Restart preview: Portugal’s Primeira Liga


Portuguese football resumes on the 3rd of June as the country begins to emerge from the coronavirus crisis and the Primeira Liga could yet provide the extended European season’s closest major title race.

It all starts again with Portimonense facing Gil Vicente in Tuesday’s earlier kick-off, before Famalicão host leaders Porto – at Gil Vicente’s ground, due to the hygiene protocols.

Benfica welcome Tondela to Lisbon on Wednesday, followed by Guimarães and Sporting CP facing off in the game of the round.

Title Race

Benfica boss Bruno Lage (left) and Porto manager Sérgio Conceição (credit:

The fight for the Portuguese league title is as close as it gets across major European leagues and the added factor of the unusual circumstances mean it really is impossible to call.

After 24 matchdays – ten remaining – only a single point separates the top two of Porto and Benfica, on 60 and 59 points respectively.

The pair have won the last 17 titles between them (10-7 in Porto’s favour) and last faced off at the Estádio do Dragão in February.

An own goal from the visitors proved decisive as hosts Porto secured a thrilling 3-2 victory, in a match that contained just the ten yellow cards.

It completed a double, after they also triumphed 2-0 at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz back in August.

Teams tied on points in Portugal are split by their head to head record at the end of the season, so this could be crucial.


Alex Telles (credit: Daily Mail)

The giants from northern Portugal won six in a row, including that big win over Benfica, before drawing 1-1 at home to Rio Ave in their last pre-coronavirus fixture.

Their record currently reads 19 wins, three draws and two defeats, with 50 goals scored and 16 conceded.

But Porto’s lack of a real finisher in attack could come back to bite them if the league remains on a knife-edge until the last matchday. 

Brazilian left back Alex Telles is remarkably their top scorer in the league so far this season, with eight in 23 appearances.

Misfiring Moussa Marega has just six in 20 upfront whilst Ze Luis has seven in 15.

They’re perhaps not helped by long-serving head coach Sérgio Conceição’s regular tinkering with his forward line, that also includes Tiquinho Soares, Vincent Aboubakar and exciting 17-year-old striker Fabio Silva.

The other man to keep an eye on in Porto’s famous blue and white stripes is Pepe. Though aged 37 now, the former Real Madrid centre-half is producing high quality performances and full value entertainment, when he’s not injured.


Rúben Dias (credit: Daily Mail)

Managed by their former B team boss Bruno Lage, Benfica were in poor form before the coronavirus shutdown and surrendered first place.

This was epitomised by 14-goal striker Pizzi missing three of four penalties in their last two matches.

His nightmare contributed to Benfica’s run of one win in their last 5 (1-2-2) having been near perfect before that (18-0-1).

The Eagles’ only win since January was 1-0 at Gil Vicente, courtesy of an early strike from the league’s top scorer Carlos Vinicius (15 goals).

Benfica’s major winter addition to their squad was German international midfielder Julian Weigl from Borussia Dortmund, for a reported €20 million on a 4.5-year deal, though he’s yet to make a real impact.

Elsewhere former QPR attacker Adel Taarabt had his first consistent run in the team for a couple of years pre-lockdown.  

The star man is Portugal centre-back Rúben Dias, who’s been linked with a big money move to both Manchester clubs and Barcelona – he reportedly has an £87 million release clause in his contract, negotiated by super-agent Jorge Mendes.

European places

Guimarães celebrate a goal at Famalicão (credit:

The top two will definitely take Portugal’s Champions League spots, as usual, this season. Braga, 13 points behind Benfica on 46 in third, and Sporting CP, a further four behind (42) in fourth, are almost certain to take two of the Europa League places.

Not only are they comfortably and consistently the next best teams and biggest clubs in the country, but they also enjoy a handy cushion with ten games to go.

Sporting remain four points ahead of fifth place Rio Ave (38), despite the sale of star player Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United in January and labouring to an unconvincing 2-0 win at home to bottom of the table Aves in their last outing.

The lowly visitors were reduced to nine men after only 19 minutes, but Sporting didn’t open the scoring until beyond the hour mark and required a penalty to seal the victory.

Rio Ave are currently set for European football next season too though, as fifth will take the Portuguese Cup’s Europa League place due to Porto and Benfica meeting in the final.

In a three-horse race, Vitória Guimarães and Famalicão are both just one point further back in sixth and seventh, both on 37 points.

Newly promoted Famalicão have been helped by a takeover from an Israeli billionaire, a relationship with Jorge Mendes and plenty of new signings, including English left-back Josh Tymon.

They started the season in fine form, were top in October and beat Sporting 3-1 in their last home game.

But they’ve won just one of their last eight matches and suffered a humiliating 7-0 defeat at home to Guimarães in February.

Relegation battle

Paços de Ferreira celebrate a goal at Aves (credit:

At the wrong end of the Primeira Liga table, third bottom Paços de Ferreira’s consecutive wins just before the coronavirus suspension of football seems to have cut adrift the two clubs occupying the relegation places.

They triumphed 3-1 at last place Aves in a huge six-pointer, following a 2-1 win against Famalicão.

It left Aves with 19 defeats and just 13 points after 24 matches, trailing Paços (22) by nine points with ten games to play.

In between them, Portimonense have just two wins so far this season and are six points from safety on 16.

Fourth bottom Marítimo are then eight above the drop zone on 24 points and fairly unlikely to get dragged into a fight for survival, despite just one win in nine (1-3-5) before the lockdown.

Next are Tondela in 14th on 25 points, with a single victory in their last 11 matches. They’re still only six points behind 8th place Moreirense though, in a slew of mid-table teams that seem both too far behind the European places to challenge and well clear of danger.


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