- The title race in Portugal’s top flight remains close after their first weekend of play since the pandemic
- Benfica and Porto both failed to win, leaving them tied with 60 points apiece
- Who’s the best bet to win the Primeira Liga this season?
As football around Europe slowly returns, the country of Portugal finally returned to action last week. In what seems to be a two-man race at the top of the table, Benfica tied, while Porto lost by a goal. It wasn’t the ideal return to league play for either side, however, they’re both still in the heart of an exciting fight for a title with nine fixtures left to play.
Both sides are also out of any European competitions, so their main focus will most certainly be on winning the league. Benfica won it all last season, while Porto captured the title honors in 2017/18.
Primiera Liga Title Odds
Odds taken June 8
Benfica is slight favorites right now at -120, with Porto not far behind at -110. Just three points separate Sporting Braga and Lisbon in third and fourth place, but their chances at a title are unlikely as they both sit around 14 and 17 points off the top two teams respectively.
Benfica Need to Find Their Form
Bruno Lage’s side was in poor form before the pandemic and in just their first match back, they drew 0-0 against 14th place Tondela. Benfica secured three points just once in six fixtures before COVID-19 came along, including a Europa League defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk across two legs.
With the exception of a 3-3 draw against Donetsk, Benfica has also struggled to score goals, with Carlos Vinicius finding the net just once in his last five appearances for the club. The Brazilian has bagged 15 goals this term, which leads Portugal, but it will be vital that he finds his previous form if Benfica is going to repeat as Primeira Liga champions. Pizzi, who also has 14 tallies to his name this season, needs to find his best as well.
Benfica won’t play Porto again this season, but the majority of their remaining nine fixtures are against teams who are either in the top half or just below it. With this in mind, it’s going to be very important that Lage’s squad bring their best every single matchday because any slip-up could be the difference between first and second place by the end of the season. With five titles in the last six years, another one is definitely possible if Benfica can muster up some positive results.
Porto Looking to Dethrone Their Rivals
Since 2014, Benfica has been the more dominant club in Portugal, but Porto has a clear opportunity to win a title this term. A 2-1 loss to fifth-place Famalicao last Wednesday wasn’t the start that Sergio Conceicao’s men were looking for, but a clash with a weak Maritimo side this week will give Porto a chance to get back in the win column. Prior to coronavirus, they were in solid form, failing to lose in five domestic matches. Just before the league shut down, they did tie Rio Ave, but that was the only match where Porto didn’t grab the full three points in that stretch.
They have a variety of different players who have played their part in the final third this year, with left-back Alex Telles leading the way with eight goals. Ze Luis and Francisco Soares have netted seven times each, while Mali International Moussa Marega has also fired home six tallies.
The fixtures ahead for Conceicao’s squad are mostly against bottom of the table teams, with the exception of meetings against Sporting Lisbon and Braga, who are both in the top five. There shouldn’t be any issue securing points in a lot of these matches, but they will need to finish strong until the absolute end with Braga and Sporting towards the end of their schedule.
Although it’s a very tight race currently, I do believe that Porto will come out on top. Benfica has the top two scorers in the league and have conceded just 14 goals this term, but Porto has allowed just 18 and have scored 51 times compared to their Benfica’s 52. Given Porto’s form before the pandemic and their matches ahead, they definitely have the easier road to a title. Bruno Lage’s side has been playing poor football and they rely too much on their two main attackers in Pizzi and Vinicius. With Porto, they have a variety of players who contribute in the final third and I do believe the versatility they possess on the attack with prove to be a deciding factor in the end.
Pick: Porto -110