>Surprise-packets Braga were pipped to the post by Benfica in Portugal last term while big guns FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon languished behind, so how’s the situation shaping up in Liga Sagres this season.
Last Season; champions’‘Topscorer; Oscar Cardozo (26)'’Most Assists; Angel Di Maria (11)
The Eagles ended a five-year drought with the Liga title last term, finishing five points clear of their nearest rivals. Manager Jorge Jesus led Benfica to their success with Angel Di Maria, Pablo Aimar, Fabio Coentrao and Oscar Cardozo the key players. Cardozo and Di Maria topped the charts in a clear sign of their dominance.
Ins’‘Roberto (Atletico Madrid), Nicolás Gaitán (Boca Juniors), Franco Jara (Arsenal de Sarandi), Rodrigo (Real Madrid), Alipio (Real Madrid – Loan), Fábio Faria (Rio Ave)'’Outs’‘Ramires (Chelsea), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Quim (Braga)The departure of tricky Argentina winger Di Maria is a major blow for Benfica, but his sale has generated funds to purchase players like promising attacking midfielder Gaitan and Roberto from Atletico Madrid. Retaining young revelation Fabio Coentrao is a boost too.Sports Pundit prediction; 2nd’’
Di Maria will be difficult to replace, especially his wizardy in midfield, but there’s still plenty of attacking talent for Benfica to work with including Javier Saviola. Quim leaving for Braga is a blow, but they seem to have cover. Some of Benfica’s new signings are still raw, so Jorge Jesus will need to get the best out of them. They’re sure to be challenged by Porto and this might be a tight-run race.
Last Season; 2nd’‘Topscorer; Albert Meyong (12)'’Most Assists; Alan
Domingos Pacienca’s surprise packets Braga had a brilliant start last term, but in the end they didn’t have the quality to go with Benfica. Vandinho, Alan, Marcio Mossoro and Albert Meyong were the star players for Braga, but it was their defence which inspired their success, conceding just 20 goals all season with keeper Eduardo impressive throughout.
Ins’‘Artur (AS Roma), Uwa Elderson Echiéjilé (Rennes), Ladji Keita (Vitoria Setubal), Eduardo (Botafogo), Leandro Salino (Nacional), Leo Fortunato (Cruzeiro - Loan)'’Outs’‘Eduardo (Genoa), Evaldo (Sporting Lisbon), Andre Leone (Sport), Pawel Kieszek (FC Porto), Ney Santos (Uniao Leiria – Loan), Fernando Alexandre (Uniao Leiria – Loan)Braga have lost both of their goalkeepers from last term, but added Roma’s Brazilian stopper Artur and Benfica’s Quim. They’ve also added goalscorer Ladji Keita from Vitoria and Nigerian international defender Uwa Echieljile.Sports Pundit prediction; 3rd’’
The Archbishops will have learned a lot from their experience last term and Pacienca will believe in this side but it’s hard to see them pushing for the title again. How Braga go replacing Eduardo will have a big say on their success, but finding a few more avenues to goal will help too.
Last Season; 3rd’‘Topscorer; Radomel Falcao (25)'’Most Assists; Fernando Belluschi (8)
A slow start cost Porto last term, along with their record against the top teams having lost to eventual champions Benfica twice. Radomel Falcao was a revelation with his goals up front, leading the line as Porto scored 70 goals for the campaign, but ultimately the youthful Dragoes failed when they needed to step up but they’ll be better for the experience.
Ins’‘Joao Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon), Souza (Vasco da Gama), James Rodriguez (Banfield), Pawel Kieszek (Braga), Walter (Internacional), Sereno (Valladolid)'’Outs’‘Bruno Alves (Zenit St Petersburg), Nuno Coelho (Sporting Lisbon), Bruno Moraes (Rapid Bucuresti), Helder Barbosa (Nacional), David Addy (Academica – Loan), Nuno (retired)The arrival of Portuguese international midfielder Joao Moutinho is a major boost, while they’ve added youngsters Souza and James Rodriguez. The worry is the departure of experienced central defender Bruno Alves to Russia and it may be difficult to replace him at the back.Sports Pundit prediction; champions’’
Porto have placed their faith in 33-year-old Andre Villas Boas for the new term after the departure of manager Jesualdo Ferriera. That’s a risk, but it’s reminiscent of Jose Mourinho’s days. Boas will have to replace captain Bruno Alves in defence, but with a squad boasting talent with Radomel Falcao, Hulk and Aly Cissokho, they’re more than capable of winning the title.
Last Season; 4th’‘Topscorer; Liedson (13)'’Most Assists; Miguel Veloso
Last term was a majorly disappointing campaign for Sporting, who finished up in fourth an incredible 28 points adrift of rivals Benfica. Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Liedson were their better players but, quite simply, Sporting couldn’t score enough goals and find enough consistency to challenge the top three.
Ins’‘Maniche (FC Koln), Alberto Zapater (Genoa), Jaime Valdes (Atalanta), Marco Torsiglieri (Velez Sarsfield), Evaldo (Braga), Vladimir Stojkovic (Wigan – Loan Return), Nuno Coelho (FC Porto)'’Outs’‘Joao Moutinho (FC Porto), Miguel Veloso (Genoa), Ronny (Hertha Berlin)The departures list at the Estadio Jose Alvalade is a major concern with last season’s two best players Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso moving elsewhere. Ex-Portugal midfielder Maniche joins but may be past his best, while Torsiglieri, Evaldo, Zapater and Valdes may be useful additions, particularly the latter.Sports Pundit prediction; 4th’’
Carlos Carvalhal has been moved aside for new boss Paulo Sergio (who arrives from Guimaraes), but he’s got an unenviable task taking Sporting back to the top in Portugal. Moutinho and Veloso at times appeared to lack motivation last season, but their absences will be a blow. In essence, it’s a new squad but the Lions don’t appear capable of pushing for the Champions League.