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Portuguese Football Column: Vitória’s young blood, Paulo Fonseca’s retribution & more

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Filipe Ribeiro analyses and gives his opinion here on the talking points in Portuguese football.

Fonseca Vitoria

Vitória SC’s gamble on young blood paying off

The Guimarães team have done it again against one of the Big Three, with a 3-0 home trashing of Sporting CP, making their performance the pick of the week. Guimarães had already upset a giant when they were the first team take points off FC Porto in the league, but even the most optimistic of their proud and loyal fans couldn’t have predicted such a display of class against last year’s second placed team.

Saturday night’s match was evidently a difficult one for Sporting, with another painful defensive error –in the form of a Maurício’s own goal– making things worse right before half-time when the game was still 1-0. The comfortable advantage allowed Rui Vitória (it’s like he was meant to manage this team!) to control proceedings in the second half, with Sporting ending up with 60% of possession yet allowing the home team to kill their hopes at the 81-minute mark from a penalty and still hit the bar before the end of the match.

Marco Silva’s boys still face the same problems at the back, even with Paulo Oliveira now earning the starting spot at the heart of defense over Naby Sarr. Their fans will be hoping the mistakes stop sooner rather than later since they have a crucial home game against Schalke for the Champions League on Wednesday.

But the credit has to go entirely to Guimarães. They’re in third place, having already faced two of the Big Three, and that is more surprising if we consider that the squad’s average age is 23. Not one of the fourteen players that were on the field against Sporting were more than 25 years of age, and this after a season where they saw 16 players leave and 11 new faces arrive. Rui Vitória’s gamble on young blood, with a heavy emphasis on their own setup with sprinkles of foreign talent, seems to be finally paying out after a couple of less productive seasons. The board’s patience with their manager and young players is a breath of fresh air against the usual kneejerk decision making so typical of Portuguese (and, to be fair, European) football nowadays.

With no continental competitions this year, it’s looking less and less of a surprise if Vitória SC end up finishing the league in an historic position this season. A feat that perhaps a faction of their own following don’t seem to be deserving of, as reports suggest two Sporting CP supporters were brutally stabbed after the match by opposing fans.

Benfica & Porto continue to lead the way

Benfica and Porto are now separated by a point after the champions’ first loss last week, but positions didn’t change after Benfica saw out a tough game at home against Rio Ave, with a 1-0 win after a 60-minute screamer by their new golden boy Anderson Talisca. Everyone knew the team from Vila do Conde was going to be trouble, and they didn’t disappoint, with Esmael Gonçalves getting a goal disallowed after a quick counterattack that would tie the game. Jorge Jesus tinkered with the setup again, starting Jonas upfront with Lima for the first time this season and playing Talisca in a more wide position instead of Nicolás Gaitán.

FC Porto welcomed Nacional and dominated events with a 2-0 win that started early with the in-form Danilo scoring the opener after only 9 minutes of play, and Yacine Brahimi confirming he’s a serious early contender for player of the season with a wonderful goal at the 74 minutes mark. Julen Lopetegui employed a daring midfield with Óliver Torres and Juan Quintero allowed freedom in front of Casemiro, with Ricardo Quaresma returning to the starting lineup on the wing, an offensive approach that reaped results and should be adopted by the Spanish coach a few more times against weaker opposition in the future.

Paulo Fonseca continues to prove critics wrong

If it wasn’t for Vitória’s even more impressive third place, Paços de Ferreira would have deservedly been the highlight of the week. Paulo Fonseca seems keen on proving everyone (or at least FC Porto fans) wrong by improving his own record of the best ever start by Paços in the league, this time beating Domingo Paciência’s Setúbal by a comprehensive 4-1 result.

The Castores (“Beavers”, due to the town’s connection to the wood industry) now sit in fourth place above Sporting CP, with a mouthwatering match against them at Alvalade next week.

Paulo Fonseca, had led Paços into the Champions League qualifiers, against all odds, which earned him a move to FC Porto. A move which didn’t go according to plan for him, and after a poor start he was unsurprisingly dismissed. Now back with Paços, he has plenty of critics to prove wrong and at this early stage of the season, it seems to be going according to plan.

European agenda

Continental action is in store this week, as things start to get decided in both Europe’s premier and secondary competition.

The Big Three have different preoccupations, with Porto looking to secure their first spot and ticket to the round of 16 in their trip to Bilbao and the Lisbon clubs eager to finally get wins that would give them much needed hope of qualifying with home matches against Monaco and Schalke to be played.

In the other competition, Estoril will be fighting for points in Moscow against Dynamo and hoping PSV do worse against Panathinaikos, which would give them a chance of jumping to the second qualifying spot. Rio Ave on the other hand, welcome Steaua and will be looking to earn their first points in the competition, or be effectively out of it.

Talent Radar Player of the Week

This week we feature Anderson Talisca, after the 20 year-old Brazilian not only scored a beauty to win the match for his team, but with it took off from the competition and is now the league’s top scorer with 8 goals. The Bahia born midfielder is quickly becoming the most valuable player in Jorge Jesus’ squad, maybe even ahead of the likes of Gaitán and Salvio, certainly if you consider prolificacy.

His industrious approach and nose for goal have been essential to keep Benfica top of the league, as he disguises their two main problems: the middle of the park where Samaris is still adapting and the lack of goals upfront where Lima seems out of form. After already sparking controversy between his manager and José Mourinho after the latter publically commented on the young star, Talisca is certain to be a named in a lot of clubs’ minds in the future.

Written by Filipe Ribeiro

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