LIGA NOS: International break
With only eight league games remaining until the end of the season, every fixture from now on will represent a ‘Cup final’ in terms of retaining Portimonense’s top division status.
Manager António Folha’s remodelled team – three key players left during the January transfer window – currently occupy joint eighth place with Rio Ave and Santa Clara in the table, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The situation is particularly poignant as three clubs instead of the usual two face the drop this year as a consequence of the immanent automatic reinstatement of now third tier Gil Vicente following an 11-year court battle in the wake of the ‘Mateus affair’ in 2006.
Wins against the supposed ‘lesser’ teams such as Tondela, Feirense and Marítimo – all to come – will be of particular importance as the remaining fixtures also include a visit from Porto as well as trips to Benfica and Braga, all fighting for a top four finish in order to guarantee European football.
Already this Friday evening’s (March 29) home encounter – brought forward from Sunday – will be no cakewalk with opponents Moreirense enjoying one of their best campaigns for many years.
Fortunately, the recent international break should see Portimonense restored to full strength with Jadson, Marcel and Dener returning from injury while the enforced rest will have benefited Jackson Martinez.
On the other hand, six starting 11 regulars are ‘carrying’ four yellow cards each and any further bookings will see them missing next weekend’s trip to Tondela.
By SKIP BANDELE