Opinion: 10 Players Who Could Break Out This Season


We could see big things from Carlos Mane this season.

We could see big things from Carlos Mane this season.

Portugal’s performance at the FIFA U20 World Cup and UEFA U21 European Championships strengthened the perception that Portuguese football is on the ascendency once again.

Andre Gomes, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva are just some of the players that have established themselves over the past few seasons. The editors of FutebolFactory.com and PortugalFutbol.net have compiled a list of ten players who they think could make a big breakthrough this season. Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Albania


Paulo Bento - Portugal

Portugal vs Albania

Match Preview

The Portuguese National Team will kick off their UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign tomorrow when they host Albania. Portugal is also joined in Group I by Denmark, Armenia, and Serbia. France will also play all of the teams in Group I, but the matches will not count towards the final group standings, as France is automatically qualified as host of Euro 2016. With Serbia, Denmark, and Armenia all wildcards capable of giving Portugal trouble, one feels that the matches against Albania are must-wins for the Portuguese.

Paulo Bento named a decidedly new-look Portuguese team for this match, most likely as a response to team selection criticism after the World Cup. Bento has earned a reputation lately for being set in his ways. Many believe he is too much set in his ways, but the fact that he has stuck with players who are past their prime is one that cannot be overlooked. Players such as Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga, and Miguel Veloso have all seen better days, but are still automatic starters under Bento. Players such as William Carvalho, Jose Fonte, and Adrien Silva have been given few opportunities, despite stellar performances. In fact, with the example of Fonte and Adrien, Bento has not even selected these players, despite their solid performances in the Premier League and the Portuguese Liga, respectively.

When it was announced that Paulo Bento would stay on as coach until at least Euro 2016, many fans feared more of the same favoritism for two more years. This favoritism, many fear, could cost the team qualification for Euro 2016, which could be the first time Portugal has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But, with the team that Bento selected for tomorrow’s match against Albania, many of the hardcore opponents will be appeased. In the team that Bento named, no less than seven players have the opportunity to make their debuts. These players are Pedro Tiba (Braga), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), and Adrien Silva (Sporting). All seven are enjoying positive starts to their respective seasons, and it is encouraging that Bento is giving opportunities to young, capable players. And there are some statistics that show Bento’s change in heart:


Average age of 2014 World Cup squad: 27.9 years old

Average age of squad named for Albania game: 25.6 years old

Average number of appearances for 2014 World Cup squad: 34.5 caps

Average number of appearances for squad named for Albania Game: 23.4 caps


As the numbers show, the team that Bento named for tomorrow’s match is both drastically younger and more inexperienced. This decision to boot experience and age in favor of younger, more inexperienced players could prove to be a positive decision. The Portuguese are coming off of a tournament that they were expected to perform much better than they did. With their star man Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly at his height as a footballer at the age of 29, the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s. Portugal had an experienced team, which was led by arguably the finest player in the world at the time of the tournament, and the team was expected to beat out the United States and Ghana easily to earn a second-place spot behind Germany (at least) in Group G. The rest is history, and the decision by Bento now to bring in new faces suggests that he is preparing the team to move on and look ahead to future challenges (such as Euro 2016).


Portugal last met Albania in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the team was led by Carlos Queiroz, who if nothing else, instilled a defensive solidarity in the team. In the 10 matches during qualification, the team only conceded five goals in total. When the team met Albania in those qualifying matches, both teams’ tactics cancelled each other’s out. Both were defensive-leaning teams, and though Portugal possessed much greater talent, the outcomes were stale matches. The two times the teams played, the outcomes were a 0-0 draw and a last-minute 2-1 victory for Portugal.

This time around, Portugal plays a much more open, attacking style of play, one that can be used towards a much more positive result against Albania. Though the team will be lacking their start man, Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no shortage of talent and dynamism in the team. As this is a qualification match, Paulo Bento will likely keep his experimenting to a minimum.

Rui Patricio is a no-brainer to start in goal as a result of solid performances both for Sporting at the Seleccao recently. In front of Patricio will likely be a familiar back-line, something that Bento may be reluctant to change. Fabio Coentrao merits inclusion at left-back, while Joao Pereira could very well start on the right. There is a possibility that Joao Pereira could be benched in favor of Andre Almeida. Pereira’s future at Valencia is currently up in the air, and Bento has given hints that his starting spot is not set in stone. Pepe will likely start, seeing as he has been Real Madrid and Portugal’s starter for some time. The other center-back spot will likely come down between Ricardo Costa and Luis Neto. Though Ricardo Costa is 33 and not playing in a major league, Bento will likely choose him to start.

In midfield, Bento will likely have learned his lesson with William Carvalho. Carvalho will most likely start ahead of Miguel Veloso. Ahead of Carvalho will likely be Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles, who is one of the players whose lackluster performances lately have been noticed, may be benched in favor of Adrien Silva, whose performances for Sporting have been wonderful. On the wings, Nani will likely resume his starting position, after playing regularly for Sporting. Filling the hole left by Ronaldo will likely be Vieirinha, who is impressing at Wolfsburg. Up top should be Eder, who is the team’s most viable option as striker. Bento has also hinted that Ivan Cavaleiro could be used as striker for the team, but it remains clear who will start.

Here’s the full lineup, as predicted:

Portugal-Albania predicted lineup

If the team can learn from its previous mistakes, Portugal should have no problem with this game. The fact that Bento is giving opportunities to younger players, the morale and drive of the team should be very high. A positive performance in this game could very well put their underwhelming performances at the World Cup behind them. Put simply, a win tomorrow can be the first step towards a new chapter in Portuguese football.


 

PortugalFutbol prediction: Portugal 4-1 Albania

Transfer Round-up – 1/26/14


Pedro Mendes - SassuoloPedro Mendes

Parma to Sassuolo

After a limited amount of playing time so far for Serie A side Parma, Pedro Mendes has sealed a free transfer to league-strugglers Sassuolo.

Hugo Vieira - BragaHugo Vieira

Braga to Gil Vicente (loan)

After moving to Braga from Benfica this summer, Vieira has found playing time hard to come by this season. In the opportunities he was given at Braga, Vieira failed to impress. Now, Vieira will join the club where he made his start seasons ago.

Betinho - Vitoria SetubalBetinho

Sporting to Vitoria Setubal (loan)

After impressing this season for Sporting B, scoring nine in 17 games, Betinho will now have his first opportunity at playing in the Liga Zon Sagres, joining Vitoria Setubal on loan until the end of the season.

Salvador Agra - AcademicaSalvador Agra

Real Betis to Academica (loan)

Salvador Agra has joined Academica on loan until the end of the season after a disappointing loan spell at Braga during the first half of the season.

Andre GomesAndre Gomes

Benfica to ?

Benfica announced today that Andre Gomes has been sold to an unnamed team for 15 million euros. After a promising start to his Benfica career, Gomes has found playing time very limited, and although Matic has departed the team for Chelsea, it does not appear that Gomes will see more playing time. Liverpool have been touted to make a move for the midfielder, and Anfield could very well be where Gomes ends up at the end of the day.

Nelson Moves to Italy


Nelson - Portugal vs Finland

Nelson

Real Betis to Palermo

Real Betis right-back Nelson has made the switch to Italy to join Palermo. The Italian side are struggling in Serie A so far this season. Normally a top half team, Palermo now finds itself second to last in the Serie A, with only 17 points from 22 games. Real Betis, however, is currently over-performing in La Liga, and currently sits at fifth in the standings. Nelson has appeared only ten times in the league for Betis so far this season, but will most likely become an important part of Palermo.

Agra Loaned to Siena


Salvador Agra - Portugal vs Albania - U-21

Salvador Agra

Real Betis to Siena (loan)

Real Betis have decided to loan out Salvador Agra to Serie A side Siena until the end of the season. Currently in last position in the Serie A, Siena are looking for reinforcements to help with the relegation battle. Real Betis, on the other hand, is flying high in La Liga, and is looking to consolidate their squad. Agra moved to Betis this past summer, after impressive performances for the Portuguese Under-21 team and for Olhanense. He has found playing time relatively plentiful, but has not quite adapted to the league. Now, he will join up with fellow countryman Luis Neto, who he played with in his earlier days at Varzim, and attempt to battle away for Siena.

Coentrao to be Involved in Bale Swap Deal


Fabio Coentrao – Real Madrid to Tottenham?

News has come out recently that Real Madrid have made Tottenham winger Gareth Bale their number one target for this upcoming transfer window. Bale has shown his credentials as one of the finest young wingers in the game at the moment, and Real hope to add him to their squad. In order to make the deal more attainable, according to reports, Real Madrid are prepared to include Fabio Coentrao in the deal. So, Coentrao would move to Tottenham, while Bale would move the opposite direction to Real Madrid. Coentrao would likely not find holding down a starting position very hard. Regardless of whether this move goes through, it is looking more likely every day that Fabio Coentrao will not be a Real Madrid player next season.

Coentrao to Re-Join Benfica?


Fabio Coentrao 

Real Madrid to Benfica?

Reports coming out of Portugal suggest that Fabio Coentrao may be poised for a shock move back to Portugal. The left-back made the move from Benfica to Real Madrid for 30 million euros at the beginning of last season, but has failed to hold down a regular spot. Despite a superb showing at Euro 2012, Coentrao has found playing time hard to come by, especially due to Marcelo’s solid performances. Now, Benfica are reportedly interested in buying back the defender.

Bento Calls on Neto


Paulo Bento released a 23 man squad today for the Portugal National team’s upcoming World Cup qualifying fixtures against Russia and Northern Ireland. The biggest surprise on the list was the inclusion of Siena central-defender Neto in the squad. The defender has been impressive in Italy so far this term, and has earned his first call accordingly. Pizzi and Sereno were included for the second squad in a row, and both have yet to make their debut. Hugo Almeida missed out again. Here’s the full list:

Goalkeepers: Beto (Braga), Eduardo (Istanbul BB), Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Zenit), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Sereno (Valladolid), Miguel Lopes (FC Porto), João Pereira (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), Luís Neto (Siena)

Midfielders: Custódio (Braga), João Moutinho (Porto), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Raúl Meireles (Fenerbahce), Rúben Amorim (Braga), Rúben Micael (Braga)

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Nani (Manchester United), Pizzi (Deportivo La Coruña), Nélson Oliveira (Deportivo La Coruña), Varela (Porto), Éder (Braga)

Nani to Leave Manchester United?


Nani

Manchester United to Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Tottenham?

Manchester United winger Nani is reportedly unhappy at the club, and may be forced to leave if the situation does not improve. The winger wants to renew his contract at the club, but the officials in charge of such matters are slow to respond. Consequently, Nani has taken this to mean that he is not wanted at the English club, even though he very much wants to stay. If Nani were to decide to leave, there would be no shortage of clubs waiting in the wings, with Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Tottenham all reportedly interested.