And so it is that we’ve reached the fifth and final part of PortuGOAL’s Campeonato de Portugal Prio review.

In keeping with order, that takes us neatly onto Série E and what has been the story of domination for one club. Primeira Liga mainstays of yesteryear, Farense, are out on their own at the top, although their season has recently been tainted by tragedy.

Série E is, geographically speaking, the largestof the five divisions in the CPP. Stretching from the centre of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, all the way down to the Algarve’s southern coast and also across a vast swathe of the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores, sides in the division have to be prepared for travel, and lots of it.

Included within Série E’s boundaries are Algarve heavyweights such as Farense and Olhanense and there are also spots for Lisbon clubs, Oriental and Casa Pia, the former of which played Segunda Liga football as recently as 2015-16. Meanwhile, the Azores are represented by São Miguel Island clubs, Sporting Ideal and Operário.

As always though, we start at the top and that means the runaway leaders from the Algarve capital…

 

Série E - The Top

Farense (72 points)

Fresh from a so-near-yet-so-far campaign in the CPP last season, Farense have come back even stronger in 2017-18. The side won Série H in last year’s format but finished 3rd within the Sul Divisão, missing out on the play-offs by one place. A change of coach saw Angolan, Lázaro Oliveira, replaced by Rui Duarte in the summer and the 39-year-old Lisbon native has managed to guide the club to an overwhelming first place in the table during the regular season.

A very impressive 23 wins from 27 league games doesn’t lie and a sole loss (1-2 at home to Casa Pia in week 4 of the season) has been the only blemish to date. Since then, only Olímpico Montijo, Pinhalnovense and Armacenenses have taken points off the Faro club and it took cup kings, Caldas extra-time to knock them out of the Taça de Portugal at the Quarter-Final stage.

So what has changed this season? Well, the recruitment has been very sound. Perhaps the most significant signing during the summer came from unfashionable Operário in the form of 29-year-old, Fábio Gomes. The Lisbon-born striker has weighed in with 12 goals from 18 league starts in what is his second spell at the Estádio de São Luís. Added to that are another 4 goals in the Taça de Portugal, including a 2nd Round hat-trick against Setúbal Regional League side, Amora. Gomes has been ably assisted by another striker, Tavinho (see the end of this article for more on him), who has 8 goals from 12 league starts and also Angolan-Brazilian striker, Jorginho, who likewise has 8 goals but in just 9 league starts. The São Paulo native was previously in the junior sides at Santos in Brazil as well as being a regular in the Girabola of Angola with Bravos do Maquis for four seasons.

At the back, another Angolan has proved ever reliable in the form of goalkeeper, Hugo Marques. Signed from Sporting Covilhã for whom he played 9 times in the Segunda Liga last season, the four times international with Palanças Negras has missed just one game in all competitions for Farense this campaign. The 32-year-old will be extremely happy with his season’s work, having conceded a CPP season-low of just 9 league goals. This has been helped by the signing of centre-half, Bruno Bernardo (20 starts), from Cova de Piedade and also Brazilian defender, Cássio (19 starts), who is in his second season in Portuguese football.

In the middle of the park, Fabrício Isidoro is a 26-year-old holding midfielder who is also in his second season in Portuguese football having arrived from his native Brazil to play with Louletano in 2016. He has made 20 starts this season and contributed a sole league goal and has been partnered extensively by 38-year-old Neca. The former Belenenses stalwart has also seen service with Guimarães, Marítimo and Setúbal as well as in Turkey with Ankaraspor and Konyaspor and has two caps for the Seleção. He has produced a solitary league goal in 16 starts as well as seeing red in the aforementioned Quarter-Final Taça game at Caldas.

What cannot be argued with is the points tally of 72, which is currently the highest of any club in the CPP (UD Leiria are the next closest on 69). This side has also seen off what was expected to be tough challenges from the likes of Olhanense who have also maintained their full-time status since relegation from the Segunda Liga last season. They hold a whopping 18-point gap over 2nd placed Oriental and the men from Olhão (3rd) and they will be supremely confident going into the promotional play-offs. Any side that can score goals for fun (57 in the league so far) and still keep it incredibly tight at the back has a great chance and, for this writer, any betting folks out there would be wise to put their money on this club not just for promotion to the Segunda Liga, but for the CPP title…

 

The Chasing Pack

Oriental (2nd - 54 points)

As stated earlier in this article, Oriental were playing Segunda Liga football only two seasons ago. Since relegation to the CPP, they have been guided by the now 61-year-old, António Pereira. Despite finishing a disappointing 6th last season, the club kept faith with the journeyman coach and this is now paying dividends after an indifferent first half of the season.

Despite losing 6 and drawing 5 of their 27 league games so far this season, Oriental are a tight outfit that don’t give much away. Their 19 goals conceded is the lowest in the division aside from Farense, but they have only managed 34 league goals which is the second lowest in the top nine sides in Série E. The top scorer is Guinea Bissau international striker, Bura, who has just 8 goals in 25 league starts having signed in the summer from Vilanovense of the Guarda Regional League. You then have to go to 35-year-old former Sporting B midfielder, Hugo Machado, for the next top scorer with just 5 in 25 league starts. So it’s clear that Oriental will need to find their shooting boots if they are to secure a play-off spot and then aim for promotion.

As it stands 54 points is not enough to take the Lisbon club into the promotional play-offs. That said, they are currently just 2 points behind Vilafranquense (Série D) and Lusitano Vildemoínhos (Série C) who occupy two of the three places. They will be buoyed though by the fact that their remaining three games this season are all against clubs in the bottom half of the table. There is a trip to the Azores on 8th April to take on Operário (11th) while Moura (9th) follow at home on 15th and the season is then rounded off away to bottom club, Moncarapachense, on 22nd April.

Olhanense (3rd - 54 points)

There were many who thought Olhanense would storm to the Série E title in 2017-18. Having just been relegated from the Segunda Liga and by maintaining their full-time status, the club were able to recruit soundly in the summer. One statement of intent was former Portimonense stalwart centre-back, Ivo Nicolau. Add to that, former Sporting Junior and Inter Milan striker, Zé Turbo, and you could be forgiven for thinking the smart money was to go on Bruno Saraiva’s side for a swift return to the second tier. However, the Angolan was replaced in mid-November by Nilson Terroso after an inconsistent start and recent results have seen them surrender second spot too.

A major problem for Olhanense has been the failure to beat the sides in and around them. Two defeats to Farense in the league have been accompanied by a loss and a draw to 2nd placed Oriental and a loss to 5th place Pinhalnovense. There was a victory over current 4th place side Casa Pia, though, and it is that side that Olhanense face this coming weekend in Lisbon. A win there will ease fears of missing out but with both sides in contention for second spot, it’s a proverbial six-pointer with little room allowed for error.

In addition to Ivo Nicolau, Olhanense made numerous signings in the summer. Gone was the bulk of the relegated squad from 2016-17 and in came experienced campaigners such as 33-year-old centre-back, Daniel Materazzi (26 starts), from Fafe and 27-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper, Cléber (27 starts), from Torreense. From February there was also 23-year-old Nigerian-Dutch striker, Stevy Okitokandjo, who has joined from Leixões and managed an incredibly impressive 6 league goals from as many starts.

The remainder of the season is a bit of a mixed bag for the Olhão club. As already mentioned, they travel to Casa Pia this weekend but then travel north again the following weekend to take on 8th place, Olímpico Montijo, in what could be a potential banana skin. The season then rounds off on the 22nd April when Estrela V.N. visit the Estádio José Arcanjo. With a clinical goalscorer such as Okitokandjo in the side, anything is possible for this side between now and then.

Casa Pia (4th - 50 points)

I certainly won’t pull any punches here. It’s going to be tough for Casa Pia to overhaul Oriental and Olhananse for 2nd place in Série E with three games left. It’s also going to be very tricky for them to be one of the best three runner’s-up and qualify for the promotional play-offs. That said, it’s mathematically possible and, should they beat Olhanense at home this coming Sunday, then they will have a real chance. They will of course be needing other results to go their way, such as Oriental dropping games, but if this writer has learned one thing over the years, it’s to never say never when it comes to football!

Despite occupying one of the top three positions for most of this season, recent form has proven disastrous for the men from Lisbon. A disappointing 4 defeats from the last 5 league games have seen them slip to 4th position and it leaves them four points off of both Olhanense and Oriental. As mentioned previously, Casa Pia are the only side to have defeated Farense this season but defeat away to bottom club, Moncarapachense, two weeks ago means that the result ultimately counts for little.

Top scorer with 7 goals this season is Cape Verde international midfielder, Tom. The 30-year-old joined in the summer from Segunda Liga side, Académica Coimbra, where he made 18 appearances last season. He is followed in the scoring charts by another midfielder, João Coito, who has 6 league goals and it emphasises the fact that the striking department has been lacking for the side to make a sustained challenge for the promotion places. Indeed the top scoring striker this season is another Cape Verdean, Tino, who has 5 in 12 league starts but he has since departed for Série D side, Sintrense.

Aside from this weekend’s blockbuster with Olhanense, Casa Pia have a similar fixture list to the two clubs directly above them. A trip to 12th place Estrela V.N. on 15th April is followed by a home game with Sporting Ideal who currently sit 10th and on the precipice of relegation. So all to play for but this season may be one too soon for the club in terms of promotion. Time will tell…

 

Relegation Candidates

The bottom six places in Série E have yet to be confirmed. Even bottom side, Moncarapachense, are still alive and kicking although the 7-point gap to safety with 3 games left to play would suggest they are as good as relegated to the regional leagues for next season. They do have a game in hand though.

But the bad news is for fans in the Azores as their two representatives in this division are both fighting for survival. Currently, Sporting Ideal sit just outside of the drop zone in 10th position on 28 points. They are one point clear of fellow Azoreans, Operário. If we look at both clubs’ remaining fixtures, it looks incredibly difficult for the latter.

Operário’s next game is at home to 2nd placed Oriental, themselves looking to cement 2nd place and hoping to accumulate enough points for a place in the promotional play-offs. They then travel to 15th place Castrense on the 15th April in a real 6 pointer. Castrense are still able to survive given they’re only 5 points off of safety. And finally, a visit from division winners, Farense, on 22nd April rounds the season off. That run is a lot to ask of a side that has won just 6 of its 27 league games this season. Indeed, top scorer, Ruizinho, has managed just 6 goals in 21 league starts this campaign.

Sporting Ideal, on the other hand, have a kinder run-in but only marginally. This coming Sunday sees them take on 16th placed Moncarapachense in a must-win game. On the 15th April, it’s the club’s final home game of the season when Pinhalnovense visit Ribeira Grande. The club from Pinhal Novo have had a good season with the division’s top scorer, Diego Zaporo, having netted on 15 occasions. The Brazilian has been prolific wherever he’s been and he’ll be looking to take aim at Ideal, despite any play-off hopes having now been extinguished for another year. Ideal’s season then finishes on 22nd April with a trip to Lisbon to take on Casa Pia, themselves still very much in the promotion hunt. 35-year-old wide man, Hugo Santos, is the club’s top scorer this season with 6 goals from 20 league starts and he’ll be required to produce in tough conditions to keep Ideal safe from the drop.

The current drop zone looks like this:

11th Operário - 27 points

12th Estrela V.N. - 25 points

13th Almancilense - 24 points

14th Lusitano VRSA - 24 points

15th Castrense - 23 points

16th Moncarapachense - 21 points

 

Tavinho - A Tragedy

After all but sealing the Série E title with a 2-1 win at 2nd place Olhanense on 18th March, Farense’s players spent the evening celebrating in a nightclub in nearby Vilamoura. Upon leaving the nightclub, Farense’s 24-year-old striker, Tavinho, was stabbed twice by an unknown assailant.

Subsequently, Tavinho has been in intensive care in a local hospital with the very real possibility that his career may be over. He is currently the club’s joint second top scorer this season with 8 goals in 12 starts and 9 substitute appearances.

Given this tragic event, I’d like to dedicate this article to the young striker and I speak for everyone at PortuGOAL when I wish him all the best and hope to see him back playing again soon. And if Farense do go on to win promotion to the Segunda Liga, I’ve no doubt he’ll be at the forefront of the thoughts of everyone at the club. Boa sorte Tavinho!

 

Important Dates…

8th April - Casa Pia v Olhanense

By Paul Gellard

Campeonato Portugal Prio - the Gellard files

Série A - Vizela and Vilaverdense target top spot

Série B - All to play for in the north

Série C - União de Leiria rise from the ashes

Série D - Mafra's surge and Cup kings Caldas

 

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