Primeira Liga Jornada 20 preview: Rampant Sporting, in-form Benfica and improving Porto in red-hot title race

Jornada 20 sees the Primeira Liga settle back into a sense of normality after the disruption of the Allianz Cup final four last week.

The last round of matches was full of goals as Sporting put 8 past Casa Pia, Arouca got their biggest ever Primeira Liga victory by scoring 5 against Vizela, and five out of the nine games registered four or more goals. 

Are we in for a similar goal fest this weekend? PortuGOAL previews the Primeira Liga action. 

Can Braga get back in the groove v Moreirense?

Braga were crowned champions of the Allianz Cup, coming from behind to take Estoril to a penalty shootout in Leiria, which they handled with experience and professionalism to win a valuable piece of silverware. However they struggled to brush off the hangover a few days later, only mustering a 1-1 draw against 17th placed Chaves. With only a four-day break until their next game, they may have hoped for easier opponents than an impressive Moreirense side, although Moreirense lost key striker André Luis in the January transfer window. 

Famalicão braced for free-scoring Sporting

Sporting annihilated Casa Pia 8-0 in their most recent game, a scoreline which says to anyone watching that this is a team capable of being absolutely ruthless when needed. Firing out a word of warning to any team hoping to overtake them in the title race, this Sporting side are not one to be messed with. Can they replicate that frightening level of performance against Famalicão? Famalicão are a far sturdier prospect, with most observers agreeing the northern team are better than their mid-table position suggests. The hosts however will be weakened by the loss of the boss of their defence, Otávio, the impressive Brazilian moving to Porto on the last day of the January transfer window.

Porto gunning to continue improvement

Porto are playing their best football of the season, and consequently enjoying their most fruitful period of 2023/24 in terms of results. The absence of Mehdi Taremi has forced Sérgio Conceição into a change of system, but it is one that has benefited players such as Evanilson, Pepê, Alan Varela and others who seem rejuvenated compared to their sluggish start to the season. The Dragons are at home against Rio Ave who have failed to build any real momentum this season, but the lifting of a transfer ban has seen them sign some interesting new players (including Portuguese European Champion Adrien Silva) and improve their form on the pitch. They gave Benfica a really good game at the Estádio da Luz recently, and will be hoping to do the same at the Dragão.

Gil try to upset in-form Benfica

Benfica are at home to Gil Vicente who, until a couple of weeks ago, had lost every single away game they had played all season. They broke that particular duck at Portimonense two weeks ago, and followed it up with a surprise home win over high-flying Vitória to make it two consecutive wins for the first time this season. Perhaps the Barcelos side are coming into a bit of good form, but they’ll need something remarkable to upset a Benfica team full of quality players, some exciting new signings, and a drive to overtake their Lisbon rivals at the top of the table.

Alternative Minho and Lisbon derbies

There are a couple of standout fixtures from the rest of the weekend. Two teams from the Minho region face off as bottom-placed Vizela are at home against Vitória. Álvaro Pacheco returns to the team he took from the third division to the first, before being let go by the new ownership. He’ll want to show them what they’re missing on the field, whilst enjoying a return to a ground and fanbase which he still holds close to his heart.

Estoril play Estrela in an alternative Lisbon derby. Both teams are on equal points hovering just above the relegation zone, looking to put some breathing room between themselves and the bottom three. 

 

Five players to keep an eye on this weekend

Rafa Mújica (Arouca): The Spanish striker (pictured, right) is the Primeira Liga’s 3rd top scorer with 11 goals, only behind Simon Banza and Viktor Gyökeres. Mújica has gone from strength to strength at Arouca and as his side come into their best form of the season, he is scoring consistently and will look to do so again against Portimonense.

Francisco Trincão (Sporting): The Portuguese winger had never quite looked his best since leaving Braga, but his last few games for Sporting have arguably seen him recapture the scintillating form of his early career that earned him a move to Barcelona. He’s taken advantage of illness that kept Marcus Edwards out of the lineup for a couple of weeks to work his way into the starting XI and is really starting to repay Rúben Amorim’s trust.

Hugo Souza (Chaves): The Brazilian goalkeeper pulled off some wonderful saves against Braga to earn his side a valuable point, and has been great all season despite Chaves’ worries. At home against Farense, the Transmontanos will be desperate for a big result and Souza’s efforts in goal will be key.

Kobamelo Kodisang (Moreirense): You could choose anyone from Moreirense’s attacking line up to watch against Braga, given that the one thing we know about Braga is that their defensive line is there for the taking, for any brave and ambitious team. That’s exactly what Moreirense are, and dangerous attacking players like Kobamelo Kodisang will be looking to cause Braga real problems.

Rúben Lameiras (Casa Pia): Casa Pia vs Boavista is a game between two teams in dire form. Casa Pia were rocked by their 8-0 capitulation against Sporting. The only player on their team that day to come away with any credit was winger Rúben Lameiras. A new signing from Chaves, unburdened by the baggage of the club’s poor form, Lameiras could be the attacking spark they need to bounce back in the most important way possible.

by Albert Carter-Phillips (@LongBallFutebol