From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Enough of pre-season matches and never-ending debates on whether this or that team is stronger than last year. The start of the ‘exciting-at-times’ Liga Zon Sagres is upon us, so it’s finally time to get down to the real business - predictions!
Despite the imminent start of the new league season, the Portuguese media are currently more interested in Manchester United forking out €9 million for yet another youngster from Portugal.
Having previously signed much-heralded starlets such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson, the Red Devils this time went one further and picked up a virtual unknown.
Tiago Correia – commonly known as Bebé, which, perhaps predictably, means 'baby' in Portuguese – had only moved to Vitoria Guimaraes five weeks before on a free transfer. That’s ridiculously speedy rise through the game is quite a fitting for a boy who once lived on the streets and represented Portugal in the Homeless World Cup just two years ago.
Congratulations and good luck to him, but we’ll analyze this deal in more depth at a later stage, because right now we have a new season starting!
Braga v Portimonense
New boys Portimonense would have wished for an easier start than a visit to in-form Braga. The Algarvian side are arguably one of the weakest teams of the competition and will take some time to settle into top flight. Braga has too much experience and firepower to let this one slip away. Braga stroll to easy win.
Marítimo v Setúbal
Mitchell Van der Gaag has done remarkably well at Maritimo as a manager, and judging by how his side have played in pre-season and in the Europa League qualifying stages, they seem capable of emulating last season results. Setubal, on the other hand, have lost key men Helder Barbosa and Keita over the summer, and therefore might lack some quality upfront. Home win.
Naval v Porto
The Dragons start their domestic campaign on a high after a morale-boosting victory against arch-rivals Benfica and, quite frankly, they should have no problems beating Naval. Watch out for a good old battering and for new Porto coach André Villas-Boas‘ honeymoon period to continue. Definitely a Porto win.
Paços de Ferreira v Sporting
Mata Real (Paços de Ferreira stadium) is traditionally a tricky turf for any side, and Paulo Sérgio’s men will have to prove they are up for the task. Last year, the Lions were held to a goalless draw and there’s no reason to believe the change in direction promoted by Costinha and Bettencourt has yet to inject the necessary spark. A 1-1 draw in what will be the first of many tests for this enigmatic Sporting side.
Rio Ave v Nacional
Carlos Brito – the perennial Rio Ave manager – has conducted some quite shrewd business this summer. Bringing in the likes of Fábio Felicio, Tiago Pinto, Bruno China, Braga and Joao Tomas has increased both the depth and the quality of the squad. Considering how consistent they are at home, they’ll beat a Nacional side that will need to prove they can be as hard to beat without their former coach, Manuel Machado. Narrow home win.
Beira-Mar v Uniao de Leiria
Newcomers Beira-Mar host Leiria and the sheer excitement of playing the first match of the season at home will give them an extra edge. The Portugeezer sees some goals in this match, but it ultimately ending in an entertaining draw.
Benfica v Académica
The Eagles will have to show something different if they want to woo their supporters. An almost packed Estádio da Luz will give the players some extra motivation, although they shouldn’t really need it as they have more than enough quality to see off the Students. Comfortable win for Benfica.
Olhanense v Guimaraes
Guimaraes lost a few important players such as Desmarets and Andrezinho and will travel to the south of the country to face Olhanense, who have managed to make some interesting additions to their squad. The ‘home factor’ could play a key role here and the Algarvian side will manage to get their first three points of the season. Narrow home win.
What do you think? Do you expect any surprises in the opening day?
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