Gil Vicente v Tondela
Whilst Gil Vicente fell to a 4-1 defeat to Sporting despite Brazilian goalkeeper Andrew making 11 saves – the most in any league match this season – Tondela ended the matchday with a trip to Paços de Ferreira. Both teams had their fair share of chances early on, but it was Tondela who took the lead in the 32nd minute as Rafael Barbosa picked up the ball by the touchline after a quick passing combination, before biding his time and quickly shifting wide before sending in a perilous cross into Tiago Almeida, who headed it down into the path of Salvador Agra whose diving header allowed Nuno Campos’ side to go up a goal.
Tondela nearly doubled their lead before the break as Barbosa slipped in a pass for Juan Manuel Boselli who was ruled offsides just by an inch, and they nearly added to the lead in the 54th minute as Boselli won a loose ball just outside of the center circle, wrestling his way past several Paços players who were desperate to take a yellow for the team but unable to do so, but as goalkeeper André Ferreira came off his line to greet him, Boselli scuffed his shot just wide of the mark. This proved fatal – in the 91st minute, Hélder Ferreira delivered a tempting cross towards the face of goal to Denilson, who flicked it into the path of fellow Brazilian substitute Lucas da Silva de Jesus to convert and snatch a 1-1 draw.
Since losing 4-0 at the Dragão on March 13, Tondela have drawn 2-2 to Arouca, beat Marítimo 3-1, lost 3-1 to Sporting, lost 2-0 to Moreirense, drawn 1-1 to second-tier Mafra in the second leg of the Taça de Portugal semifinals after winning the first leg 3-0, drawn 1-1 to Vitória and drawn 1-1 to Paços de Ferreira. Hypothetically, if you picked Tondela to draw every time in each of their last seven matches, you would have gotten four out of seven correct. If you picked them to lose each time, you would have gotten two out of seven correct. If you picked over 2.5 goals each time, you would have gotten the first three correct and the next four wrong. If you picked both teams to score, you would have gotten six out of seven correct.
Since beating Braga 1-0 on March 13 to go within inches of fourth place, Gil Vicente have drawn 1-1 to Marítimo, lost 2-1 to Arouca, lost 2-1 to Moreirense, drawn 2-2 to Famalicão, drawn 1-1 to Paços de Ferreira, and lost 4-1 to Sporting. If you picked both teams to score in each of Gil’s last six matches, you would have gotten six out six correct.
Despite missing Bebeto, João Pedro and Modibo Sagnan due to suspension, I’m expecting Tondela to follow in the footsteps of Arouca, Moreirense and Famalicão, all of which have taken points off Gil to secure massive results in their relegation fight. I’m expecting both teams to find the back of the net in what should be an intriguing battle between one team that is bidding farewell to a historic campaign and another team that is clinging on for dear life.
Vizela v Marítimo
Vizela’s top goalscorer in league play is Braga loanee Guilherme Schettine with eight goals – four of them have come against fellow promoted side Arouca. Marítimo’s top scorer is Joel Tagueu with nine goals – three have come from the penalty spot, three have come from Marítimo’s recent 4-0 drubbing of Boavista. Contrary to the Petar Musa-led Boavista or the Beto-led Portimonense of last season, there isn’t necessarily an attacking talisman on either side – it is very much a ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ mentality for both teams. So, why am I about to tell you that this is going to be a goal fest?
In Portugal, the only man who’s more influential than the center forward is the manager himself. Álvaro Pacheco has led Vizela to back-to-back promotions with an expansive style of play, something that he hasn’t renounced in the club’s second ever season in the top-flight and the first since 1984, when they were relegated. It has proven costly on several occasions – a 4-2 drubbing to Porto at the weekend, a 3-1 loss to Santa Clara on March 6, a 4-1 defeat to Braga on November 30 – but it has also paid off on plenty of occasions as well. Vizela have scored 35 goals and conceded 53 across 32 games, a total of 88 goals and an average of 2.75 goals per game. Only 16th-placed Tondela (101 goals), 3rd-placed Benfica (105), and 1st-placed Porto (105) have seen more goals scored.
With two games remaining, Vizela sit five points clear of the relegation play-off spot and six points clear of the relegation zone, but they’ll nevertheless be looking to pick up a positive result to seal their status in the top-flight and avoid a nervy visit to 17th-placed Moreirense on the final day of the season. I expect them to go out on the offensive and push for a goal early on against a Marítimo side who have nothing left to play for and who will be without Brazilian right back Claudio Winck after his expulsion midway through last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Benfica.
Prior to the defeat to Benfica, Marítimo’s past four results saw them lose 3-1 to Tondela, lose 2-0 to Paços de Ferreira, beat Boavista 4-0 and draw 2-2 to Santa Clara. Both Pacheco and Vasco Seabra are managers who seek to win rather than avoid defeat, a breath of fresh air in a league that has been defined by its defensive tactics, and I’m expecting it to be reflected with a goal-heavy affair.
Braga v Arouca
Whilst Estoril Praia have already secured their status in the top-flight for next season, the other two promoted sides – Arouca and Vizela – are still fighting for their life in the home stretch of the campaign. Arouca are two points behind Vizela, three points above Tondela – who occupy the relegation play-off spot – four points above Moreirense, and five points above Belenenses-SAD. Their final game? A home match against Belenenses-SAD. Prior to doing so, however, they’ll be paying a visit to Braga in what will likely be the final home match of Carlos Carvalhal’s time in charge, a Braga side that are guaranteed to finish fourth no matter what.
Braga closed out 2021 with a 6-0 win at Arouca, with now 22-year-old striker Vítor ‘Vitinha’ Oliveira scoring a hat-trick within 26 minutes, Iuri Medeiros adding a penalty and 16-year-old winger Roger Fernandes grabbing a brace off the bench. Since then, the Arcebispos have enjoyed an impressive record against relegation battlers – beating Moreirense 2-0, beating Tondela 1-0, and beating Vizela 1-0 despite playing the entire second half with 10 men after Vitinha’s expulsion. They looked set to drop points against a stubborn Belenenses-SAD side on Saturday, who fell to 10 men at the 83rd minute following Sandro’s expulsion. However, captain Ricardo Horta saved their blushes with a winning goal in the 90th minute, a goal that was probably celebrated more by the fans of Arouca, Moreirense, Tondela and Vizela than Braga fans themselves.
Since their humiliating defeat to Braga, Arouca have lost 2-0 to Porto, Sporting and Benfica. Over their last nine league games, only three have seen more than 2.5 goals scored – a 2-2 draw to Tondela on March 19 (who have the statistically worst defense in the league), a 2-1 win against Gil Vicente on April 2, and a 2-1 defeat to Vizela on April 22. Over Braga’s last ten games, only two have seen more than 2.5 goals scored – a 2-1 win against Portimonense on March 20 and a 3-2 win against Braga on April 1.
I’m tempted to say that Braga continue their impressive form against teams at the bottom of the table, but Arouca have far more to play for and will be looking to do what Estoril and Santa Clara have done in recent months – hold Braga to a goalless draw and pick up a point that will see them head into the final week of the season just hovering above the relegation zone – provided that their direct opponents in the battle also pick up points. Between a Braga side that has won more points with its steel trap defense than its attack, and an Arouca side that will be looking to keep their cards close to their chest after a 6-0 drubbing, I’m expecting goals to be far and few between.
Santa Clara v Paços de Ferreira
Just like last season, Braga will finish fourth in the table. Just like last season, Benfica will finish third. Just like last season, Porto and Sporting will finish in the top two and have sealed their automatic progression to the Champions League group stage.
As for the final two European spots, they are no longer occupied by Paços de Ferreira and Santa Clara, the latter of whom sealed European qualification for the first time in the club’s 95-year history, but Gil Vicente and Vitória de Guimarães. Both Santa Clara and Paços saw their managers and a litany of key players leave after their impressive seasons, both failed to advance to the Europa Conference League group stage, and both have gone from an impending relegation battle to a comfortable midtable finish under new managers Mário Silva and César Peixoto, respectively. Paços are one point ahead of Marítimo and Santa Clara and sit seventh in the table, and neither side has a chance of suffering relegation or qualifiying for Europe.
Paços have scored just 29 goals this season – only Portimonense and bottom dwellers Belenenses-SAD have scored fewer – but their 40 goals conceded is only bettered by the top five sides in Portugal. Santa Clara have conceded 50 goals in 32 games, but they’ve just conceded 11 in their past 12 – only Porto, Sporting and Braga have conceded fewer. Apart from a 4-0 drubbing to Vitória on April 15, Paços’ last four games have seen a total of two goals scored. On the other hand, Santa Clara have seen two goals scored in three of their past four games, the lone exception being a 2-2 draw to Marítimo on April 23. Prior to that four-game spell, they drew 0-0 in back-to-back games against Famalicão and Belenenses-SAD and lost 3-0 to Porto at the Dragão.
Santa Clara will be without Brazilian winger Allano, who has emerged as a crucial player on the left side of attack since returning from a fourth-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis in November. After intercepting a pass at the halfway line, Allano raced up the left flank before firing a cross for Kyosuke Tagawa to convert and open the scoring within four minutes against Marítimo on April 23. Just a half-hour later, he received a pass at the halfway line by the touchline and, despite being aggressively closed down by an opponent, picked out Tagawa with an inch-perfect through ball for the Japanese striker to convert. Whilst Óscar Estupiñán put Vitória ahead early on, Allano secured a draw for Santa Clara the following week after equalizing from the spot.
Paços de Ferreira conceded early on to Tondela and were closer to going behind 2-0 than equalizing it throughout the match, but they nevertheless made Tondela pay for their near misses in the first minute of extra time: Hélder Ferreira received a pass on the right flank and fired in a cross for Brazilian striker Denilson, who deftly flicked it into the path of his compatriot and fellow substitute Lucas Silva, who converted from close range to secure a 1-1 draw. With both Allano and Ferreira missing due to suspension, I’m expecting a cagey match between two teams who will be without two major weapons in attack.
Belenenses-SAD v Famalicão
Famalicão picked up their first victory since February and sealed their top-flight status for next season with a 3-1 win against Estoril, an Estoril side that was missing creative talisman André Franco and midfielder Lorientz Rosier due to suspension. Before wrapping up the season with a home match against Braga, they’ll be paying a visit to a Belenenses-SAD side that is without South African midfielder Sphephelo Sithole, Portuguese center back Danny Henriques, Nigerian left back Chima Akas and Brazilian midfielder Sandro.
Belenenses-SAD remain rooted to the bottom of the league table with 25 points from 32 games, but are just two points away from the relegation play-off spot and five points away from safety – otherwise known as Arouca, who will will host B-SAD in the final week of the season. After beginning March with three straight draws (all under 2.5 goals), Franclim Carvalho – who has been in charge since January 11 and who is B-SAD’s third manager of the entire season – oversaw a 2-0 victory against 10-man Portimonense, a 3-1 loss to Benfica, a 1-0 win against Vizela, before drawing 2-2 to Estoril and losing 1-0 to Braga thanks to a last-gasp winner from Ricardo Horta.
Carvalho’s first match in charge saw Belenenenses-SAD lose 1-0 to Famalicão thanks to a second-half goal from Brazilian center back Riccieli – it just so happened to be Rui Pedro Silva’s third match in charge of Famalicão and his first win. Since then, Famalicão have generally maintained a low-scoring pattern against relegation rivals – drawing 0-0 to Paços de Ferreira, Arouca and Santa Clara, drawing 1-1 to Vizela, and losing 1-0 to Portimonense. On the other hand, Belenenses-SAD have followed a similar pattern. Taking away matches against the Big Three, Beleneneses-SAD have seen more than 2.5 goals scored on three occasions since the start of the year: a 2-1 win against Arouca on January 9 that saw two red cards dished out to either side within the first 18 minutes, a 4-1 defeat to Moreirense on February 7 that saw B-SAD’s Senegalese striker Alioune Ndour receive his marching orders before halftime, and 2-2 draw against Estoril on April 29 that saw five red cards dished out in extra time. I’m backing this one to be a cagey, low-scoring fixture between one side that has finally made it across the finish line and another that’s huffing and puffing to leapfrog the competition and remain in the Primeira.
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