As the season draws to a close, there is still lots to play for across Europe, and our league scouts have found some excellent value picks for you to consider.
This Saturday evening we have games from the final matchweek in Portugal, where both the title and the final European position are up for grabs.
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Sevilla v Real Madrid
In this penultimate matchday of the LaLiga season, there is only one fixture taking place away from the unified kick-off time of Sunday evening and that’s Sevilla vs Real Madrid on Saturday.
The reason for this is to give Sevilla more rest time ahead of next midweek’s Europa League final, but even still it is expected that José Luis Mendilibar will significantly rotate his line-up, especially in attack as Youssef En-Nesyri, Erik Lamela, Suso and Lucas Ocampos could all sit. While he won’t want to lose at home to Real Madrid, everyone at the club knows that the Roma game on Wednesday is more important.
It’ll be a rotated line-up too from Real Madrid, who have nothing to play for. As well as Carlo Ancelotti’s rotations, Karim Benzema and Vinícius are both set to miss out due to injuries. Between them they have scored 28 of Real Madrid’s 72 league goals this season, so that’s a significant change to Los Blancos’ front three, especially if Eden Hazard is brought in as one of the replacements, as seems likely.
With this game not meaning much to either team and with both coaches likely to rotate more in attack than in defence, this could be a game of few chances and few goals. That has already been the recent trend with these two teams, as Sevilla’s LaLiga games in May have produced 2.40 goals per game and Real Madrid’s have been averaging just 1.75 goals per game.
Portimonense v Arouca
The final matchday of the 2022/23 Primeira Liga season is upon us, and it’s safe to say that only a few storylines have yet to be decided. Rio Ave will face off against Famalicão on Friday, followed by a match between Sporting – guaranteed to finish fourth – and Vizela, whilst Saturday will see Casa Pia travel to Gil Vicente.
Estoril Praia will host Marítimo – guaranteed to face Estrela da Amadora in the two-legged promotion/relegation playoff – whilst Boavista will travel to Chaves, followed by a triple-header that will see Arouca travel to Portimonense, Santa Clara travel to Benfica, and Vitória travel to Porto.
It has been nothing short of a historic campaign for Arouca. Having finished fifth in 2015/16 and qualified for Europe for the first time in club history, Arouca were relegated a year later and found themselves playing in the third division by 2019. Back-to-back promotions would follow, with Arouca narrowly avoiding the drop on the penultimate day of the 2021/22 season.
Despite losing top scorer André Silva to Vitória, Arouca have enjoyed a stellar campaign and have qualified for Europe under Armando Evangelista. They currently sit sixth in the table, two points behind Vitória, and they need to beat Portimonense and hope that Porto do them a favor against Vitória if they are to finish fifth. Fifth place guarantees passage to the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, whilst sixth place will see them head to the second qualifying round.
It remains to be seen what happens at the Dragão, but I’m expecting Arouca to take care of business at the Algarve. Whilst Arouca are in sensational form, Portimonense are limping towards the finish line for the second straight year. Over the past 21 matchdays, only last-placed Santa Clara (12) have taken fewer points than Portimonense (15).
A strong start has given way to a shambolic second half of the campaign, but Paulo Sérgio’s side – who sit 13th – will nevertheless avoid the drop and enjoy another midtable finish. Arouca beat Portimonense 1-0 one year ago via a goal from David Simão, and in January, they thrashed Portimonense 4-0 courtesy of goals from Alan Ruíz, Benji Michel and a brace from Oday Dabbagh. I’m expecting them to pick up their 15th league win of the season and close out their campaign on a strong note.
FC Porto v Vitoria de Guimaraes
It has been a whirlwind season for Vitória de Guimarães. Despite losing manager Pepa nine days before the season opener, despite losing key players like André Almeida and Óscar Estupiñán, and despite losing key players like Miguel Maga due to injury, Vitória have enjoyed a strong campaign under Moreno and sit fifth in the table.
They have already secured their presence in the Europa Conference League for a second straight year, but it remains to be seen if they finish fifth and head to the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League or finish sixth and head to the second qualifying round. If they can beat Porto, they will ensure a first top-five finish in four years.
Porto have won each of their last eight meetings against Vitória, with the last four featuring under 4.5 goals, whilst eight of the last nine have featured under 4.5 goals. I’m expecting both patterns to continue at the Dragão. Porto are guaranteed to finish in the top two and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, but they face an uphill task as they look to win their second straight Primeira Liga title and a third in four years.
Porto sit two points behind Benfica and trail them in goal difference by 11 goals. Their only chance of winning the league title is if they can beat Vitória and if last-placed (already relegated) Santa Clara can beat Benfica at the Luz.
Whilst they haven’t reached last season’s historic heights, Sérgio Conceição’s side have nevertheless won the Supertaça and the Taça da Liga this season, and they’ll be facing off against Braga in the Taça de Portugal Final on June 4. It remains to be seen whether they can add yet another league title to their collection, but I’m expecting them to pick up their 27th league win of the season against a Vitória side that has struggled against Portugal’s biggest sides under Moreno.
Vitória, however, have generally been able to keep the scoreline respectable, and apart from their 5-1 defeat to Benfica on March 18, they have only had one match feature over 4.5 goals since the start of November – a 3-2 defeat to Braga on January 11 in the Taça de Portugal. Porto are enjoying a sensational run of form that has seen them win 10 straight matches in all competitions, and I’m expecting that to continue at the Dragão.
Benfica v Santa Clara
Prior to 2018, Santa Clara’s two spells in the Primeira Liga would see them suffer relegation in 1999/00, only to immediately bounce back and finish 14th in their return, before finishing 17th in 2002/03 and dropping down to the second tier. Since ending their top-flight hiatus in 2018, the Azoreans have finished 10th, 9th and 6th, qualifying for the Europa Conference League, before finishing seventh in 2021/22.
This season, however, Santa Clara have suffered a nightmare campaign. Prior to their 1-1 draw to Chaves on April 23, the Azoreans had lost nine in a row. They followed that draw up by losing 3-0 to Estoril Praia, before beating Gil Vicente 3-2 – their first win since November 14 – only to follow that up with a 5-3 defeat to Braga. They would beat Portimonense 1-0 in the following match, but it was too little too late – one day earlier, Marítimo’s 1-0 win against Vizela had confirmed Santa Clara’s relegation to the second division.
Santa Clara and Benfica’s badges are nearly identical, with the Azorean club starting as a subsidiary of Benfica. However, their campaigns couldn’t be any more different – whilst Santa Clara have gone through three different managers this season, Benfica have gone through just one: Roger Schmidt.
Benfica kicked off the Schmidt era with a 4-0 win against Arouca, and they have a chance to end it by claiming their first trophy since the 2019/20 Supertaça and their first league title since 2018/19. They have never relinquished first place, and whilst they have stumbled in recent months, Benfica have nevertheless strung together some consistency since their Champions League defeat to Inter, beating Estoril Praia 1-0 and Gil Vicente 2-0, before opening May with a 1-0 win against Braga and a 5-1 win at Portimonense.
Despite entering halftime with a 0-2 deficit, Benfica would nevertheless secure a 2-2 draw at Sporting via a 94th-minute equalizer from João Neves, who has emerged as a revelation in midfield at 18 years old. Benfica have a two-point lead over Porto and lead them by goal differential by +11. Assuming that Porto don’t beat Vitória by 11 goals, Benfica need to draw against Santa Clara in order to ensure their 38th Primeira Liga title.
They have dropped points at home on just two occasions this season – a 2-1 loss to Porto on April 7 and a 2-2 draw to Sporting on January 15 – and I don’t expect them to make it three this weekend. Each of the last four fixtures between these two sides has seen Benfica win and has featured over 2.5 goals, and I would not be surprised if this match follows suit.
Benfica won’t want to leave anything to chance and will be looking to take care of business early in order to enjoy a stress-free second half – I’m expecting a high-scoring victory for Benfica and a first league title for the Eagles in four years.
Jorge Wilstermann v Royal Pari
Following their troubled start to the season Wilstermann are purring along nicely, only two defeats in 15 games, more recently unbeaten in six, and having only conceded three goals in those six games. At the other end they have their goalscoring so spread out to the extent that of the 16 goals Rudy Cardozo (a midfielder) is top scorer with barely three. Overall, it seems Wilstermann seem to be profiting from having no international football to distract them this season.
Pari for their part despite bringing back manager Mosquera are on a rather poor run, with six defeats in their last nine games, only one win, having scored 10 but more worryingly having conceded 20 in that period. While the signing of Argentine Sellecchia and Ecuadorian Correa seems shrewd, they are extremely dependent on these strikers who have scored nine of their 15 goals between them.
All things considered, despite Pari’s known capacity to throw a proverbial spanner in the works of more than one opponent, Wilstermann should have enough in the tank for a comfortable win to help their midseason surge up the table.
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