With 10 league games already in the books, the first third of the Portuguese league 2009-2010 season has been completed and it seems that a new contender for the title has emerged in the shape of S.C Braga. Os Arcebisops are currently joint leaders along with Benfica, and have beaten Benfica 2-0 in their first clash this season, with a beautiful Hugo Viana free kick to top things off.
S.C Braga certainly made their intentions clear to the big three after beating Sporting at Jose Alvalde and Porto at stadio AXA (thanx to an amazing goal by Alan). Their only loss this season in the league came last week against their Minho rivals, Vitoria Guimaraes. Braga’s advantage over Benfica is due to the fact that they were knocked out from the Europa league early in the season after two defeats in the qualifying stage against Swedish side Elfsborg, while Benfica are still participating in the competition and doing fairly well (clearly seen in the 5-0 drubbing of Everton a month ago) nearly clinching their qualification to the next stage. This might prove to be a crucial aspect later in the season.
S.C Braga are managed by ex-Porto prolific striker, Domingos Paciencia ,who came in this season after a two season reign at Academica where he managed to finish at 7th place, Academica’s highest top flight finish since 1985. At his disposal are loanee attacking midfielder from Valencia, Hugo Viana who is arguably the best Braga player this campaign, the new Portuguese national team goalkeeper Eduardo, the former Porto and Guimaraes man Alan, and Cameroonian striker Albert Meyong. If the players mentioned manage to exceed expectations and Paciencia can overcome his team’s lack in depth, then maybe the Minhotos can win their first Liga Sagres title.
As mentioned before, Benfica are performing very well domestically and on the continental stage under the guidance of Jorge Jesus, who was Braga’s coach last campaign. The biggest story this season for Benfica has been the Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo who thus far scored 11 goals in 9 league games and 5 in 5 Europa League matches, looking quite unstoppable at times. Benfica’s entertaining football this season provides amazing results such as the 8-1 thrashing of Vitoria Setubal and a huge 5-0 win over Everton in the Europa league.
Benfica has the most expensive squad in the Portuguese league. consisting of high profile Argentinians Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola and Angel Di Maria, the Brazilian international defender Luisao, the 7.5m acquisition Ramires and Luis Garcia’s cousin and former Real Madrid player, Javi Garcia. The classic of the classics is ahead as Benfica face Sporting in the Jose Alvalde and there’s a chance of a big humiliation to Sporting at their home ground considering Benfica’s amazing form this season and contrastingly Sporting’s poor league form lately.
The green side of Lisbon is looking a little pale this season, currently at 8th place and 11 points behind Braga and Benfica. The club’s coaching staff includes director of football and former Leones favorite Ricardo Sa Pinto and Carlos Carvalhal(who led Vitoria Setubal last season to their league cup win over Sporting) as head coach, recently replacing the resigning manager Paulo Bento. Sporting are in a tough situation, being knocked out early in the season by Fiorentina in the qualifying stages of the champions league and a recent run of poor results damaged their title credentials as they haven’t won a league match since September, although not all is lost as Sporting have nearly qualified for the next stage of the Europa league, topping their group and winning every game except their most recent match against Ventspils, ending in a draw. Surely a club that consists of players such as Joao Moutinho, Liedson, Yannick Djalo, Simon Vukcevic, Helder Postiga,Miguel Angulo, and Miguel Veloso will be performing better as the season continues, but for now, the super classico against Benfica on Saturday couldn’t come in a worst time for Sporting.
Porto ,league champions for 4 seasons in a row are on the brink of another great season. They are a step away from qualifying through the champions league group stages along with Chelsea as they put in enjoyable performances, while in the league they are at 3rd place , 5 points behind leaders Benfica and Braga. Jesualdo Ferraira, the man who is responsible for Braga’s uprising between 2003-2006, is enjoying his time at Porto and is the only Portuguese manager to win 3 consecutive league titles ( proving Mourinho wrong after his remarks claiming Ferraira didn’t achieve anything throughout his career) after clinching the league and cup double last season. He’s leading the team for the 4th season and looks comfortable in his managerial position.
Like main rivals Benfica, Porto have a prolific South American striker by the name of Falcao (of course he was named after ex AS Roma Legend). After being one of the best strikers in South America, the Colombian striker decided to move this summer to Porto, backed up by four successful seasons for Argentinian giants River Plate (not so much in recent years). Falcao is blooming in the Azui e Branco shirt scoring 7 goals in 7 games in the league and 1 goal in Europe out of 2 games. Along with Club Captain and Portugal national team regular, Bruno Alves, and all around midfielder, the energetic Raul Meirles, the Dragoes are favored to win the title for the 5th consecutive time but that’s only if they avoid fumbles such as the 1-0 loss to Maritimo in the league and the 1-0 loss to Braga.
An arrow-head of 3 teams in the top of the league is followed by the two teams of Madeira, Nacional and Maritimo, 4th and 5th respectively, the former playing in the Europa League with little success (although reaching the group stages after knocking Strong Russian side Zenith St. Petersburg) but beating the latter in the fierce derby by a brace from Brazilian striker Edgar.
To conclude the Portuguese league will be probably decided between Benfica and Porto with Braga as an outside candidate, but this season the title race looks like an open race till the very end.