Primeira Liga Jornada 33 preview: northern derbies and relegation dogfight

A lot was confirmed in the Portugal’s top flight in the last jornada. Sporting were confirmed champions after Benfica lost to Famalicão and we had our first confirmed relegation as Vizela ended their 3-year stay in the top division with a loss to Moreirense.

The celebrations in Lisbon were incredible and the tears in Vizela heartbreaking but there are still things to be ironed out for the rest of the league.

This round of matches has the potential to deliver (nearly) as much drama as last week. PortuGOAL previews the penultimate weekend of Primeira Liga action. 

Third place the prize

After the battle between the two Lisbon clubs came to an end we look to Porto and Braga for a top-of-the-table fight. With just one point between them and two games left, 3rd place and a chance for Europa League football is the goal for both teams. The fact both are playing local derbies this weekend and then facing each other in the last game of the season, only adds to what has the potential to be a critical weekend.

Fiery encounter on the cards in the Minho

Vitória host Braga on Saturday night who themselves are fighting for the possibility of 4th spot with an eye on Braga v Porto the following week. Braga feel vulnerable at the back but frightening in attack, perfectly displayed in their 4-3 win against Casa Pia last week. Ricardo Horta has come back into the team to add a new dimension to their attack. His relationship with Banza is not quite there yet but his ability to bring the wingers into play has helped Djalo find his scoring boots again. Injuries have not helped their defence. Sedar Saatci has been a miss and Sikou Niakaté has been a shadow of the player he was last year.

Vitória will look to expose Braga’s defence whilst nullifying their attack but that will require them to return to the sort of form we saw last month where they closed the gap on Braga. Since then a mixture of injuries and rumours of manager Álvaro Pacheo unhappy have slightly derailed them but there is no question they will get themselves up for this one.

Derby day in the Cidade Invicta

Porto will play struggling Boavista on Sunday night who are not out of the relegation scrap and need every point they can get. The gulf in quality between the two at this moment in time is huge but Boavista’s team is made up of the same players who were topping the table at the beginning of the season. They are low on confidence, making mistakes all under the cloud of financial turmoil and presidential issues. However there is talent in that squad and survival to fight for.

It feels like Porto have turned a corner in the aftermath of the presidential elections. With Sérgio Conceição’s time at the club seemingly coming to an end, his last home game of the season should feel like a celebration of his time there. We saw signs of improvement in their 3-0 win against Chaves, less nervy, less pressure, more signs of Porto of old. However injuries to the back line have meant youngsters Martim Fernandes and João Mendes have filled in the full-back positions whilst B-team player Zé Pedro and January signing Otávio have played at centre-back. If there was potential for Boavista to get something in this game it may be through that inexperienced back line, although all those individuals have performed well when they have been given opportunities by Conceição.

Chaves’ last stand?

At the other end of the table the final relegation place and relegation playoff place are still to be decided but if Chaves lose to Famalicão they will be confirmed as the second automatically relegated team this season. Manager Moreno has failed to stabilise Chaves since taking over and despite getting an important win against Vizela a few weeks ago, they have lost points in games they were winning against fellow strugglers Portimonense and Estoril. Famalicão will be riding high after beating Benfica. Former Estoril manager Armando Evangalista has had a triumphant return to Portugal and has got an incredibly talented Famalicão team playing to the level we’ve expected.

Portimonense and Estrela scrapping to avoid playoff  

Portimonense who currently occupy 16th place, the relegation/promotion playoff spot, are two points behind Estrela and have to play Rio Ave who have had a really strong finish to the season. After scoring 10 goals in 4 games, Portimonense have failed to score in their last two matches so will need to change that if they have any chance of moving up the table. Considering Estrela play relegated Vizela and then Gil Vicente on the last day of the season, the run-in for the Lisbon outfit looks easier on paper compared to Portimonense, who finish their campaign against local Algarve rivals Farense.

A win for Estrela would surely secure their stay in the Primeira Liga but how Vizela will respond to being relegated is key. With the pressure off, Vizela are playing for pride. Star striker Samuel Essende will look to add to his 15 goals this season perhaps with an eye for a move in the summer. Estrela have had a decent defensive record this season with Gaspar and Pedro Mendes as stand-out performers. 

 

Three players to keep an eye on this weekend

Jota Silva: Jota Silva’s form under Álvaro Pacheco has seen him earn a place in Roberto Martínez’s Portugal squad. With the final squad for the Euros set to be announced in the coming weeks, this is Jota’s penultimate chance to impress.

Léo Jabá: The Brazilian attacker has been Estrela’s best attacking player this season. Jabá has 5 goals and 4 assists for the season and those goal contributions have been key for Estrela this season.

Héctor Hernández: if there is one player for Chaves who could rescue them this season it’s Héctor Hernández. With 14 goals he’s been their one reliable goal scorer and maybe just one or two more could see them pull off a miraculous escape via the playoffs if other results go their way, potentially earning Hernández a move up to a more ambitious Portuguese club or back to Spain

by Barney Carter-Phillips (@LongBallFutebol