mass monetary resources (like Manchester City), but had then seen the money dry up. What Pellegrini was left with at Malaga was a squad with relatively few recognizable names. What he did was nothing short of a miracle. Helping the club to sixth in La Liga and the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Pellegrini relied on young, unproven players. This paid off, with Isco being at the heart of most of the success. With Pellegrini’s background as a youth development expert, we should logically expect to see more of Marcos Lopes, right? Right.  A couple of weeks ago, Manchester City began their League Cup campaign at home to Wigan Athletic. Starting on the left wing for City was none other than Lopes. Pellegrini obviously has faith in the 17 year old, as do much of the backroom staff and players, and for good reason.

Marcos Lopes - Portugal U-19Oh, and he also is a starter for the Portuguese Under 19 team. Debuting for the team at only 16 years of age, Lopes has gone on to make 13 appearances, scoring eight times. A call-up to the Portugal U-21 team is likely not far off, or maybe even the Senior Team. But who knows. If Marcos Lopes continues to develop as rapidly as he has been, the Seleccao may not be very far away.