Famalicao v Pacos de Ferreira
We’re only nine matches into the Primeira Liga campaign, and we’ve already seen one sixth of the 18 Portuguese sides change their manager: 18th-placed Marítimo, with Vasco Seabra finding himself relieved of his duties after five straight losses and replaced by João Henriques, 15th-placed Famalicão, with Rui Pedro Silva receiving the ax after picking up just 4 points in their first 7 matches and replaced by João Pedro Sousa, and 17th-replaced Paços de Ferreira, with César Peixoto being dismissed after the Beavers lost 2-0 to third-tier Vitória de Setúbal in the Taça de Portugal. His replacement? José Mota.
Mota racked up 196 appearances for Paços between 1987 and 1996 before hanging up his boots and spending four years as an assistant coach before taking the reins in February 2000 and leading Paços to a first-place finish and promotion to the Primeira, before finishing ninth, eighth and sixth and departing for Santa Clara at the end of 2002/03 season. He would return after just four months in the Azores, but he was unable to prevent the Beavers from suffering relegation, but remained in charge and led Paços to another Segunda championship and a midtable finish in their return to the top-flight, before leading them to a first-ever European qualification and a sixth-place finish, only to depart the following year after finishing 15th – narrowly avoiding relegation after Boavista were sent to the second division as a result of the Apito Dourado case.
It has been 14 years and five months since Mota left the Capital do Movel, and he joins at a time of deepening crisis that sees Paços at genuine risk of ending a four-year spell in the top-flight, sitting one point above last-placed Marítimo, three behind Santa Clara in the relegation play-off spot, and five behind Famalicão. After beginning the season with six straight defeats, Paços drew 1-1 to Santa Clara and Arouca before losing 1-0 to Vitória, unable to respond after Nélson da Luz opened the scoring after nine minutes and unable to make the most of their advantage after André Amaro was sent off before the interval, letting their frustration manifest in the final minutes as Vitorino Antunes and Nuno Lima saw red.
Whilst Antunes will be a massive loss in terms of not just his experience and leadership but his ability to whip in dangerous crosses and combine in the final third, they have an able replacement in Fernando Fonseca and have proven to be more solid defensively than their league position reflects, losing 1-0 against Gil Vicente, Boavista and Vitória, with five of their last six matches featuring two goals or fewer. Seven of Famalicão’s 10 matches have seen 2.5 goals or fewer – when Rui Pedro Silva was sacked, they had scored just one goal in seven – with Sousa leading them to a 4-0 win vs. Boavista, a 4-1 defeat at Arouca, and a 1-0 win against second-tier Trofense in the cup. There aren’t a lot of goals in either side – the losses of Nuno Santos and Denilson have seen Paços’ attack struggle with six goals so far, level with Marítimo, Santa Clara and Famalicão, who have failed to score in six matches so far and have been lacking in attack following Simon Banza’s loan return and subsequent move to Braga. I am expecting Mota’s arrival to give Paços a shot in the arm, and I’m expecting them to a put up a fight in what should be a low-scoring duel between two relegation battlers. Five of Paços’ last six meetings with Famalicão have seen less than 2.5 goals scored, and I’m expecting this one to be the same.
Estoril v Braga
After a sensational start to the campaign under Artur Jorge that would see them draw 3-3 vs. Sporting on opening day before winning eight straight matches, Braga’s have struggled to maintain their momentum since returning from international break. The Arsenalistas fell to a 4-1 defeat in Porto before losing 1-2 at home against Union Saint-Gilloise, taking the lead after halftime only to concede two late goals to Gustaf Nilsson. The next match would see them fall behind within two minutes as Hector Hernandez opened the scoring for Chaves, and despite registering 30 shots and 5 shots on goal, Braga were unable to find a response and fell to a 1-0 home defeat. Braga took the lead after a quarter-hour via 22-year-old forward Vitinha only to concede five minutes later to USG’s Victor Boniface, with Vitinha completing a hat-trick before the interval to give Braga a 3-1 lead, only for Boniface and Dante Vanzeir to score after the break to secure a 3-3 draw in Belgium. The weekend’s match would see them open the scoring after an hour via an own goal only to chalk up the equalizer three minutes later to Daniel Oliveira Rodrigues on third-tier F.C. Felgueiras 1932, but Paulo Oliviera scored in the 89th minute to secure a win for Braga and avoid extra time.
Braga remain the top-scoring team in Portugal with 24 goals but have not kept a clean sheet since September 18 and they will have a tough time doing so as they travel to the Estadio António Coimbra da Mota and take on Estoril Praia. Despite selling two key attacking pillars in André Franco and Arthur Gomes in the final month of the transfer window, Estoril have enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign under new manager Nélson Veríssimo and sit 7th in the league, four points behind third-placed Braga. They have scored 11 goals thus far, bettered only by Rio Ave, Sporting, Braga, Porto and Benfica, and they have been held to clean sheets on just two occasions this season: a 1-0 loss to Vitória that saw them fall behind in the 15th minute and fall to 10 men at the hour-mark, and a 2-0 home defeat to Sporting.
Since that defeat to Sporting, Estoril have beaten Vizela 1-0 via an early goal from summer arrival Erison before taking the lead against Porto before the interval via Benfica loanee Tiago Gouveia, only to concede a last-minute penalty to Mehdi Taremi. They returned from the international break with a 1-1 draw vs. Chaves, with summer arrival Rodrigo Martins scoring the equalizer in the 76th minute, before beating Gil Vicente 1-0 courtesy of a 96th-minute winner from James Lea-Siliki and beating Amora 3-2 in the Taça de Portugal. Whilst Estoril will be missing Gouveia due to injury, they nevertheless have more than enough firepower to continue their goalscoring form against a Braga defense that has looked shaky in recent matches. Braga have been held to a clean sheet on just one occasion this season, and they will be looking to respond from their recent slip-up against Chaves by grabbing a goal in Cascais. Whilst the likes of Simon Banza, Vitinha, and Ricardo Horta are due a goal for Braga, the home side have plenty of attacking weapons in Erison, Rodrigo Martins, Francisco Geraldes, and João Carvalho and should have what it takes to continue Braga’s clean sheet drought. I’m expecting both teams to find the back of the net in what should be an entertaining, high-scoring fixture between Braga and Estoril.
Vizela v Santa Clara
The 10th matchday of the Primeira Liga season will pit various bottom-half sides against each other: 11th-placed Arouca travels to 18th-placed Marítimo, whilst 15th-placed Famalicão hosts 17th-placed Paços de Ferreira, 10th-placed Chaves hosts 14th-placed Gil Vicente, whilst 12th-placed Vizela hosts 16th-placed Santa Clara. Six points separate Vizela from Santa Clara in the relegation play-off spot and Casa Pia in fourth place, who began the season with a 1-0 win at newly promoted Rio Ave before losing 1-0 to Porto via a last-minute goal from Iván Marcano, drawing 1-1 to Chaves and 2-2 to Gil Vicente before losing 2-1 to Benfica via a last-minute penalty from João Mário, losing 1-0 to Estoril Praia and losing 2-0 to Braga before kicking off October with a 1-0 win against Portimonense and following it up with a 1-0 win at Casa Pia. After finding themselves down 3-1 in the 69th minute against second-tier Penafiel, Vizela scored two late goals within five minutes of each other to secure a 3-3 draw, with Vizela prevailing 2-1 on penalties after neither side managed to find a goal in extra time.
Seven of Vizela’s nine league matches have featured less than 2.5 goals, and with Vizela missing a major creative spark in midfield in Raphael Guzzo, who scored in their 1-0 win against Casa Pia, this could be another low-scoring, stubborn contest as Alvaro Pacheco’s side welcome Santa Clara to the Estádio do Vizela. After kicking off the campaign with a 0-0 draw vs. Casa Pia, Santa Clara lost 2-1 in consecutive matches before losing 1-0 to Famalicão, beating Marítimo 2-1, losing 1-0 to Vitória, drawing 1-1 to Paços de Ferreira, losing 1-0 to Rio Ave, losing 2-1 to Sporting before losing 2-0 in the Taça de Portugal against last year’s finalists – a Tondela side that sits 5th in the second-tier after suffering relegation last season. Four of Santa Clara’s last five matches have featured under 2.5 goals, with the Azoreans scoring the fewest goals in the league (6) alongside Famalicão, Paços de Ferreira and Marítimo – one goal more than Vizela and Vitória – and conceding the fewest goals (11) in the bottom half apart from Chaves and Vizela (9). Mário Silva will be well aware that a poor result against Vizela could see him join César Peixoto, Vasco Seabra and Rui Pedro Silva as the first managers to be sacked in the Primeira season, and it could see him adopt a more defensive setup as they look to pick up their first clean sheet since the opening day draw vs. Casa Pia on August 7. Vizela could struggle to break down Santa Clara’s deep block without the creativity of Guzzo in midfield, but they will nevertheless back themselves to get a victory against a Santa Clara side that is reeling from the summer departures of Lincoln and Hidemasa Morita. I’m expecting a low-scoring fixture between one side who will be looking for a third straight league win and another side who will be looking to get its second win of the campaign.
Maritimo v Arouca
Sunday’s action will kick off in Funchal as Marítimo welcome Arouca to Madeira. Having narrowly avoided relegation in their return to the top-flight last season, Arouca find themselves 11th – seven points above the relegation play-off spot and seven behind third-placed Braga. After beginning the season with a 4-0 defeat at Benfica, Armando Evangelista’s side have been held to a clean sheet on just two occasions in their next nine matches – a 0-0 draw against Casa Pia (the joint-best defense in Portugal with Benfica) on September 4 and a 6-0 home defeat to Braga on August 28. Despite losing last season’s top scorer André Silva to Vitória, Arouca have reinforced their attack with the signing of Spanish forward Rafa Mújica from Las Palmas, with the 23-year-old finding three goals in 9 goals. He has locked down a starting spot and spearheaded Arouca’s attack, offering a physically imposing, mobile presence who is also comfortable under pressure, but he has not scored since September 11 and he faces competition from Oday Dabbagh for his place in the XI. After joining from Al-Arabi in August 2021, the Palestinian forward scored three goals and one assist before December but would have to wait another month before opening the scoring on January 9, only to pick up two yellows as B-SAD equalized in the 73rd minute via Nilton Varela, with Varela setting up Abel Camará for an extra-time winner in a match that would see Arouca finish with 9 men and B-SAD with 10. The next nine months would see Dabbagh fail to score a single goal before Arouca, a drought that would come to an end on October 2 with Dabbagh replacing Mújica after 67 minutes and equalizing 17 minutes later to secure a 1-1 draw against Paços de Ferreira.
Arouca fell behind in the 21st minute as Santiago Colombatto scored a long-range free kick, but they equalized nine minutes later via André Bukia before taking the lead in the 52nd minute via halftime substitute Morlaye Sylla and adding another goal six minutes later via Antony Alves, with David Simão setting up Antony’s goal as well as an 84th-minute goal from Dabbagh to condemn Famalicão to a 4-1 defeat. Dabbagh started ahead of Mújica and opened the scoring after 10 minutes against third-tier Fontinhas, with Bruno Marques scoring a late goal to secure a 2-0 win in the Taça de Portugal.
Arouca have found the back of the net on seven occasions this season, the sole exceptions being Benfica, Braga and Casa Pia, and they have scored in each of their last four matches. Only Rio Ave, Sporting, Braga, Porto and Benfica have scored more than them, and they will be taking on a Marítimo side that has conceded 25 goals in nine matches so far. Vasco Seabra was dismissed after five straight losses to start the season, with João Henriques taking the reins and losing his next three matches to Gil Vicente, Benfica and Casa Pia, before taking on Boavista at the Estádio da Bessa. Sebastián Pérez opened the scoring within 22 minutes for the hosts, only for Bruno Xadas to set up André Vidigal for the equalizer in the 56th minute – Marítimo had the chance to take the lead 15 minutes later, but Joel Tagueu hit the woodwork from the penalty spot – as the Madeira side picked up their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw. Marítimo took the lead within 21 minutes only to concede before the interval and reclaim the lead on the hour-mark from Bruno Xadas, only to fall to 10 men in the 93rd minute as Joel Soñora received a second yellow. Murilo Freitas equalized in the 95th minute to send it to extra time, with Pedro Schwaizer giving Mafra the lead in the 111th minute and Murilo completing his brace shortly after to secure a 4-2 win for Mafra – currently 14th in the second tier and last season’s semi-finalists in the Taça de Portugal.
Marítimo have not kept a clean sheet since April 16, and while they were able to end their losing streak against Boavista, I don’t expect them to end their clean sheet drought anytime soon – certainly not against an Arouca side that is putting together an impressive run of form together under Armando Evangelista.
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