Belenenses-SAD v Paços de Ferreira
Friday 25th February – 8:15PM KO
The 2021/22 Primeira Liga campaign is now two-thirds complete, and it’s fair to say we’ve seen our fair share of similarities as well as differences from the previous campaign. Once again, Sporting and Porto are dueling it out in a two-horse race for the league title, and once again, Benfica and Braga have been forced to eat their dust at third and fourth place, respectively.
Two teams who are experiencing radically different campaigns are Belenenses-SAD and Paços de Ferreira. Both teams overachieved last season with B-SAD finishing 10th despite scoring the joint-fewest goals in the league (25), whilst Paços finished fifth to seal a return to European football. Perhaps most importantly, both teams have since parted ways with the manager that led them to their impressive 2020/21 finish; Pepa departed Paços at the end of the campaign to accept a position at Vitória de Guimarães, whilst Petit was sacked in November after a poor start to the season and has since moved on to Boavista.
Belenenses-SAD (14) and Paços de Ferreira (18) are the only two sides in the Primeira that have not yet surpassed their 20-goal threshold thus far, but whilst Paços – in similar fashion to B-SAD last season – have been able to compensate with a sturdy defense and currently sit four points above the relegation play-off spot, B-SAD have struggled to stay afloat under new manager Filipe Cândido and are rooted to the bottom of the table with 15 points from 23 games.
The two sides will face off against each other on Friday night, yet another example of the Portuguese league’s incoherent scheduling: a journey from Paços to the Estádio de Honra is about a six-hour round trip. It’s why Paços have offered free tickets and transportation to its supporters for this match. But whilst Paços may have a booming supporters presence for Friday’s game, they will be without Rui Pires and Juan Delgado due to yellow card accumulation; B-SAD on the other hand will be missing Carraça in defense.
It has been five months since the two sides last met in a draw that saw Paços go up 2-0 within 20 minutes, squander a host of opportunities, and concede two late goals to B-SAD. I am tempted to go with yet another draw here, and I expect there to be fewer chances and goals for either side in this game in what will likely be another backs-to-the-wall performance from Belenenses-SAD.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Famalicão v Tondela
Saturday 26th February – 3:30PM KO
The Primeira’s action continues on Saturday afternoon with another intriguing matchup between two bottom-half sides in Famalicão and Tondela. Whilst both teams have spent the season staving off the threat of relegation, Tondela’s recent defeat to Braga puts them in the relegation play-off spot, just a point above Moreirense and five points above B-SAD.
It has been a worrying run of form for Tondela, who have won just twice in the league since the November international break: they kicked off the new year with a late comeback victory against Moreirense, and they ended January with another comeback win against 10-man Portimonense. Since then, they have lost to Benfica, Estoril and Braga, and with 45 goals conceded, they have the worst defensive record in the entire division.
Famalicão, on the other hand, have enjoyed an uptick in form under new manager Rui Pedro Silva, who replaced Ivo Vieira in December. They nearly began 2022 with an away victory against 10-man Braga, only for a childish back pass from Riccieli to gift-wrap Braga a point at the death. Riccieli made up for his error by scoring the sole goal in a 1-0 win vs. B-SAD four days later, and Famalicão followed that victory up by drawing 0-0 to Paços de Ferreira and Arouca as well as losing to Porto and Sporting.
Since that defeat to Sporting on February 6, Famalicão have thrashed relegation rivals Moreirense 5-0 and won 1-0 at Marítimo, with Simon Banza opening the scoring in the seventh minute and Marítimo going down to 10 men before the break. These two results put them three points above Tondela and four points above the relegation zone.
They’ve flattered to deceive before, but I’m optimistic enough to think that this is the start of something new for Famalicão. It was just a year ago when Ivo Vieira took charge following João Pedro Sousa’s mid-season sacking and Silas’ brief tenure, with the club rooted to the bottom of the league table. They would end up finishing 9th thanks to the impressive performances of January recruitments Manuel Ugarte and Rúben Vinagre, both of whom departed to Sporting following the Lisbon club’s first title in 19 years. Famalicão have already made another shrewd January pickup with ex Liverpool man João Carlos Teixeira, and alongside the likes of Simon Banza and Bruno Rodrigues in attack, they should have enough in the tank to overtake a leaky Tondela defense and put even more pressure on Spanish coach Pako Ayestarán.
Prediction: Famalicão to Win, 1.67 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Marítimo v Sporting
Saturday 26th February – 6:00PM KO
Marítimo will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Famalicão when they take on Rúben Amorim’s Sporting in Madeira. Their most recent encounter came on May 19, as Sporting closed the curtain on a victorious campaign with a 5-1 victory thanks to a hat-trick from Pedro Gonçalves. After Haris Seferović bagged a brace against Vitória, Pote pulled off some final day heroics to win the Golden Boot, edging Seferović by a goal at 23 goals.
Pote will need to be back at his best if Sporting are to keep the pressure on Porto and pick up three points now more than ever. Sporting will be without Pablo Sarabia due to suspension, a player who is in the form of his life with 10 goal contributions since the start of the year. Gonçalves, in turn, has taken a downturn in production this season with a five-game goal drought, but he ended his drought on February 20 by opening the scoring in a 3-0 win against Estoril.
Marítimo will be without Brazilian fullback Claudio Winck after he was sent off against Famalicão, and whilst they too have enjoyed an uptick in fortunes under new manager Vasco Seabra, they may not have enough to hold off the defending champions at home. Expect Nuno Santos – a starter last season who has been relegated to the bench following the arrival of Sarabia on loan from Paris Saint-Germain – to beat out competition from Marcus Edwards and Bruno Tabata and accompany Pote and Paulinho in the front three. Expect Swedish veteran Tim Söderström to fill in for Winck following his return from injury, and expect Sporting to pick up a second straight victory ahead of the first leg of the Taça de Portugal semifinals against Porto.
Prediction: Sporting to Win, 1.33 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Arouca v Moreirense
Saturday 26th February – 8:30PM KO
“We all know that Moreirense have been found guilty of corruption and will be relegated administratively at the end of the season. The Federation has already executed the court’s decision.”
Those were the words of Belenenses-SAD president Rui Pedro Soares following a 1-1 draw against Moreirense on August 27, citing an ongoing case from 2011/12 when Moreirense bribed six players from Santa Clara and Naval to get a foot up in their efforts to get back into the Primeira. Six months later, Belenenses-SAD find themselves rooted to the bottom of the league table and four points behind 17th-place Moreirense, who sit one point behind Tondela and two points behind newly promoted Arouca.
Moreirense will pay a visit to Arouca on Saturday night where they will be looking to pick up a much-needed victory following successive defeats to Porto and Famalicão. They won the previous fixture on September 25 thanks to goals from Walterson and André Luis under then manager João Henriques, who was sacked in November and replaced by Lito Vidigal, who lasted just over a month before getting the boot on January 6. Under new manager Ricardo Sá Pinto, Os verdes e brancos kicked off their new era with a 1-0 win against newly promoted Vizela thanks to a goal from Rafael Martins. The following match saw them take the lead at Benfica only to cough up the equalizer just four minutes later, but they nevertheless managed to hang onto a much-needed point at the Estádio da Luz.
After successive 2-0 defeats to Braga and Santa Clara, Moreirense bounced back with a 4-1 victory at home against 10-man Belenenses-SAD, but they were trounced in the following match in a 5-0 drubbing at Famalicão. Sunday’s match saw them concede the sole goal of the match in the 40th minute as Mehdi Taremi sprinted from the halfway line to chase down a loose ball, breezing past Artur Jorge on the edge of the box before setting up Evanilson to convert from close range.
Porto went down to 10 men in the 79th minute after Marko Grujić was sent off after just 13 minutes on the pitch. Moreirense came close to taking advantage and firing in an equalizer with André Luis’ free kick rattling off the crossbar, but they too were condemned to a sending-off as Canadian veteran Steven Vitória decided to compensate for a sloppy first touch by clattering in studs up on Otávio. When Derik Lacerda was put through on goal with a superb through ball from a Moreirense defender, Diogo Costa did brilliantly to read the trajectory and come off his line to rebound the ball calmly into the path of Chancel Mbemba, giving Porto a hard-earned victory at the Parque Joaquim de Almeida Freitas.
Arouca began the year with successive defeats to Belenenses-SAD and Benfica, followed by a 2-1 win against Estoril and a 0-0 draw against Famalicão, but after losing back-to-back matches to Porto and Marítimo, they took an impressive 3-1 victory away at Vitória de Guimarães. They will be looking to improve on a worrisome home record – their last win came on November 27 against Boavista – and see off a Moreirense side that will be without manager Ricardo Sá who was sent off at the end of a tense defeat to Porto. I’m expecting goals aplenty in this match – Arouca have the third-worst defensive record in the league with 42 goals conceded, whilst Moreirense could struggle to cope with Arouca’s tricky front three in André Bukia, André Silva and Arsénio Nunes following the suspension of Steven Vitória
Prediction: Over 2.5 Goals, 2.10 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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