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

Primeira Preview & Prediction (PPP) – Round 17


If he plays for Porto, expect goals from Jackson Martinez.

If he plays for Porto, expect goals from Jackson Martinez.

It seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it? Julien Lopetegui was bringing his brand of Barcelona tiki-taka to Porto, Marco Silva earned a promotion to manage an exciting young Sporting squad, and Jorge Jesus was foolishly putting his faith in a Brazilian named Anderson Talisca no one seemed to know much about. It was the beginning of a new Portuguese season, and, in many cities, the dawning of a new era of football.

Fast forward to today and you might be surprised to learn that months have passed since then, and, when Sporting and Rio Ave tidy up this weekend’s round of results, we will have already marked the halfway point of this Primeira Liga season.

It’s at this point that us fans of the Portuguese league should have a better understanding of our favourite teams and players, and, be confident in our abilities to predict future results. But, frustratingly, this isn’t always the case. As they say, prognostication is a tricky business…

That’s not going to keep me from trying though, and, it shouldn’t keep you from trying either. So, let’s get to it shall we? Let’s see what our psychic minds can come up with.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give to you Portugal Futbol’s 1st weekly Primeira Preview & Prediction column (or, PPP for short):   Continue reading

Primeira Liga Week in Review


Rafa Silva was hugely impressive for Braga against Pacos Ferreira. Photo: Getty Images

Rafa Silva was hugely impressive for Braga against Pacos Ferreira. Photo: Getty Images

It was an exciting weekend in the Primeira Liga, with a lot of movement in the table. Victories from Braga, Porto, Benfica, and Sporting all helped cement their places high up the table, while further losses from Gil Vicente, Nacional, and Vitoria Setubal slipped them further down the table. The match of note this weekend was Braga’s convincing 3-0 victory over the impressive Pacos de Ferreira. Let’s take a look at all the action. Continue reading

Primeira Liga Week in Review


Islam Slimani

Slimani struck twice for Sporting

This weekend saw the return of the Primeira Liga after a three week break. Braga, Sporting, and Porto all claimed large wins, while Vitoria Guimaraes won yet again, propelling the team to second in the table. Elsewhere, Gil Vicente and Penafiel slipped further into the relegation zone with a draw and a loss, respectively.  Continue reading

Primeira Liga Roundup: Round 1


Primeira Liga

The Portuguese league kicked off this past weekend, much to the delight of the followers of the Portuguese game. Here’s the round-up by Mitchell Rua of all the matches played this weekend. 

A Dream Debut (FC Porto 2-0 Marítimo)

FC Porto opened their campaign with a solid display against European hopefuls Marítimo in front of a packed Estádio do Dragão, capped off by goals from teenage debutant Ruben Neves Jackson Martinez.

Neves, the youngest player to start a league match for the Dragões opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, as the young Tripeiro rifled a shot from inside the penalty area past keeper Salin after receiving a deflected cross from the left.

Leonel Ponte’s men tried to respond, with Diego Sousa and Fran Sergio testing Fabiano, but to no avail, as Porto controlled most of the first-half. Oliver Torres was at the heart of each attack, with impressive ball circulation as both Quaresma and Brahimi wreaked havoc on the wings.

The second half brought an improved display as Marítimo’s resolve waned. Jackson began to rise to the occasion, with a couple of half-chances falling his way. Pontes threw on former Guimaraes striker Maazou in the hope of salvaging a point but opportunities were few and far between as the Madeirenses rued missed chances.

It was Lopetegui’s substitutes, Evandro and Tello that brought some much needed attacking penetration. The latter’s jinking run from the right and pass into the path of Cha Cha Cha was converted at the second attempt at the death as Porto got the deserved three points.

Gaitán answers his critics as Benfica break the curse (Benfica 2-0 Paços de Ferreira)

Benfica put in a dominant performance against last year’s bottom dwellers Paços in a match earmarked by the in-from Nicolas Gaitán, breaking a 10 year drought of opening games without a win.

Fonseca’s troops started the better of the two sides, wasting a golden opportunity from the penalty spot as Manuel Joe’s spot kick was saved by Artur with a diving save in potentially his last game for the Águias.

Gaitán found a vein of form sorely missed from his early Benfica days with two assists. The Argentine ran riot as Os Castores undoubtedly rueing missed opportunities as Maxi Pereira and Salvio netted a goal in each half.

The only blip on the Benfica radar came with an injury to combative workhorse Enzo Perez in potentially his last game for the club with the rumour mill in full swing over a potential transfer.

False start for Silva and co. (Académica 1-1 Sporting CP)

Sporting disappointed in their opening tie of the season, dropping two points to The Students. Os Verde-e-Brancos came into the tie having not lost in 36 years in Coimbra, and after Carillo’s header from a fine Jefferson cross it looked as if this trend would continue.

Marco Silva’s side took advantage of an Académica side under renovation, with sixteen departures and a new-look defence accounting for Sporting’s dominance, although the tie had not yet been put to bed after a flurry of opportunities to the visitors.

As the game wore on, Sporting’s stranglehold gradually weakened. Missing Slimani’s presence in the final third due to disciplinary measures, an out-of-touch William, sent off for a second bookable offence, and a Cédric injury opened the door for the home side.

In the end, Académica were able to salvage a point with from a Carrillo error as a last-gasp equaliser from Rafael Lopes sharing the points, much to the delight of the Mancha Negra faithful and coach Paulo Sergio: “There’s merit, but it’s only a point.”

Reality check for the Panthers (Braga 3-0 Boavista)

One of only two clubs outside the ‘Big Three’ to have won the league, Boavista was given a huge wakeup call against the Arsenalistas.

Six years after being demoted to the second division, and subsequently the third tier, Os Axadrezados, and former player, turned coach Petit, have a lot of hard work to do, conceding a goal to Pedro Tiba inside a minute.

History aside, the gulf in class was evident as Ruben Micael and Éder added further misery. A leaner footballing calendar for Sérgio Conceição could spell European football next season and a tilt at the coveted title that alluded them three years prior.

Guimaraes and Belenenses impress as Moreirense surprise

Belenenses and Vitoria Guimaraes both impressed away from home with 3-1 wins. Rui Vitória was “satisfied with the result” as a brace from B team graduate Hernani sandwiched a Bernard strike against Os Galos in Barcelos.

Newly-promoted Penafiel’s frailties were exposed Lito Vidigal’s Belenenses as the Lisbon-side left with three points thanks to goals from Sturgeon, Deyverson and Miguel Rosa, with Joao Martin’s penalty doing little to stop the organised outfit from Belem.

In Vila do Conde, European debutants Rio Ave continued to ride a wave of from after a solid 2-0 victory in a game with three red cards. Pedro Martins’ ten men took the lead through Diego Lopes having gone a man down, with a red card from Setubal’s Zequinha followed by Marcelo’s strike in the 77th minute, putting the game to bed. A late Manu sending off made little difference as Paciência made a poor start in his return to Portuguese football.

The biggest surprise of the round came with victory from Moreirense at the Choupana against Nacional, with Miguel Leal’s side finding the back of the net through substitute Ramon Cardozo. The former Setubal striker is known to have a keen eye for goal and he was the difference in the 80th minute as Machado’s men were left with egg on their face.

Jose Couceiro’s first game in charge of the league’s surprise package over the last couple of seasons, Estoril, ended in a stalemate. Last year’s new boys Arouca opened the scoring through Pintassilgo in the 17th minute, making the most of a Ruben Fernandes error. Estoril quickly responded; the Canarinhos scoring through former GD Chaves striker Kuca. Neither side could settle the tie, Couceiro venting his frustrations: “We created various opportunities on goal, but we paid for our mistakes.”

Artur the Hero as Benfica Make History


Artur played a huge part in Benfica's win. Photo Andre Alves/ASF

Artur played a huge part in Benfica’s win. Photo Andre Alves/ASF

Rio Ave 0-0 SL Benfica (2-3 on Penalties)

Supertaça

Artur the hero as Benfica make history

Benfica won their fifth Supertaça and fourth domestic title of 2014 as they met Taça de Portugal runners up Rio Ave for the opening fixture of the new Portuguese footballing season. The clubs made their 16th and maiden appearance, respectively, in the annual Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira at the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro in front of a crowd just short of 30 000. A replay of the Taça de Portugal and Taça da Liga finals, both sides hoped to add some silverware to their trophy cabinets in the hope of gaining some much needed momentum ahead of the league’s commencement in under a week’s time.

 SL Benfica: Artur; Maxi, Luisão, Jardel, Eliseu; Salvio (Bebé 106), Talisca (Derley 69), Enzo Perez, Ruben Amorim; Gaitán (Ola John 100) and Lima

Rio Ave: Cássio; Nuno Lopes (Wakaso 88), Marcelo, Prince-Désir, Tiago Pinto; Pedro Moreira (Diego Lopes 55), Filipe Augusto, Tarantini; Ukra, Hassan (Boateng 55) and Del Valle

Benfica’s line-up was an adaptable 4-4-2, with young Brazilian signing Talisca playing off Lima as a second striker, accompanied by the usual cast of Enzo and co. The greatest change was seen at the back, with a new-look left side as Jardel replaced Garay, with Eliseu at left-back.

Rio Ave came into the match with competitive fixtures under their belt having earned a spot in the play-offs of the Europa League. Pedro Martins chose a starting eleven including Pedro Moreira and Valencia-bound Brazilian youngster Filipe Augusto playing behind captain Tarantini. Both Lopes and Pinto would provide attacking threat from full back, with a talented front three consisting of Ukra, Hassan and Del Valle.

Talisca lively as Benfica dominate

From the outset, Benfica showed an attacking intent demonstrative of Jesus’ footballing mentality, nearly scoring as early as the 3rd minute with a dangerous Gaitán set-piece. Delivered into the heart of the box, it was met by a dangerous header from Luisão that was well-saved by Cassio.

Eliseu and Maxi both provided danger from the flanks, the latter blasting an effort across the face of goal, with Talisca’s outstretched leg at the second post only centimetres from searching from a defining touch

Gaitán and Salvio were efficient with their play, cutting in and running laterally, with Talisca’s incisive runs the outlet, although his shots lacked polished, seen just after 20 minutes when given a golden chance to break the deadlock from a Gaitán ball after cutting in from the right.

Benfica’s dominance continued through the first-half, accounting for of 67% possession, with chances created at a premium, as an Eliseu cross resulted in two consecutive opportunities for Salvio, the first cleared off the line by Prince and the second saved.

Rio Ave continued to struggle to muster any real attacking threat as constant pressure from Benfica, especially from Ruben Amorim as the midfield anchor, and Enzo, with the latter’s work ethic duly awarded with man-of-the-match.

The northern club’s best chance came from a silly error from frango-prone Artur, taking on his opponent and nearly losing the ball in the process to Venezuelan De Valle. This short-lived respite from a Benfica attack didn’t last long, as a quick counter-attack after a clearance was followed by a Talisca effort down the throat of Cássio who coughed it up to the oncoming Gaitán who couldn’t finish it.

 

Martins’ move earns some respite but Benfica roll on

The second half brought with it several changes in personnel, skewing the tie slightly more towards Rio Ave’s favour, although Benfica still continued to pepper Cássio’s goal. Martins showed his attacking intent in bringing on Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Boateng for the ineffective Hassan, and Diego Lopes for Moreira. Both showed their intent going forward in taking advantage of space left in between the Benfica’s lines and down the flanks.

This change stemmed the flow of Benfica chances but still brought little to change the complexion of the game as the capital club settled back into their rhythm; recording a total of 32 shots to Rio Ave’s 5. Jesus brought on former Marítimo striker for Talisca in the hopes of putting the game to bed, fruitless as the match remained scoreless upon the end of normal time.

 

Cassio heroics nearly the difference

The first-half of extra-time started with two Benfica set pieces, a corner and free-kick, leading to two stunning saves from the Brazilian shot stopper from Enzo and Jardel headers, respectively.

Jesus took initiative, bringing on Bebé and Ola John, but the last two chances fell to Rio Ave, both from corners. The first nearly snuck in, with Artur having to palm it over the bar. The second came at the 118th minute, Jardel misreading the ball’s projection, steering the ball onto the bar!

The match ended after 120 minutes with still no goals to account for, leaving the result to be decided by dreaded penalties.

 

Redemption for Artur

The battle of the keepers continued into penalties as the first two spot kicks were saved by Brazilian shot stoppers. Launching himself off his line, Artur guessed right, saving skipper Tarantini’s penalty. Cássio followed suit with a brilliant save from Derley. Finely dispatched penalties from Augusto, Lima, Ukra and Bebé followed; but the much maligned Artur was the hero with three penalty saves to his name.

Jesus Jorge and his Benfica side were justly rewarded for their sheer dominance in a game earmarked by the heroics of Rio Ave keeper Cássio and a tenacious Rio Ave defence. Although their general play was largely excellent, Jesus still has work to do as his side was dogged by inefficiencies in the final third. With reinforcements needed in various positions, underlined by Jesus himself; a lot can be taken from a positive performance. It is paramount that established players, such as man-of-the-match and midfield lynchpin Enzo, stay on. Both sides will have a lot to take from the match in Os Encarnados’ vying for more silverware and Rio Ave’s journey through Europe as the new season goes under way in less than a week.

-Mitchell Rua

Transfer Roundup – 9/3/12


It was an interesting transfer deadline day last Friday, with much happening in the world of Portuguese football. Joao Moutinho was at the heart of much of the news, with his transfer to Tottenham collapsing at the absolute last moment. Although Moutinho stole most of the limelight, there were still lesser-known transfers that were completed.

Tiago Pinto

Rio Ave to Deportivo

Deportivo added to their Portuguese contingent with the capture of Tiago Pinto from Rio Ave. The left-back will most likely play second or third fiddle for the club, behind first-choice Evaldo. Pinto’s move abroad comes as no surprise after two sold seasons at Rio Ave, where he established himself as an important player for the club.

Nuno Coelho

Benfica to Aris (Loan)

After making the move from Academica to Benfica at the beginning of last season, Nuno Coelho has found playing time at Benfica non-existent. In an effort to gain more playing time, he was loaned out to Beira-Mar, in the Liga Zon Sagres, and played well all season long. Now, with his situation at Benfica much the same, he has looked abroad for opportunities. The midfielder has joined Greek outfit Aris on loan for the entire season, and will hope that the experience will be a positive one.

Sana

Free Agent to Academica

Much was expected of Sana following his impressive performances for the Portuguese team at the 2011 U-20 World Cup, but an ill-fated move abroad in Spain has proved detrimental. Now, Sana has made the move back to Academica, as they attempt to bolster their squad ahead of their Europa League campaign this season. Surely, Academica will be a great place for Sana to continue his development and realize his potential.

Carlitos

Hannover to Estoril

While playing at Basel, Carlitos was being courted by some of the biggest names in Italy, including Roma and Fiorentina. He is now returning to Portugal to play for newcomers Estoril, after injuries hampered a two-season stay at Bundesliga side Hannover. His talent is undoubted, so he will surely add much to Estoril’s team.

Henrique

Academica to Blackburn

Blackburn have increased the number of Portuguese players in the team to six after their last-minute capture of Academica central-defender Henrique. After being purchased from Braga at the beginning of the season, Henrique was promptly snapped up by the English club, having only appeared twice for the Portuguese club.

Yannick

Benfica to Toulouse (Loan)

Yannick has found playing time at Benfica hard to come by, after completing his move there last season. The move to Benfica was surely a relief after his cancelled transfer to Nice, but competition has been fierce. Competing with the likes of Salvio, Nolito, Ola John, and Gaitan (among others), Yannick opted to go out on loan, to ensure playing time. He will play at Toulouse for the remainder of the season, with an option to buy.

Ukra

Porto to Rio Ave (Loan)

Porto winger Ukra has joined Rio Ave on loan for the entire season, as his options at Porto appear limited. The winger was in much the same situation last season, and joined Braga on loan for the entirety of last season. Though he was impressive when he played, he was injured during the majority of the time at the club. An undoubted talent, Ukra will surely shine for Rio Ave this season.