Posts Tagged ‘Season Preview’

Braga Team Photo

Overview: Sporting Braga will look very different this season. On the touchline, Paulo Fonseca replaces Sérgio Conceição who led the club to a 21 point improvement and a place in the Portuguese Cup final last campaign. Conceição’s brash style put him at odds with club president António Salvador.

Fonseca will get a second chance to prove he could handle a bigger stage after his previous tenure at FC Porto ended with him being dismissed in less than a year. Braga has been a good breeding ground for young managers in the past. Leonardo Jardim, Domingos Paciência and Conceição have all done well there.

The club lost several important players from last season including Pardo, Danilo, Sasso, Ruben Micael, Éder and Zé Luís. In response, Braga loaded up on unproven youngsters with good potential such as Matheus Pereira, Joan Román and Fábio Martins.

Os Arsenalistas are hoping to hold on to goalkeeper Matheus, as well as highly-rated midfielders Rafa Silva and Pedro Tiba. The departure of Éder and Zé Luís has left the club without a proven striker as well. Although neither were entirely convincing last season, they still managed to score 18 goals between them. Fonseca will need to replace that production.

Key Additions: Crislan (Penapolense), Rui Fonte (Benfica), Matheus Pereira (Corinthians), Ricardo Ferreira (Paços de Ferreira), Joan Román (Barcelona), Alef (Marseille), Rodrigo Battaglia (Moreirense), Fábio Martins (Sp. Braga B), Rodrigo Pinho (Madureira), Tiago Sá (Sp. Braga B)

Key Subtractions: Pardo (Olympiacos), Danilo (Valencia), Zé Luís (Spartak Moscow), Dolly Menga (Tondela), Sasso (Sheffield Wednesday), Éder (Swansea), Salvador Agra (Nacional), Vítor Golas, Ruben Micael (Shijiazhuang Yongchang)

Manager Profile: 42-year-old Paulo Fonseca is going into his first season with Braga. He had previous success in two stints with Paços de Ferreira, leading them to a best-ever third-place finish in 2012-13. He won the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira in 2013 during his time with FC Porto.

Players To Watch: Portuguese U21 midfielder Rafa Silva has been linked with several big clubs. If he stays, he should play a central role in Paulo Fonseca’s system this season. With Ruben Micael leaving for China, Rafa could move back to his natural position as playmaker or ‘number 10’ in midfield after playing as a winger for most of the past two seasons.

Expectations: Winning the league title is probably beyond any fan’s realistic projections. However, a top-three finish is very possible especially if things do not go well for one of the ‘Big Three.’ The club will be taking part in the group stage of the Europa League this season and should advance to the knockout stages, at least.

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Joao Mario Sporting

Overview: It was a summer of change at the Alvalade. Manager Marco Silva, who led the club to a third-place finish last season and a Portuguese Cup victory, is out. In his place is Jorge Jesus.

Jesus’ abrupt and unexpected departure from Benfica makes Sunday’s Portuguese Super Cup matchup between the two clubs the most anticipated in years. The signing of Jesus is a coup for club president Bruno de Carvalho who will have a manager with a proven track record at the helm this season.

Sporting have added several key players in the transfer window. The additions of Teo Gutiérrez and Bryan Ruiz should add scoring depth. They also appear to have addressed their problem at the centre of defense by signing Naldo and Michaël Ciani.

However, Sporting could still lose several players before the end of the summer transfer window including Islam Slimani, Jefferson and André Carrillo. And defensive midfielder William Carvalho is expected to miss at least the first two months of the season because of a leg injury and may very well be gone in January.

Sporting’s success this season, as with most, should depend on the progress of young stars like João Mário and Carlos Mané. Os Leões have not won the league since the 2001-02 season.

Key Additions: Michaël Ciani (Lazio), Naldo (Udinese), Teo Gutiérrez (River Plate), João Pereira (Hannover), Heldon (Córdoba), Simeon Slavchev (Bolton), Rúben Semedo (Reus), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), Ricardo Esgaio (Académica), Azbe Jug (Bordeaux), Iuri Medeiros (Arouca), Zakaria Labyad (Vitesse), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina)

Key Subtractions: Naby Sarr (Charlton), André Geraldes (Belenenses), Nuno Reis (Metz), Cédric (Southampton), Nani (Fenerbahçe), Shikabala, Miguel Lopes (Granada)

Manager Profile: A man that needs no introduction. The veteran manager won three league titles at Benfica before making a shock move to Sporting this summer. Despite never being overly popular with Benfiquistas, Jesus restored the team to glory. Prior to taking over in 2009, As Águias had only won one league title in the previous 15 seasons. He hopes to do the same at Sporting.

Players To Watch: João Mário is just the type of player that Jorge Jesus likes. The attacking midfielder is versatile and very balanced. With Nani gone and William Carvalho out to begin the season, Jesus will rely on João Mário to play a more important role.

Expectations: For Sporting, it has always been a matter of are they good enough. The club won the Portuguese Cup last season but slipped to third in the league table. With the addition of Jesus and improvements at the back end, Sporting should expect to mount a serious challenge for the league title.

Julen Lopetegui FC Porto

Overview: The Dragões invested heavily this summer in order to boost their chances of reclaiming the title from Benfica.

Manager Julen Lopetegui did just enough last season to earn another chance, however, the pressure is only mounting. FC Porto lost Jackson Martinez, Casemiro, Danilo, Ricardo Quaresma and Óliver Torres this summer, which will all be missed.

To compensate, they added Maxi Pereira, Iker Casillas, Danilo Pereira, Giannelli Imbula, André André, Sérgio Oliveira, Alberto Bueno and Dani Osvaldo. In addition, Silvestre Varela has returned from a loan spell, and Rúben Neves is healthy again. Add in Yacine Brahimi, Vincent Aboubakar, Cristian Tello and Héctor Herrera, and it looks like FC Porto have a deeper squad than last season.

For Lopetegui, the question has always been whether he has the ability to win titles. The club has not won any trophies the last two season except for the Portuguese Super Cup in 2013 which is unacceptable for a club that has had so much domestic success over the last two decades.

Key Additions: Dani Osvaldo, Aly Cissokho (Aston Villa), Maxi Pereira (Benfica), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Giannelli Imbula (Marseille), Silvestre Varela (Parma), Danilo Pereira (Maritimo), André André (V. Guimarães), Sérgio Oliveira (Paços Ferreira), Alberto Bueno (Rayo Vallecano)

Key Subtractions: Tiago Rodrigues (Marítimo), Andrés Fernández (Granada), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Carlos Eduardo (Al Hilal), Fabiano (Fenerbahçe), Óliver Torres (Atlético Madrid) , Jackson Martínez (Atlético Madrid), José Campaña (Alcorcón), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Danilo (Real Madrid)

Manager Profile: Spaniard Julen Lopetegui is going into his second season with Porto. He led the club to a second-place finish in the league last season and will be expected to go one higher. He previously won U19 and U21 European titles with Spain.

Players To Watch: It is very difficult to choose just one player in a star-studded line-up. Alberto Bueno is expected to replace Jackson Martínez’s output. And Portugal U21 midfielder Rúben Neves has talent in abundance and should get an opportunity to play more this season.

Expectations: FC Porto is always expected to win the Portuguese league. A third year without winning the league could mean major changes for the club. A long run in Europe would be welcomed as well, so long as it does not hurt their domestic form.

Rui Vitoria Benfica

Overview: Benfica will begin their season on Sunday in the Algarve when they face Portuguese Cup winners Sporting for the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira. As Águias are heading into a new season with a high amount of uncertainty following some unexpected changes this summer.

Jorge Jesus left the club and signed with cross-town rivals Sporting. While long-time right-back and fan favourite Maxi Pereira left for eternal rivals FC Porto. New manager Rui Vitoria will also have to find a way to replace Lima, who left for Dubai-based Al Ahli in July.

Nicolas Gaitan could leave before the end of the transfer window. While, fellow Argentinian attacker Eduardo Salvio faces a long absence because of a serious knee injury suffered at the end of last season.

However, the club has been in similar circumstances before. Last summer, Benfica lost several players from their treble-winning 2013-14 season and still managed to win the league for a second consecutive season. Still, the club goes into the new season with more questions than answers.

Key Additions: Raphael Guzzo (Chaves), Nelson Oliveira (Swansea), Filip Đuričić (Southampton), Bilal Ould-Chikh (Twente), Mehdi Carcela-González (Standard Liège), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Ederson (Rio Ave), Marçal (Nacional), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham)

Key Subtractions: Romário Baldé (Tondela), Lima (Al Ahli), César (Flamengo), Murillo (Tondela), Ivan Cavaleiro (Monaco), Hélder Costa (Monaco), Maxi Pereira (FC Porto), Loris Benito (Young Boys), Funes Mori (Monterrey), Sulejmani (Young Boys), Artur (Osmanlispor)

Manager Profile: 45-year-old Rui Vitoria has deep connections with Benfica having coached at the junior level with the club between 2004 and 2006. He went on to manage Fátima, Paços Ferreira and Vitória Guimarães before taking over for Jorge Jesus this summer. He led Vitória Guimarães to a fifth-place finish last season.

Players To Watch: Brazilian attacker Talisca arrived with high expectations last summer but despite a good start, he tailed off and was benched by Jorge Jesus. The 21-year-old will be counted on to play a bigger role with the absence of Salvio, and possibly Gaitan. His growth is essential to Benfica’s chances this season.

Expectations: Benfica fans have been spoiled in recent years with trophies and are not ready to temper their expectations just yet. The main challenge for Rui Vitoria will be to get his Jesus-era players to play the way he wants and fast in order to win a third consecutive Primeira Liga title.

Photo: Sporting Club de Braga

Photo: Sporting Club de Braga

Overview: Sporting Braga head into a new season with something to prove. The club has established itself as the best club in Portugal outside the ‘Big Three’ in the last decade.

But that reputation took a major hit last season when Braga got off to a poor start and finished a disappointing ninth in the league table. It marked only the second time the Minho club had finished outside the top five since the 2002-03 season.

Club president António Salvador has brought in former Portuguese international Sérgio Conceição to improve the team’s fortunes. And there is good reason to believe that this will happen. Several of the teams that finished ahead of Braga last season have lost several key players.

The club still boasts the most talented squad outside the traditional ‘Big Three.’ And with a healthy Éder, combined with several good young players, there is no reason why Braga cannot do better this season. Their quest for redemption begins on August 17th when they play Boavista at Estádio AXA.

Key Additions: Danilo (Vasco da Gama), Rambé (Belenenses), Wallace (Cruzeiro), Marcelo Goiano (Grémio Anápolis), Matheus (América), Fábio Martins (D. Aves), Carlos Fortes (R. Santander), Tiago Gomes (Estoril), Franco Acosta (Fenix), Vítor Golas (Sporting), Pedro Tibá (V. Setúbal), Pedro Santos (Rio Ave), Salvador Agra (Académica), Luís Silva (Gil Vicente), Hugo Vieira (Gil Vicente), Zé Luís (Videoton), Kritciuk (Rio Ave), Djavan(Benfica)

Key Subtractions: Cristiano (Académica), Paulo Vinicius, Rusescu (Sevilha), Edinho, Kadu (V. Bahía), Tomás Dabó (Arouca), Florent, Rabiola, Eduardo (D. Zagreb), Helder Barbosa, Douglão, Yazalde (Qabala), Joãozinho (Sheriff)

Manager Profile: Sérgio Conceição was a quality player during his career, having amassed 56 caps as an international for Portugal. He has begun to build a reputation as a good manager as well, having previously propelled Olhanense and Académica to mid-level finishes. At Braga, he will have a far more talented squad than he is used to working with.

Players To Watch: Éder is absolutely essential to the team’s success. He scored 13 goals in 18 matches in 2012-13 before suffering a knee injury. A foot injury forced him to miss most of last season as well. Braga is also expecting more big things from 21-year-old midfielder Rafa Silva who is an outstanding talent.

Expectations: Sporting Braga will hope to finish in the top five in the Primeira Liga, as well as qualify for a European competition for next season. They will also be hoping to win one of Portugal’s two domestic cup competitions, which the bigger sides often neglect until the later stages.

Photo: FC Porto

Photo: FC Porto

Overview: The Julen Lopetegui era has officially begun at the Estádio do Dragão. He takes over a club that has become used to success.

Porto have lost several key players from the squad that finished a disappointing third last season. Defensive midfielder Fernando, who was the club’s spine for several seasons has finally moved on, joining Manchester City. French international Eliaquim Mangala is likely to follow him to Etihad Stadium.

Lopetegui was not well known when team president Pinto da Costa announced his hiring at the end of last season. The Spaniard has spent most of his coaching career in youth development. He has already started to leave a footprint on this squad.

There will be a hint of Spanish flavour at the Dragão this season. Óliver Torres, Ádrian Lopez and Cristian Tello were all reinforcements for the club this summer. However, Torres and Tello arrive on loan from their respective clubs. As does Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro.

Porto begins their Primeira Liga season at home on August 15th against Marítimo. The club has not gone more than one season without winning the league since 2001-02.

Key Additions: Ricardo (Académica), Evandro (Estoril), Sami (Marítimo), Daniel Opare (Standard Liège), Óliver Torres (At. Madrid), Lichnovsky (Univ. Chile), Ádrian Lopez (At. Madrid), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Tello (Barcelona), Tiago Rodrigues (V. Guimarães), Djalma (Konyaspor), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Yacine Brahimi (Granada), Andrés Fernández (Osasuna), José Ángel (Roma)

Key Subtractions: Fucile, Iturbe (Verona), Fernando (Manchester City), Castro (Kasimpasa), Izmailov (Krasnodar), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Rolando, Abdoulaye (Rayo Vallecano), Licá (Rayo Vallecano), Nabil Ghilas, Josué, Bolat (Galatasaray), Silvestre Varela, Pedro Moreira (Rio Ave), Tozé (Estoril)

Manager Profile: Julen Lopetegui had a short coaching stint with his former club Rayo Vallecano in 2003, soon after retiring as a player. Since then, he has managed Real Madrid Castilla for one season, and spent several years in charge of Spain’s youth squads. He won the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2012, as well as the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2013.

Players To Watch: Winger Ricardo Quaresma and striker Jackson Martinez will be leaned on heavily to produce for the club. New signings Bruno Martins Indi, Cristian Tello, Óliver Torres and Ádrian Lopez will be essential to the club’s plans this season. Héctor Herrera had an excellent World Cup with Mexico and is expected to play a bigger role as well.

Expectations: FC Porto are always expected to win the league, and in fact, do so on most occasions. The team was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League. Lopetegui will be under major pressure to reach the knock-out stages this time around.

Photo: Sporting Club de Portugal

Photo: Sporting Club de Portugal

Overview: Sporting Lisbon will be heading into this year with a lot of optimism. The club is coming off a solid season where they finished second in the table. They are not expected to lose many key players this summer. And its financial troubles appear to be a thing of the past.

But concerns do exist. Highly-rated midfielder William Carvalho is reportedly receiving some enticing offers from abroad and could still leave the club. And there is always a sense of uncertainty around a coaching change. Marco Silva did wonders with limited resources at Estoril, but will he be able to handle a squad with more talent and more egos?

Also, Sporting will be playing in the Champions League this season. Do they have the squad depth to compete in four different competitions this season, while still keeping with team president Bruno de Carvalho’s commitment to financial discipline?

The club signed some intriguing players this summer, including forward Junya Tanaka, midfielder Oriol Rosell and Ryan Gauld. And they always have plenty of quality players in their academy.

Sporting Lisbon has not won the Primeira Liga since the 2001-02 season. They will begin their pursuit of ending that drought when they face Académica in Coimbra on August 16th.

Key Additions: André Geraldes (Belenenses), Slavchev (Litex), Paulo Oliveira (V. Guimarães), Oriol Rosell (Kansas City), Tanaka (Kashima Reysol), Ryan Gauld (Dundee United), João Mário (V. Setúbal), Ramy Rabia(Al-Ahly), Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr (Lyon), Jonathan Silva (Estudiantes)

Key Subtractions: Elias (Corinthians), Weldinho (Palmeiras), Ivan Piris, Gerson Magrão, Wilson Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Zézinho (AEL Limassol), Victor Golas (Braga), Miguel Lopes, Rinaudo (Catania), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Diogo Salomão (Deportivo)

Manager Profile: 37-year-old Marco Silva takes over Sporting Lisbon this season after an excellent three seasons at Lisbon suburban club Estoril-Praia. Silva, who played for the club as a right-back for several seasons, helped them achieve promotion to the Primeira Liga in 2012 as manager. He followed that up with fifth and forth place finishes the last two seasons. He replaces Leonardo Jardim who moved on to AS Monaco.

Players To Watch: William Carvalho was the best player in the Portuguese league last season. If he does in fact remain with the club, it should be a pleasure to watch him play against Europe’s best in the Champions League. João Mário, Ryan Gauld and Carlos Mané are all exciting young players as well. Midfielders André Martins and Adrien Silva will need to be at their best if Sporting is to achieve something this season.

Expectations: Sporting Lisbon will hope to win the Primeira Liga for the first time in over a decade. As well as, advance past the group stage of the Champions League. The club has not won a trophy of any kind since the Portuguese Cup in 2007-08 and the pressure is mounting.

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Overview: Defending champions Benfica will enter this season with several major challenges. The club lost several key players in the transfer market this summer and is likely to lose a few more.

But as always, Benfica has young, promising players to fall back on. The challenge for Jorge Jesus is to build a team around them. Benfica’s success will primarily depend on how quickly many of these fresh faces adjust to life in the Portuguese top flight.

As Águias signed some great looking players like free-kick specialist Talisca and Brazilian forward Victor Andrade. And, they could expect to welcome back defender Lisandro Lopez, forwards Ola John and Pizzi who all spent last season on loan.

Benfica will face Paços de Ferreira in their first Primeira Liga match at the Estádio da Luz on August 17th. The starting XI will look very different from a year ago. The club is hoping to win consecutive league titles for the first time since 1984.

Key Additions: Pawel Dawidowicz (Lechia), Cesar (Ponte Preta), Loris Benito (FC Zurich), Lisandro Lopez (Getafe), Ola John (Hamburg), Pizzi (Espanyol), Daniel Candeias (Nacional), Franco Jara (Estudiantes), Sidnei (Espanyol), Derley (Maritimo), Talisca (Bahia), Victor Andrade (Santos), Luis Felipe (Palmeiras), Bebé (Manchester United), Kevin Friesenbichler (Bayern Munich), Eliseu (Malaga), Nelson Oliveira (Rennes)

Key Subtractions: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Siqueira (Atletico Madrid), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Rodrigo (Valencia), Stefan Mitrovic (Freiberg), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Derlis Gonzalez (FC Basel), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St.Petersburg), Filip Duricic (Mainz), Funes Mori (Eskisehirspor), Luis Farina (Deportivo), Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco), Ivan Cavaleiro (Deportivo), Oscar Cardozo (Trabzonspor)

Manager Profile: This will be Jorge Jesus’ sixth season in charge of Benfica. He has won two league titles in his time at the Luz but has never quite earned the admiration of the majority of Benfiquistas.

Players To Watch: Perhaps no player on Benfica will be under the microscope more than Portuguese striker Bebé. But by now, he is likely used to it. The club lost Rodrigo and Oscar Cardozo this summer, placing a heavy burden on Bebé to produce. Brazilian midfielder Talisca has looked good in the pre-season as well. And Jorge Jesus will have to count on veteran players like Enzo Perez, Luisão and Maxi Pereira to help steady the ship.

Expectations: Benfica is expected to win the Primeira Liga title at the very least. The club made the final of the Europa League last season. However, the expectation has always been to advance past the group stage of the Champions League and go as far as possible.