On 18th August, the Portuguese Primeira Liga kicks off and the excitement surrounding it is already high in the country. FC Porto and SL Benfica are once again the major contenders to be crowned champions next year, but SC Braga and Sporting CP cannot be overlooked, especially as the pair want to bounce back from last season’s poor performances.
It will also be interesting to see how last season’s underdogs, Pacos de Ferreira and Estoril Praia, perform during this campaign, as they will be involved in European competition which could affect their domestic form.
At the other end of the table, a great number of eyes will be on debutants FC Arouca, to assess how the newcomers will perform on their very first experience outing in the Primeira Liga, while several clubs with financial problems face a battle to keep standards high over a very demanding season.
The Portuguese champions want to claim a fourth league title in a row and this season they boast a new manager, Paulo Fonseca, who was able to lead Pacos de Ferreira to a noteworthy third place last season, thus granting them a place in Champions League qualifying. Porto’s new coach is keen on implementing a new tactical style in the team and the way he approaches the players, along with his motivational skills, seem to be delighting the squad already.
Key arrivals: Josue (Pacos de Ferreira); Juan Quintero (Atletico Nacional); Hector Herrera (Pachuca)
Key departures: Joao Moutinho (Monaco); James Rodriguez (Monaco)
After a disappointing last season, during which the team failed to win a trophy, Benfica are ready to bounce back this season and manager Jorge Jesus has signed some quality players to attack the Portuguese league title. After facing huge consternation from the supporters, Jesus renewed his contract with the club but, in pre-season, supporters continued showing their discontent by waving white handkerchiefs to the coach after the team’s home defeat against Sao Paulo in a friendly match.
Key arrivals: Filip Djuricic (Heerenveen); Lazar Markovic (Partizan Belgrade); Miralem Sulejmani (Ajax)
Key departures: Pablo Aimar (Released)
FC Pacos de Ferreira
After a surprising third place in 2012/13, the club’s best campaign ever, Pacos de Ferreira will embrace this new season with a new manager and a reshaped squad. Former Portuguese international midfielder Costinha is at the helm of the team and he has a major challenge ahead of him. The club will play in the Champions League qualifying round, against the all-powerful Zenit St. Petersburg, for the first time in their history, but with the departure of some of their best players, Costinha’s task will certainly be almost Herculean.
Key arrivals: Rui Miguel (AEL Limassol); Sergio Oliveira (Porto); Matías Degra (AEL Limassol)
Key departures: Cassio (Released); Josue (FC Porto); Luiz Carlos (Braga)
Braga are coming off a very disappointing season, where they failed to battle for the Portuguese league title and also to secure a place in the Champions League. Their new coach, the experienced Jesualdo Ferreira, wants to bring in a new mentality to the club and he is reshaping the team. During the recent years, Braga have been a serious contender for the league title and this season it will be no different; although they are not as strong as Porto or Benfica, they might have a word to say at the end.
Key arrivals: Luiz Carlos (Pacos de Ferreira); Rafa (Feirense); Salvador Agra (Real Betis – loan)
Key departures: Hugo Viana (Al Ahli); Marcio Mossoro (Al-Ahli Jeddah); Ruben Amorim (Benfica – loan)
GD Estoril Praia
The Lisbon-based team were a pleasant surprise last season. Their young manager, Marco Silva, has done the splendid job of leading the team from the Portuguese second tier and then achieving fifth in the league table after their return to the top flight. Estoril have lost some important players this season, but still have a very capable team and their manager’s goals for this season are surely those he had during the last campaign with an important extra: participation in the Europa League.
Key arrivals: Babanco (Olhanense); Seba (Cruzeiro – loan)
Key departures: Lica (Porto); Carlos Eduardo (Porto); Steven Vitoria (Benfica)
The Vila do Conde team were also an excellent surprise package during 2012/2013. Their manager, former Portuguese international goalkeeper Nuno Espirito Santo, brought a winning mentality to the team and obtained excellent results. For the new season that is arriving, Rio Ave have strengthened their team and are serious contenders to secure a place in next season’s Europa League.
Key arrivals: Romain Salin (Maritimo); Julio Alves (Besiktas); Roderick Miranda (Benfica)
Key departures: Bebe (Manchester United, loan return); Jan Oblak (Benfica, loan return)
The third traditional member of the “Big Three” have had the worst season during their entire history. Financial and managerial problems not surprisingly dictated a nightmarish outcome for Sporting. Out of European competition for the upcoming season, Sporting’s new manager, Leonardo Jardim, will focus on the domestic competitions and he will try to regain the club’s glory that has been fading away over the last years.
Key arrivals: Jefferson (Estoril); Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders – loan); Gerson Magrao (Esporte Clube Primavera)
Key departures: Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Norwich City); Stijn Schaars (PSV Eindhoven)
The Madeira team ended in eighth place last season, but they experienced several problems and only the return of the fans’ favourite manager, Manuel Machado, gave the team enough strength to overcome them. This season, Nacional want to grab a place in the Europa League and Machado has prepared for the new campaign very carefully.
Key arrivals: Bruno de Moura (Angra dos Reis – loan); Djaniny (Benfica); Rafa Sousa (Penafiel)
Key departures: Moreno (Vitoria)
Vitoria won the Portuguese Cup last season and despite all the financial problems the club are going through they managed to record a memorable season. Vitoria coach Rui Vitoria, did a wonderful job with several young players from the team’s academy and this season looks likely to be no different. The best and the most expensive players have left the club, which forces the manager to build a new team almost from scratch for this campaign.
Key arrivals: Moreno (Nacional)
Key departures: Ricardo (Porto); Tiago Rodrigues (Porto); Amido Balde (Celtic)
The Madeira-based club are strong candidates for a Europa League place in 2013/2014. Pedro Martins has several new faces at his disposal and, contrary to what happened last season, the Portuguese manager seems to have plenty of more options to choose from. The arrival of quality Portuguese players, such as Danilo and Artur, will surely help the team improve their performances. On the other hand, players such as the powerful South Korean forward Suk Hyun-Jun will surely be missed.
Key arrivals: Danilo Pereira (Parma); Artur (Chornomorets Odessa – loan); Jorge Chula (Sporting)
Key departures: Suk Hyun-Jun (Al-Ahli Jeddah); Valentin Roberge (Sunderland); Romain Salin (Rio Ave)
Associacao Academica de Coimbra
The Coimbra team experienced several difficulties last season, but after the arrival of current manager, former Portuguese international Sergio Conceicao, managed to turn the table around and secure their place in the top flight. Their main goal for the near future will be to avoid relegation.
Key arrivals: Ivanildo (Olhanense); Fernando Alexandre (Olhanense); Diogo Valente (CFR Cluj – loan)
Key departures: Flavio Ferreira (Malaga); Wilson Eduardo (Sporting – loan); Salim Cisse (Sporting)
Vitoria are facing several financial problems and the team’s manager, Jose Mota, is once again trying to build a low cost team capable of avoiding relegation. The side have a long and proud history, but in the recent years the club have been struggling to keep their heads above water.
Key arrivals: Tiago Terroso (Olhanense); Javier Cohene (Pacos de Ferreira)
Key departures: Pedro Santos (Braga); Bruno Amaro (Arouca)
This team, from Barcelos, have enjoyed an interesting pre-season with very pleasant performances that are creating some expectations among the supporters. Gil Vicente hired a new manager for this season, Joao de Deus, and the Portuguese boss is already trying to implement his own style of play and bring a new mentality to the team. This year the team want to erase the bad campaign and poor performances they had last year.
Key arrivals: Diogo Viana (Penafiel); Bruno Moraes (Ujpest)
Key departures: Paulo Jorge (Belenenses)
Olhanense, originating from the Algarve, are swamped by debts and there were rumours regarding the possibility of the club closing their doors for good. When everyone was questioning the future of the team, an investment group jumped in, ready to save Olhanense from bankruptcy. Their new manager, the former Portuguese International Abel Xavier, has had his coaching credentials questioned, due to a lack of qualifications.
Key arrivals: Celestino (CFR Cluj); Pele (AC Milan – loan)
Key departures: Tiago Targino (AEL Limassol); Babanco (Estoril); Fernando Alexandre (Academica)
CF Os Belenenses
The charismatic Lisbon team returned to the top flight after winning the second tier title last season. Their Dutch manager and former quality centre-back, Mitchell van der Gaag, implemented a winning mentality along with attractive attacking football and it was often a delight to see them play. The challenge is much higher this season though and the team will need to fight bravely to avoid relegation.
Key arrivals: Miguel Rosa (Benfica); Paulo Jorge (Gil Vicente)
Key departures: None
FC Arouca are a rare case of success in Portuguese football. They travelled, at full speed, from the amateur football leagues to the top tier in just 13 years. Their debut on the main stage of Portuguese football will be led by the hand of former FC Porto captain and charismatic manager Pedro Emanuel. The challenge ahead is enormous, but FC Arouca are a very well structured club and that is a major asset in Portuguese football in the current climate.
Key arrivals: Igor Stefanovic (Porto – loan); Nuno Coelho (Benfica); Paulo Sergio (AEL Limassol); Serginho (Beira-Mar); David Simao (Benfica)
Key departures: None