Casa Pia v Arouca
The best defensive record in the Primeira Liga does not belong to Benfica, Porto, Sporting or Braga, but a team who are playing in the top-flight for the first time since 1938/39, the fifth season of top-tier football in Portugal since its inception which saw them relegated with 2 points from 14 matches. Casa Pia opened the season with a 0-0 draw at Santa Clara, before losing 1-0 to Benfica, with Gonçalo Ramos opening the scoring at the hour-mark as Roger Schmidt’s side continued their perfect start. Benfica have scored 23 goals in their first eight matches under Schmidt, they have won each of their first eight matches in all competitions, and they were held to fewer than three goals on just two occasions – a 2-0 win against Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of the Champions League qualifiers and a 1-0 win vs. Casa Pia.
Filipe Martins’ side earned promotion to the top-flight thanks to a stalwart defense that conceded 22 goals in 34 matches, and Os Gansos, or the Geese, would pick up their second clean sheet and defeat Boavista 2-0 in the following match, with Rafael Martins opening the scoring within 61 minutes and Saviour Godwin doubling the lead two minutes later, before traveling to Guimarães and taking the lead after six minutes as Martins and Godwin combined to set up Takahiro Kunimoto for the opening goal, with Casa Pia able to resist Vitória’s attempts and hold on for a 1-0 win. Each of Casa Pia’s first four matches have featured under 2.5 goals, whilst only one of Arouca’s has featured under 2.5 goals. After narrowly securing safety in their first season in the top-flight in 5 years, Arouca began the season with a 4-0 defeat to current league leaders Benfica, before beating Gil Vicente 1-0 as Rafa Mújica opened the scoring within 2 minutes. Armando Evangelista’s side found themselves behind in the 50th minute in the Azores as Rildo opened the scoring for Santa Clara, but they quickly responded as Mújica equalized at the hour-mark whilst João Basso put them ahead from the penalty spot 15 minutes later to give Arouca a 2-1 victory.
Their following match would see them lose 6-0 at home to Braga for the second time in eight months. Arouca will be looking to prove that their defense is better than their recent defeats to Benfica and Braga have shown, but after scoring just 3 goals in their first 4 games, they’ll have a tough time cracking Casa Pia’s defense, who have conceded just once in their first four. I’m expecting a low-scoring affair in Jamor between the strongest defense in the league and an Arouca side that has conceded once in their two matches against Santa Clara and Gil Vicente, two opponents closer to theirs and Casa Pia’s level than Braga or Benfica, and I’m expecting an intriguing battle between one side that’s looking to stay up in their long-awaited return to the Primeira and another that is looking to avoid second-season syndrome.
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