This time next week Portuguese football will be back and it resumes with a ding-dong battle for the title. Jamie Pacheco gives us the state of play ahead of the action.
"Interestingly, the calendar computer has determined that it's the Lisbon Derby between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon on the final day of the season but at the same time Sergio Conceicao's Porto have a far tougher task when they travel to Braga, who these days are the third-best side in the league. It should all make for a gripping two hours on that Sunday in late July."
Portuguese football is back
The Portuguese Superliga will resume with matches on
The best bet of the round looks to be that Benfica win their match while conceding. It's just one clean sheet in their last 10 in all competitions but with a strong record against Tondela over the years, you'd expect them to get the job done anyway. The 23/10 on a win without a clean sheet looks far more appealing than the straight win at just 2/15.
With plenty of catching up to do, it's the start of a cycle which has teams playing about every five days, meaning there's at least one match a day from the Superliga between now and the end of the season, on Sunday 26th July. On that day, all 18 teams play at the same time, as is custom on the last day of the season.
Where were we?
It would have been a crying shame if the Portuguese league had been called off, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, we're in the final stretch of a titanic battle for the title. Porto are one point ahead of Benfica and they've already played each other twice so Benfica are going to have to hope for a slip-up from somewhere, because their destiny is no longer in their own hands.
It's really not unusual for Porto or Benfica to go on a run of six or seven straight wins, so it should be advantage Porto, although at the time of writing both are trading around 2.01/1 on the Exchange. Interestingly, the calendar computer has determined that it's the Lisbon Derby between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon on the final day of the season. But at the same time Sergio Conceicao's Porto have a far tougher task when they travel to Braga, who these days are the third-best side in the league. It should all make for a gripping two hours on that Sunday in late July.
The Eagles only have themselves to blame if they don't win the title. They lost 3-2 away in Porto in February. Far less excusable were the 1-0 loss at home to Braga and back-to-back 1-1 draws with Moreirense and Vitoria de Setubal.
Did you hear the one about the undefeated coach?
The joke doing the rounds in Portugal is that Sporting Lisbon performed a masterstroke in appointing Ruben Dias as their manager in early March, in the process paying the €20 million buy-out clause that was in his contract as manager of Braga. That's an unprecedented amount of money in Portuguese football just to nick someone's coach.
The joke goes that's it's been years since Sporting went two-and-a-half months without losing and that no-one else in Portugal can boast an 100% record as a manager. Sporting and Dias are obviously undefeated in that time because there haven't been any matches and he's 'one from one' because he won his first game in charge. Not that it was as straightforward as it should have been.
At home to Aves, the visitors went down to nine men after 20 minutes and Sporting had to wait till the 62nd minute to break the deadlock before eventually winning 2-0.
On the transfer front...
The break in football has certainly given everyone plenty of time to think about their next moves in the summer transfer market.
Over at Sporting, Brazilian midfielder Wendel is attracting interest from Everton. The 22-year-old is a key player for the Lions but needs must and after coughing up all that money for manager Dias, and losing revenue because of the Coronavirus, they may have to let him go for the right price.
Apparently, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti is keen on him, and with no-one really shining in the heart of Everton's midfield all season, Wendel could be just the sort of player who can bring something new to the table at Goodison Park.
Benfica youngster Florentino Luis, a box to box midfielder, has been heavily linked with a move to AC Milan, where the idea seems to be one similar to what happened to Gedson Fernandes (also ex-Benfica), who they loaned to Tottenham with an option to buy. Florentino has only played for Benfica 10 times this year, partly because they have lots of options in the heart of midfield, where he features.
There's even greater interest from European clubs in Benfica's Brazilian striker Vinicius. After arriving in the summer, the ex-Napoli player did more than justify his €17 transfer fee by scoring 17 goals in 29 appearances. Manchester United apparently bid close to €40 for him already with Liverpool and Wolves also interested. His current release clause is €100 million so even though Benfica could more than double their money in one year, they'll surely be holding out for at least €60 million.