The Primeira Liga came back with a bang last weekend after the international break. Three games had 5 or more goals and there were two upsets as Benfica drew at home against Casa Pia and Braga played out a dramatic 3-3 draw with Gil Vicente in Barcelos.
In round 10 Benfica try to navigate their first rough patch of form under Roger Schmidt, Porto seem to be getting back on the right track with some convincing wins under their belt, while Sporting continue to lead the pack, churning out victories even in the most difficult games.
PortuGOAL looks ahead to the weekend schedule.
Chaves v Benfica – Champions struggling to find form
All eyes will be on Benfica this weekend having lost their third consecutive Champions League game at home against Real Sociedad (meaning they are yet to score a goal in the UCL group stages, let alone register a point), and following this up with a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Lisbon minnows Casa Pia. Roger Schmidt felt the full disdain of the Benfica crowd at full time. A slim glimmer of hope came in the Taça da Liga in midweek, as they went away to Arouca and got an important 2-0 win, although news that David Neres will be out of action long term was another blow.
Perhaps another away trip could take some of the pressure off Benfica who would not be looking forward to another game in front of an agitated Estádio da Luz crowd. They make the long journey north to play Chaves, never an easy place to go, but will take comfort from the fact that Chaves lost 5-0 in Guimarães last weekend. The hosts will hope that they can channel the negativity of that drubbing against Vitória and turn it into motivation for what would be a surprise result against Benfica.
Porto v Estoril – Dragons starting to click
Porto will also be well worth keeping an eye on. For the first time this season they won a league game by a margin of more than one goal as they beat Vizela 2-0 away from home. Following an emphatic 4-1 win in the champions league away at Antwerp, Porto could finally be putting a run of good form together, and will be eying a home fixture against Estoril as the perfect opportunity to keep that sequence going. Mehdi Taremi scored against Vizela, and Evanilson has been in excellent goalscoring form of late, so they should have the firepower needed to get themselves another important win.
Sporting v Estrela – Lions out in front
Sporting continue to set the pace at the top of the table. Beating high-flying Boavista 2-0 away from home was so important, having seen Benfica and Braga both drop points earlier in the weekend. It wasn’t an easy game by any means – Boavista put up a good fight and had a goal narrowly ruled out for offside – but this game showed that Sporting can win ugly when needed, as well as playing well in recent games. They also return home and play fellow Lisbon side Estrela Amadora, looking to ensure at least a 3-point buffer to take to the Estádio da Luz in next week’s derby versus Benfica.
Although a newly promoted team, Estrela have already put in good performances against Benfica and Porto, although they walked away from both of those games empty handed. They’ve shown they can be competitive in the league, and taking points off the leaders would be the perfect statement result to show that they’re really here to make an impact.
Braga v Portimonense – Improving Algarve outfit to test brittle Braga
Braga had a lot of people optimistic at the beginning of the season after a good transfer window and some positive early results, but it’s hard not to feel like they haven’t slipped up too many times already this season. Drawing against Gil Vicente last weekend in a game where their defence again showed its fragility, meant more unwanted points dropped, and they now sit five points off the top three, and behind local rivals Vitória. The Arsenalistas are hosting Portimonense at home and will desperately need a win in order to keep their season on track.
Portimonense are starting to show the kind of form they tend to show every season early on, making everyone ask the question ‘could they be a surprise package?’ It rarely lasts but whilst they’re playing well, they could cause unwanted problems for Braga.
Moreirense vs Vitória – Pacheco packing a punch
Outside of those four clubs, Moreirense vs Vitória is the standout game. Moreirense have started to turn promising performances into cold hard points, beating Arouca to make it 7 points from their last 3 games. They play Vitória who’ve had the perfect start to life under Álvaro Pacheco: 2 wins and 9 goals scored are a real statement of intent for the much-loved manager. Whether that form is sustainable remains to be seen, but at the moment they really are the must-watch team in the league.
Farense vs. Arouca – Entertainment in the Algarve
Lastly, and this one perhaps really is for the Primeira Liga purists, but Farense vs. Arouca could well be worth a watch, especially if you haven’t had an opportunity to watch Farense so far this season. They’re performing well for a newly promoted side, and scored 4 goals against Rio Ave to win 4-3 last weekend. Arouca are really struggling at the minute, so this should be a very competitive game between two evenly matched teams.
Five players to keep an eye on
Stephen Eustaquio (Porto): Much was made of Porto’s new midfield signings when Alan Varela and Nico González arrived at the Estádio do Dragão, but Sérgio Conceição has shown faith in Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio for most of the season. He repaid that faith last week with a goal and continues to impress in the centre of the park.
Geny Catamo (Sporting): Many Sporting fans have become frustrated with Geny in recent weeks, his cameo appearances off the bench in the right wing-back position have left a lot to be desired, but he started against Boavista and his goal capped an excellent performance in a position where Sporting need strength in depth.
João Mendes (Vitória): Mendes was a bit-part player for Vitória at the start of the season, but has sprung into life in the last few games. He has an incredible 4 goals and 1 assist in his last 3 games, making him one of the league’s most in-form players.
Larrazabal (Casa Pia): Gaizka Larrazabal was brought in to bring down the average age of an ageing Casa Pia defence and provide some dynamism down the right-hand side. He’s settled in nicely with Os Gansos and put in an eye-catching performance against Benfica last weekend.
Claudio Falcão (Farense): It’s rare that a defensive midfielder catches the eye, but Claudio Falcão deserves his plaudits for the job he’s done in the centre of midfield for the Algarve side. Apart from being substituted with 13 minutes to play in Farense’s first game of the season, he’s played every minute of Primiera Liga football since, and even contributed with two goals.
by Albert Carter-Phillips (@LongBallFutebol)