Vizela v Portiomonense
Sunday 27th February – 3:30PM KO
Portimonense faced off against Vizela for the first time in four years on September 26, a 0-0 draw that will perhaps more than anything be remembered for the enthusiasm of the away supporters more than anything else. Despite the Primeira Liga Portuguesa de Futebol Profissional once again showing their disregard for fans by scheduling the game at 10:30 pm on Sunday, over 60 supporters braved the 10-hour round trip to cheer on the promoted side in the Algarve.
Vizela head into the return match on the back of a so-so run of form under manager Álvaro, having entered January on the back of two successive victories against Tondela and Vitória. They settled for a 2-2 draw against 10-man Boavista on February 6, before losing 1-0 to Gil Vicente as Fran Navarro converted a spot-kick early on following Alex Mendez’s clumsy foul in the box. Vizela found themselves down a man within eight minutes on Saturday after Cassiano decided to elbow Juan Delgado in the chest, but they opened the lead 17 minutes later as Bruno Wilson towered above the Paços players to head home a corner kick. Paços went into halftime level after Benfica loanee Nuno Santos fired home a half-volley from outside the box, and took the lead via 18-year-old Matchoi Djaló in a second half that would see Vizela midfielder Samu sent off for clattering into Hélder Ferreira’s cleat.
Portimonense, on the other hand, are on the lookout for their first victory of 2022 following a wretched run of form of four draws and four losses in their past eight. It wasn’t long ago that Portimonense looked set to challenge for the elusive fifth place and European qualification with impressive victories against Benfica and Famalicão, but they have struggled to carry their form into the new year and have failed to score more than a goal in a single match since November. The side effects of failing to sign a replacement for wantaway striker Beto following his summer deadline day departure to Udinese are starting to show, and the sale of left back Fali Candé to Metz in January hasn’t helped either.
Portimonense have registered 53 shots on their past three games but have only found the back of the net on three occasions, with the club drawing 1-1 to Paços de Ferreira, Boavista and Santa Clara. Against a Vizela side that is missing two crucial players, I expect Portimonense to get back to winning ways and ease the pressure on manager Paulo Sérgio with a big performance.
Prediction: Portiomense Double Chance, 1.67 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Estoril v Boavista
Sunday 27th February – 6:00PM KO
Portimonense aren’t the only team with a black-and-white jersey who’s struggled to kick off 2022 on the right note. One month after being sacked by Beleneneses-SAD, Petit returned to Boavista and replaced João Pedro Sousa at the helm after the latter decided to leave the Axadrezados after five months and take charge of Saudi club Al-Raed.
Petit’s first match in charge saw Boavista draw 1-1 to Marítimo following a last-second equalizer from Marítimo’s Henrique. After losing 0-2 to Sporting, Boavista looked to have turned a new leaf after thrashing Braga 5-1 in the Taça da Liga and edging Moreirense in a 1-0 win, but they followed it up with four consecutive 1-1 draws, another 1-1 draw and penalty shootout defeat to Benfica in the Taça da Liga, and a 2-1 defeat to Santa Clara. After drawing back-to-back matches against Vizela and Portimonense, they took on Benfica at home on Friday night.
Benfica grabbed an early two-goal lead thanks to goals from Adel Taarabt and Álex Grimaldo, but their lead was split in half as Gustavo Sauer combined with Petar Musa to beat Odysseas Vlachodimos with a well-timed effort from outside the box. Boavista equalized just minutes later as Gaius Makouta pounced on a loose ball and fired into the top corner of the net and would hold onto a well-deserved point.
Boavista are just three points above the relegation zone and will be looking to give themselves a bit more breathing room when they take on Estoril in Cascais. Estoril have impressed in their return to the top-flight under Bruno Pinheiro and currently sit seventh in the league – 10 points away from the relegation play-off as well as the coveted fifth place for European football. They have only won on two occasions since the start of November, beating Tondela and Belenenses-SAD, but they nevertheless look headed for a second straight season in the Primeira thanks in large part to an impressive defensive record with 27 goals conceded, bettered only by Portimonense, Gil Vicente, Braga, Benfica, Sporting and Porto.
However, Bruno Pinheiro’s defense will be deprived of three important pieces with Nahuel Ferraresi, Joãozinho and January pickup Raúl Silva all suspended. Boavista, for their part, will be missing two starters in Sebastián Pérez and Yanis Hamache as well as a valuable attacking supersub in Kenji Gorré due to yellow card accumulation, but with Petar Musa and Gustavo Sauer in fine form, they should have enough in the tank to pick up their first victory of the new year and wreak havoc on the hosts’ backline.
Prediction: Boavista Draw no Bet, 2.20 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Benfica v Vitória
Sunday 27th February – 6:00PM KO
Whilst they will be kicking themselves after throwing away a two-goal lead to Boavista, Benfica will be feeling far more optimistic after taking home a 2-2 draw against Ajax thanks to a late goal from substitute Roman Yaremchuk. Despite having just 40% possession in their home stadium, Benfica nevertheless registered more shots (17 to 11) and chances created (16 to 7) than Ajax and deservedly head into next month’s second leg in Amsterdam on level pegging.
Benfica will be looking to close out February with a victory at the Luz against Vitória de Guimarães. The last time the two clubs met on September 25, Jorge Jesus’ side were one of the sole perfect teams in Europe alongside Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli, and they managed to pick up a 3-1 victory thanks to a first-half brace from Yaremchuk. Things look drastically different for Benfica now under interim manager Nelson Verissimo, with the club six points below Sporting and 12 behind Porto, but they’ll be hoping that their second-half performance against Ajax is a sign of things to come rather than a mere flash in the pan.
Vitória kicked off the month with a 2-1 victory against local rivals Braga in the Derbi do Minho where, after Alfa Semedo left them down a man with 30+ minutes left, substitute Nélson da Luz found himself unmarked in the box and converted the winning goal in the 90th minute. Rather than a turning point, however, it has been more of the same for Vitória who have lost back-to-back matches against two teams in the bottom four – Belenenses-SAD and Arouca.
They sit 10 points behind Gil Vicente in the race for the final European spot, and it has been anything but smooth sailing for Pepa in his maiden campaign at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques. Vitória sold promising English winger Marcus Edwards to Sporting in the January window and, perhaps more damningly, failed to reinforce a leaky backline that has proved to be the Achilles heel of their season. After keeping six clean sheets in the first two months of the season under Pepa, they’ve kept just one clean sheet since — a 1-0 win against third-tier Oliveira do Hospital on October 16.
Expect Vitória’s defense to be called into question in Sunday’s fixture against Benfica. Although Benfica will be without two starters due to suspension – Nicolás Otamendi and Julian Weigl – their attack of Gonçalo Ramos, Darwin Núñez, Roman Yaremchuk, Rafa Silva and Everton Cebolinha should have more than enough firepower to condemn Pepa’s men to a third straight defeat.
Prediction: Benfica Win & Over 2.5 Goals, 1.91 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Porto v Gil Vicente
Sunday 27th February – 8:30PM KO
Since a heartbreaking defeat to Atlético Madrid on December 7 that saw them exit the Champions League at the group stage, Porto have been clicking on all cylinders with 13 victories and just 2 draws – a 2-2 draw to Sporting that saw them erase a two-goal deficit and hold onto their six-point advantage in the league, and a 2-2 draw vs. Lazio that saw them comfortably progress to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. On Sunday, however, they will have a demanding task ahead of them as they host Gil Vicente at the Estádio do Dragão.
Porto’s recent 1-0 victory against Moreirense was a heated fixture that saw Moreirense receive three bookings in the first 12 minutes and have manager Ricardo Sá Pinto sent off, with a first-half goal from Evanilson giving Porto a hard-fought three points. Porto also saw their fair share of cautions, with Matheus Uribe picking up a yellow in the first half that will see him miss the Gil Vicente match due to suspension. Eager to prevent a sending-off, Sérgio Conceição subbed him off for Marko Grujić, but the Serbian lasted just 13 minutes before receiving his marching orders.
It means that Porto will be without both Uribe – the unsung hero and the combative midfield linchpin that has allowed the likes of Vitinha and Fábio Vieira to flourish with more freedom going forward – as well as a like-for-like replacement in Grujić. Whilst Bruno Costa is an option, expect January arrival Stephen Eustáquio to start in midfield as he attempts to impress his new manager.
Porto will also be without Pepe following his dismissal in the recent 2-2 draw vs. Sporting, whilst Gil will once again be without starting goalkeeper Žiga Frelih due to a muscular injury and winger Murilo Souza due to a season-ending Achilles rupture.
The previous fixture in Barcelos saw Porto snatch a late victory thanks to a superb free kick from Sérgio Oliveira, who departed for Roma in January and was replaced by Eustáquio. Whilst Porto wil be looking to maintain their six-point lead on Sporting atop the table and continue their unbeaten run, Gil will be looking to continue their eight-game unbeaten streak – their longest streak in the Primeira – and hold onto their 10-point lead for the final European spot.
I am tempted to say that their individual quality in attack will see them take yet another victory, but if there’s any team that’s going to break Porto’s superb run of form, it could be this Gil team. Without Uribe, Porto could find themselves outmatched against a Gil Vicente midfield boasting the likes of Pedrinho, Carvalho and Kanya Fujimoto, and Gil’s front three of Fran Navarro, Samuel Lino and Antoine Léautey could do some serious damage to Porto’s backline as well. Having opened February with a win against Benfica, Ricardo Soares’ side will be looking to close out the month with another shock result to continue their dream campaign.
Prediction: Both Teams to Score, 2.20 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Braga v Santa Clara
Monday 28th February – 8:15PM KO
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but Braga managed to erase a two-goal deficit from the first leg and defeat Sheriff Tiraspol on penalties. Whilst Porto have a date with Lyon in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16, Braga will be taking on fellow Ligue 1 side Monaco. The Arsenalistas will close out the weekend’s Primeira action when they host Santa Clara.
Carlos Carvalhal could be forgiven if he is feeling a sense of déjà vu at the moment. Once again, Braga are back into the Europa League Round of 16, and once again, they are fourth in the league – seven points away from third-place Benfica, four points away from fifth-place Gil Vicente, and 14 points away from Vitória and Estoril. It is somewhat of a purgatory that Braga find themselves in; too good to fall out of the European spots, too bad to challenge for the title.
Braga and Santa Clara’s first encounter this season saw Santa Clara escape with a draw via a last-second free kick from Lincoln, but when they met in the Taça de Portugal two months later, Braga thrashed them 6-0 thanks to a poker from Vítor Oliveira. Since then, however, Santa Clara have sacked manager Nuno Campos and began 2022 on the right note, defeating Sporting, Boavista and Moreirense and drawing to Gil Vicente and Portimonense.
As they look to recover from a tense 120+ minutes against Sheriff Tiraspol, it’s worth looking at Braga’s record following European matches this season. After losing to Crvena zvezda and FC Midtjylland, respectively, Braga responded with victories in the league, and they continued that trend when they brushed off last week’s disappointing result in Moldova with a 1-0 win against Tondela. When they drew to Crvena zvezda in December, they lost 1-0 to Porto in the following match. However, after beating European opponents, Braga have responded with: a 2-2 draw against Boavista, a 1-0 win against Gil Vicente and a 6-1 thrashing at Benfica.
It is far from the most convincing run of form, and Santa Clara may just have enough quality in their roster to leave the north of Portugal with a point here. In order to do so, however, they’ll need to keep Ricardo Horta quiet: the Braga captain has found the back of the net on five occasions since January 30.
This is a match that could go either way, but I’m tempted to think that it will have more goals than the 1-1 draw we saw in September. Braga have the tools in attack to do damage against the Azorians’ backline, and whilst young defender David Carmo has returned to full fitness following a year on the sidelines, he and fellow youngster Diogo Leite could have their hands full in trying to neutralize Brazilian attackers Lincoln and Cryzan. With veteran center back Paulo Oliveira missing out due to injury, Santa Clara will be looking to hit the two-goal mark for the sixth time this year.
Prediction: Over 2.5 Goals, 1.73 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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