Porto v Arouca
Following a 39-day absence, the Primeira Liga is back with Rio Ave and Marítimo settling for a 1-1 draw in Vila de Conde to kick off Matchday 14. It has been quite the eventful break with three Portuguese teams sacking their manager and Enzo Fernández and Nicolás Otamendi becoming the first Primeira Liga players to win the World Cup, and the return of Portugal’s top-flight looks set to provide even more action and entertainment. Portimonense will host Casa Pia in the Algarve on December 28, a match that will be followed by Arouca’s trip to Porto shortly after.
The World Cup break has been fairly kind to both teams. Pepe, Otávio and Diogo Costa emerged as regular starters for Portugal prior to their quarterfinals defeat to Morocco, whilst Mehdi Taremi, Stephen Eustáquio and Marko Grujić returned early following their nations’ group stage eliminations. After heading into the break on the back of a 4-1 win against Boavista, Porto drew 2-2 to second-tier Mafra before defeating Primeira teams Chaves, Vizela and Gil Vicente by a combined scoreline of 8-0 to advance to the Taça da Liga semifinals, where they will face off against second-tier Académico de Viseu on January 25.
Porto could very well play Arouca three times in the span of a month – they will play each other on January 11 in the Taça de Portugal, and if Porto manage to beat Viseu and Arouca pull off an upset against Sporting, they will face each other in the Taça da Liga Final in Leiria. Having narrowly avoided relegation in their return to the top-flight, Arouca have begun the 2022/23 season in stellar fashion, currently sitting 10th with 19 points from their first 13 games, but I think they could have trouble getting a point in the Dragão.
Apart from a 2-1 defeat on February 7, 2016, Porto have won each of their last nine fixtures against Arouca, with last season’s matches seeing them win 3-0 at home and 2-0 away. Apart from a 1-0 win on March 15, 2015 which saw them reduced to 10 men after 12 minutes, each of Porto’s victories have come with a two-goal margin or more, and I’m expecting something similar at the Dragão. Brazilian winger Wenderson Galeno is in electric form with a goal in each of his last two games, and after entering the break with a brace against Boavista, I’m expecting him to cause the right flank of Arouca’s defense some serious problems and lead Porto to a comfortable victory at home.
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