Benfica v Vizela
Matchday 5 of the 2022/23 Primeira Liga season kicks off on Friday evening as Benfica host Vizela at the Estádio da Luz. Benfica are the only team in Portugal who have won each of their first four league matches and have sole occupation of the leaderboard, having won each of their four Champions League qualifiers to book their ticket to the group stage and deliver a flawless first month of football under new manager Roger Schmidt following his arrival from PSV Eindhoven. After beginning August with a 4-1 win at home against FC Midtyjlland before winning 3-1 in Denmark in the return leg the following week, Benfica opened the league campaign with a 4-0 win against Arouca, defeated Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 in Poland before winning 3-0 at home, and defeated Boavista 3-0 at the Estádio da Bessa with 18-year-old center back António Silva making his senior debut and starting in place of the suspended Nicolás Otamendi. They survived their toughest test of the season so far on Tuesday – after N’Dri Philippe Koffi opened the scoring for Paços de Ferreira in the 39th minute, Benfica responded with two goals in the next 10 minutes to take the lead going into the break, with Gonçalo Ramos adding a third in the 56th minute, Koffi halving the deficit in the 80th minute, and Benfica – who had 27 shots to Paços’ 3 and 6 shots on target to Paços’ 2 – holding onto a 3-2 win at the Luz. Apart from the first leg against Dynamo Kyiv, only one of their eight matches has ended with fewer than 2.5 goals – a 1-0 win at newly promoted Casa Pia. Having ended an 83-year absence from the top-flight with an iron-clad defense that let in 22 goals in 34 games, Casa Pia have conceded just one goal in their first four matches.
Vizela ended a 36-year absence and finished 14th in the club’s second top-flight campaign in its entire history under Alvaro Pacheco, and they currently sit 11th in the table after winning 1-0 at newly promoted Rio Ave on opening day, losing 1-0 at home to Porto with Iván Marcano scoring in the 90th minute, drew 1-1 at newcomers Chaves, before hosting Gil Vicente just days after the visitors’ maiden European voyage came crashing down at the hands of AZ Alkmaar. Gil took the lead from the penalty spot within 8 minutes from Fran Navarro and doubled their lead shortly after via Juan Manuel Boselli, only for Vizela to score two quickfire goals before the interval as the two sides battled it out in a 2-2 draw. Benfica sit two points above Braga and three points above Porto and Portimonense, and they’ll be looking to continue their flawless start and kick off September with another victory before hosting Maccabi Haifa in Lisbon. With David Neres, Gonçalo Ramos, Rafa Silva and João Mário forming a devastating attacking quartet, I’m expecting plenty of goals and another victory for Roger Schmidt’s side.
Braga v Vitória de Guimarães
Despite selling star center back David Carmo to Porto and replacing seasoned manager Carlos Carvalhal with Artur Jorge – who had just managed five top-flight matches prior to this season – Braga have enjoyed a superb start to the 2022/23 campaign with 10 points from 4 matches, 2 behind leaders Benfica, although they have scored 6 more goals than Roger Schmidt’s side.
In fact, only Paris Saint-Germain (18) have scored more goals than Braga (17) in Europe’s major leagues, with the Arsenalistas erasing three separate leads and grabbing their third and final equalizer in the 88th minute to snatch a 3-3 draw at home to Sporting, before winning 3-0 at Famalicão (taking a 2-0 lead within 18 minutes), winning 5-0 against Marítimo (taking the lead within 9 minutes), before traveling to Arouca. Braga closed out 2021 with a 6-0 win in Arouca, with Vítor ‘Vitinha’ Oliveira breaking the deadlock after five minutes and grabbing a hat-trick within 26. Eight months later, they would open the scoring in Arouca after 23 seconds via Simon Banza, before adding to their tally three minutes later. It was the first goal of the season for the club’s captain and attacking talisman Ricardo Horta, who scored in each of Braga’s last four games to become the club’s all-time leading goal scorer with 93 goals. He has been the subject of interest from Benfica with his transfer saga dragging on from the start of the window to the end, but it seems Horta will remain with the Arcebispos with Benfica set to sign Julian Draxler on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Horta added his second goal from the penalty spot in the 40th minute with Vitinha making it four before halftime, with André Castro and Diego Lainez coming off the bench and adding goals in a 6-0 win. With Horta getting back to his best levels and Vitinha and Banza combining with Iuri Medeiros in attack as well as Al Musrati and Ricardo’s brother André in the midfield double pivot, Braga are proving a force to be reckoned with, and they’ll be looking to continue their stellar form as they host Vitória de Guimarães in the Dérbi do Minho before traveling to Sweden to face Malmö in their opening Europa League match.
After joining on loan from Lens on deadline day, Simon Banza scored 14 goals in his debut Primeira campaign for Famalicão, level with Porto’s Luis Díaz and Evanilson and one behind Sporting loanee Pablo Sarabia and Vitória’s top scorer Óscar Estupiñán. Whilst Banza sits atop the Primeira’s scoring charts with five goals – two goals clear of his nearest opponent – Estupiñán sits atop the EFL Championship’s scoring charts with seven goals – two goals clear of his nearest opponent – after joining Hull City on a free transfer. To replace the Colombian forward, Vitória signed two Brazilian strikers – André Silva and Anderson Silva – both of whom will be injured as well as starting right back Miguel Maga. Having begun the season with two 1-0 wins against Chaves and Estoril, Vitória have lost 2-1 to Portimonense and 1-0 to Casa Pia, and I’m expecting them to continue their losing form against a free-scoring Braga in a clash that will put two rookie managers against each other in one of Portugal’s fiercest local derbies.
Gil Vicente v Porto
One year after slipping into Portugal’s third tier for the first time since 1971, Gil Vicente earned promotion to the 2019/20 Primeira Liga as part of a settlement between Gil Vicente, Belenenses, and the Portuguese league to resolve the ‘Caso Matheus,’ meaning that the 2018/19 season was effectively meaningless for the Gilistas – they could finish bottom of the table and still be playing in the Primeira the following year, with Gil hosting Porto for their first Primeira match in four years and coming out victorious 2-1 against Sérgio Conceição’s side in Barcelos. Porto would win the following five fixtures by a combined scoreline of 9 to 2, but their most recent fixture saw Gil go down to 10 men within three minutes as Vítor Carvalho saw red for a last-man foul, with the visitors nevertheless holding on and opening the scoring as Samuel Lino set up Fran Navarro with the opener in the 62nd minute, only for Mehdi Taremi to find Evanilson for the equalizer four minutes later as the two sides settled for a 1-1 draw at the Dragão. It was three weeks after a 2-1 victory at Benfica and and two weeks before a 1-0 win at Braga, and it ensured that, despite a downturn in form over the final two months of the season, they comfortably finished fifth in the Primeira and secured European football for the first time in the club’s 98-year history.
Those days are firmly in the rearview window for Gil Vicente, who opened the season with a 1-0 win vs. Paços de Ferreira, a 1-0 defeat at Arouca and a 0-0 draw vs. Famalicão, whilst they eliminated Latvian side Riga before losing 6-1 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League play-offs. They had their finest half-hour of the season under new manager Ivo Vieira at the weekend with Fran Navarro opening the scoring from the penalty spot in the 8th minute and summer signing Juan Manuel Boselli doubling the lead in the 26th minute, only for Raphael Guzzo to find Kiko Bondoso for a goal in the 45th minute before threading the needle for an equalizer from Anderson in the fifth minute of extra time, as Gil were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in Vizela. The departures of midfield maestro Pedrinho and nimble winger Samuel Lino as well as manager Ricardo Soares have forced Gil to rebuild and cope with various major exits in Barcelos – the Gilistas currently sit 12th and could be set to drop further down the table as they host Porto in Barcelos. One week after defeating Sporting 3-0 at home and collecting their third straight victory in the league, Porto lost 3-1 at newly promoted Rio Ave, and they are in need of a response.
Porto have won 33 of the 35 matches that they have played after losing, and I’m expecting them to make it 34 in 36 on Saturday. Evanilson and Mehdi Taremi have combined for goals in Porto’s 5-1 win against Marítimo, their 3-0 win against Sporting and their 3-0 win against Tondela in the Supertaça, but they were nullified in Vila de Conde with Rio Ave taking a 3-0 lead going into the break and Conceição making a triple substitution that would see Evanilson, Bruno Costa and João Mário taken off for Toni Martínez, Wenderson Galeno and Gabriel Verón. Porto received a penalty at the hour-mark only for Taremi’s effort to hit the woodwork with the Iranian striker being subbed off in the 84th minute for Dannny Namaso Loader as Porto failed to muster anything more than a consolation goal from Martínez in the 93rd minute. I’m expecting a big response from Porto, I’m expecting plenty of changes in the starting line-up, and I’m expecting plenty of goals in Barcelos as well as a return to the score sheet for Taremi and Evanilson.
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