The last two winners of the Primeira Liga title won the competition by five points but this season could well see the race go right down to the final day.
After Sporting shattered years of duopoly between Benfica and FC Porto by winning the league last season, it looks like a three-horse race once again for the Portuguese crown, and with just one point separating Portugal’s “Big Three” after 11 games. Everything points to this season being one to remember.
Ruthless Porto looking strong
After the first 11 games of the campaign it is Porto who have the goal difference advantage over second-place Sporting. Porto, along with Sporting, are the only two undefeated sides left in the competition at this stage of the campaign. The Dragons, who are priced at 2.50 in the betting on football to win the Primeira Liga title this season have been ruthless in front of goal. It will be hard for the football tips to go against the Blue and Whites, especially considering their clinical finishing. With 28 goals in those first 11 outings, Porto have been ruthless in the final third and are the highest scorers in the league at this stage.
Manager Sérgio Conceição has been able to rely on the attacking duo of Luiz Díaz and Mehdi Taremi for the goals, with the pair in fine form. Before November’s international break, Díaz had found the back of the net nine times, with Taremi contributing seven. If Porto are to go on and edge their competitors for what would be a 30th league title in their history, then Díaz and Taremi are likely to have played a key role.
Solid Sporting can go the distance
Reigning champions Sporting certainly don’t look like they will be giving up their title without a fight, and like Porto they too have made an impressive start to the season. What has been most eye-catching about Sporting this term, much like last year, has been the defence of Rúben Amorim’s team. After the first 11 games, Sporting have only conceded four goals. In a six-game winning streak over November’s international break Sporting, who have also started to pick up form in the Champions League, kept five clean sheets and conceded just a single goal.
Sporting have a good blend of experience at the back, with former Liverpool and Sunderland defender Sebastián Coates leading from the front, with his young centre-back partner Gonçalo Inácio looking set for a sparkling career. Inácio scored his first goal for Portugal’s U21 team this week and is expected to transition to the senior Seleção side in the coming months. If the Lions can avoid too many injuries at the back, their defence makes them serious contenders to go all the way for the title again this season.
Benfica back on song
With Porto and Sporting looking so strong after the first quarter of the season, Benfica can’t afford too many slip-ups if they are to be crowned Portuguese champions this term. The Eagles started superbly and were leading the pack early on, but had two frustrating results in October as they suffered a 1-0 defeat on home soil to Portimonense, before being held to a 1-1 stalemate on the road at Estoril. Manager Jorge Jesus has a quality squad at his disposal with plenty of attacking threats. Only Porto had scored more goals than Benfica before the international break, with the Reds scoring 27 times, and the signs are they are over the blip after smashing six goals past Braga in their last outing.
There really is so little to choose from between the big three in the league this season. Of course there’s a lot of football still to be played, but the Primeira Liga title race is shaping up to be the most exciting for a number of years.