Posts Tagged ‘Sérgio Conceição’

William and Brahimi

Eight matchdays have now been played in the domestic Portuguese calendar and the time is right for fans and media alike to start making conclusions about what has transpired so far. The first Classico of the season which took place at Alvalade between Sporting CP and FC Porto was no doubt the highlight of this past weekend. The goalless draw re-affirmed what most have been thinking which is that the title will likely rest with one of those clubs at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Benfica’s struggles continued as they drew 1-1 in Madeira against Maritimo. Braga put six past Estoril. And this season’s promoted clubs Aves and Portimonense played one another in a 2-2 draw. Aves let Ricardo Soares go on Monday, replacing him with Lito Vidigal. Now, the clubs will get a chance to rest and re-assess during the international break.

Futebol Factory takes a closer look at what is happening in the Portuguese game with a new segment called Who’s Hot and Who’s Not.

Trending Up

Braga

The ‘Best of the Rest’ have been one of the top stories so far this season. New signings Dyego Sousa, Fransergio and Raul Silva have proven to be more than worth their investment. And Abel seems to be getting more out of players like Hassan and Ricardo Horta. Better still, Bruno Xadas, a player Abel knows well from the B squad, could just be the next big thing to come out of Minho. With a deep and balanced squad, Braga could knock one of the top three off their high horse.

Sporting’s New Signings

The most common criticism of the Lisbon club over the last decade and a half has been their recruiting policy. Last season, their summer signings (Bas Dost aside) were nothing short of disappointing and the club looked out of the title race by November. This season, they appear to be co-favourites and much credit should go to new signings like Bruno Fernandes, Mathieu and Rodrigo Battaglia, who have been among their best players. It might just be enough to finally bring the league title back to Alvalade.

Sérgio Conceição

In a short time, he has done wonders at the Dragão. A loss against Besiktas aside, FC Porto are the most in-form team in Portugal at the moment. Conceição has quickly set out to integrate several players returning from loan spells like Ricardo Pereira, Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar which have all been excellent for him so far. And he seems to be getting more out of centre-back duo Felipe and Marcano, as well as Yacine Brahimi.

Trending Down

Benfica

The international break could not come soon enough at Luz. Benfica followed up an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Basel mid-week with a 1-1 draw against Maritimo on Sunday. The match was an opportunity to gain some ground on Sporting and Porto but they could not get the job done despite going ahead very early. While it is true that Benfica have experienced some early season struggles on a few occasion in recent years and still went on to win four league titles. The truth is that in the past they had the players to do it. It is difficult to see that happening with the current crop.

Aves and Portimonense

Life has been difficult for promoted clubs in recent years mainly because the financial gap between Portugal’s top two divisions has become more of a chasm, with Chaves being a notable exception last season. So far, both Aves and Portimonense have not looked up to task and history has shown that it will likely get tougher for them as the season continues when the top clubs reach full stride.

Vitória de Guimarães

Braga’s resurgence is a direct contrast to their great rivals Vitória who have struggled out of the gate. Fourth-place finishers last season, they currently sit in ninth after eight rounds of action. And they have only one point through two matches in the Europa League so far. Their 1-0 loss to Belenenses on Sunday also left much to be desired. It is still early and panic has not set in for Pedro Martins just yet but it might be time to make some changes.

Advertisements

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.

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

The new Primeira Liga season will commence on August 15th. And like always, there is no shortage of intriguing storylines to follow.

The Portuguese top flight has been expanded to 18 clubs from 16. Boavista has been allowed to return to the top division after a court decision deemed a previous relegation to be illegal.

And despite the modest resources of Portuguese clubs, the Primeira Liga always seems to produce excellent players every season. The ‘Big Three’ of Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and FC Porto, appear evenly matched, making the title race too close to call.

Here is a list of the top storylines to watch this season in Portugal.

Julen Lopetegui At FC Porto

Julen Lopetegui is best known for his success with Spain’s youth squads, and for a period managing Real Madrid’s reserve squad. Except for a short tenure in charge of Rayo Vallecano in 2003, the Spaniard has no prior coaching experience at senior level. But club president Pinto da Costa has had a long history of putting his trust in young, promising managers and has seen it pay off. Paulo Fonseca being the obvious exception last season.

Lopetegui has wasted no time building a squad in his own image. He has brought in Cristian Tello, Adrián López, Óliver Torres, and Casemiro. Porto has not gone more than one season without winning a league title since 2001-02. And with Benfica winning last season, and Sporting Lisbon getting stronger, FC Porto’s place as Portugal’s dominant force is being brought into question. The pressure is on.

Big Changes At Benfica

Portuguese clubs are used to losing their best players the summer after they win the league title. Success tends to elevate the value of players. And Portuguese clubs need to consistently sell players in order to be able to sign new players and stay competitive. But this played out to the extreme this summer, when defending champions Benfica sold an unusual amount of key players, including Ezequiel Garay, Jan Oblak and long-time target-man Oscar Cardozo.

The important question that many people are asking about Benfica going into the new season, is whether they could come together as a team quick enough to repeat as champions. The club’s scouting system is so strong that it always manages to find quality replacements. And for the first time in several years, Benfica have some intriguing academy graduates like João Teixeira.

Bebé At The Luz

The story of Tiago Manuel Dias Correia (known as Bebé) made headlines when he made a surprise move to Manchester United in 2010. But a lot has happened since then including growing out of favour at Old Trafford. He endured lackluster loan spells at Beşiktaş and Rio Ave as well, before enjoying a terrific second-half with Paços de Ferreira last season. Bebé demonstrated that he has the potential to be a quality centre-forward.

And it appears like he will get every opportunity to succeed at Benfica. The club lost two of their top three strikers from last season. Last year’s leading goalscorer Lima remains, but at age 30 it is unlikely that he will play at a high level that much longer. Plus, Jorge Jesus is said to have personally pushed for the club to sign the youngster. If Bebé does well, it would also be a major boost to the Seleção who are in desperate need of a striker.

Sporting Lisbon In Europe

After several tumultuous years, Sporting Lisbon appears to have stepped back from the brink of financial ruin. The club qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09 with a second-place finish last season. But what remains to be seen is whether this Sporting side is more ambitious than those of the past. The club has only advanced passed the group stage of the Champions League once in their history.

Sporting made some good signings this summer in an effort to add depth. However, the club was forced to sell Eric Dier to Tottenham. And the rumours of William Carvalho moving to a bigger club are expected to continue. Regardless, Sporting are not expected to lose many key players before the end of the transfer window on August 31st. The club looks to be in a good position to compete in Europe this season.

Boavista Returns

The Porto-based club was allowed to return to the Primeira Liga after a court decision overturned a previous sanction that forced the team into relegation in 2008, as a result of their involvement in the Apito Dourado scandal. Last season, Boavista was playing several notches below the Primeira Liga. As a result, the club was very active in the transfer window, almost completely reshaping their entire squad in the hopes of being competitive.

Former Portuguese international Petit will remain as manager. And he will have to rely on young players to perform if they are to avoid relegation. It certainly will not be easy. The club is still without a shirt sponsor. But the Boavista of the past had an excellent tradition of developing young players, many of whom would go on to play internationally for Portugal. They will have to rediscover that magic.

Revival Project At Braga

Sporting Braga is coming off a very poor season by their standards. Os Guerreiros were eliminated from the Europa League in the final qualification play-off by Romanian club Pandurii Târgu Jiu. Injuries and inconsistency would take a toll on the club. Jesualdo Ferreira was let go in February. Braga finished in ninth position and out of a Europa League position for this season.

Club president António Salvador hired former Portuguese international Sérgio Conceição as manager. Conceição has had some previous success with more modest clubs Olhanense and Académica. Braga also made some intriguing signings in Pedro Tiba, Marcelo Goiano and Tiago Gomes. Plus, with a healthy Éder and Rafa Silva, Braga should be a good club once again. And, it will be interesting to see how the notoriously hot-tempered Conceição will deal with higher expectations.

Young Talent On The Horizon

The great strength of the Portuguese League is its ability to discover the stars of tomorrow. Every summer, Portuguese clubs are forced to sell several players in order to stay financially secure. But every year, other quality players take their place. FC Porto have signed World Cup stars Yacine Brahimi and Bruno Martins Indi. Brazilians Talisca and Victor Andrade look like they could be quality players for Benfica as well.

And there is no shortage of promising home-grown talent. The Portuguese youth system is as strong as it has been in several years. Sporting Lisbon always has an abundance of promising players in its academy. Carlos Mané, Tobias Figueiredo and João Mário could be break out players this season. Benfica midfielder João Teixeira has looked good in the pre-season and could get some playing time with the senior squad. So has FC Porto defensive midfielder Rubén Neves.

Champions League Redemption

An emphasis on young talent, combined with strong management has prevented Portuguese clubs from falling behind Europe’s super-rich in the Champions League. Impressive, especially when you consider that other historically great clubs like Ajax and Celtic have been unable to do so. However, last season both FC Porto and Benfica were eliminated in the group stage. Although, Benfica’s run to the Europa League final allowed Portugal to surpass Italy for fourth in the UEFA coefficient rankings.

But the pressure is on for these clubs to do better this season. Benfica and Sporting Lisbon have already confirmed their place in the competition. While, FC Porto will have to qualify through a play-off against Ligue 1 club Lille. Success in club football’s most lucrative tournament is essential for the health of Portuguese clubs. Aside from the obvious financial gains, it also helps these clubs entice promising young footballers to play for them.

Related Posts:

BENFICA: 2014-15 Season Preview

SPORTING LISBON: 2014-15 Season Preview

FC PORTO: 2014-15 Season Preview

SPORTING BRAGA: 2014-15 Season Preview

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.