Sports Mole previews Friday’s Primeira Liga clash between Maritimo and Sporting Lisbon, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
They secured a hugely important victory last time out, defeating title rivals Benfica 1-0 thanks to an added-time winner, while Maritimo will be looking for a reaction after three consecutive losses in all competitions.
In their last league game, the hosts fell to a 1-0 away defeat at the hands of Vitoria de Guimaraes, with Oscar Estupinan netting the only goal of the game.
That followed a disappointing Taca de Portugal loss at home to Segunda Liga outfit Estoril, with the away side taking the tie to extra time late on. Joel gave Maritimo an early lead and they looked set to see out a 1-0 win, until Joao Gamboa converted a penalty for the second-tier side in the 10th minute of added time.
Os Verde-Rubros have had mixed fortunes in the league so far this season, currently sitting 10th in the Primeira Liga table.
However, this position is not as secure as it seems, with Milton Mendes‘s side sitting just three points above the relegation playoff place and four points above the automatic relegation zone, meaning that a few poor results could drag them right into the battle at the bottom of the table.
It is defensively where Maritimo have struggled this campaign, with only three sides in the top flight conceding more than their 26 from 16 league fixtures so far.
Although they come into this game as underdogs, they will be encouraged by their 2-0 win over Sporting in the Taca de Portugal in January, with goals from Rodrigo Pinho and Leo Andrade firing the side from the Estadio dos Barreiros to an impressive win over Friday’s opponents.
However, the league leaders will be confident that they can return the favour with an important win in this game.
In just his second season managing in the top flight, 36-year-old Ruben Amorim has his side on track for a first Primeira Liga title since 2002, currently sitting at the top of the table, four points clear of Porto.
They recorded a crucial victory in their last fixture, beating title rivals Benfica 1-0, with Matheus Nunes scoring in the 92nd minute to snatch all three points in the dying minutes.
That secured a 13th league win of the season from just 16 games, only five fewer than Os Verde e Brancos managed in the entirety of last season.
Meanwhile, the side from the capital are yet to lose in the league, having drawn their other three matches, picking up 42 points from a possible 48 at this stage of the season.
While they have been impressive at both ends of the pitch this year, it is Amorim’s defence that has especially stood out, having conceded just nine goals so far, four fewer than any other side in the top flight has shipped.
Their attacking record is not to be taken lightly either, having scored 34 goals so far from 16 games, a tally only topped by second-placed Porto.
The league leaders will definitely see this game as a chance to exploit a defence which has struggled to shut teams out, and pick up a 14th league win of the season to maintain their distance from the chasing pack.
Maritimo Primeira Liga form: WDLWLL
Maritimo form (all competitions): LWWLLL
Sporting Lisbon Primeira Liga form: WWWDWW
Sporting Lisbon form (all competitions): LDWWWW
Maritimo will be reliant on top scorer Rodrigo Pinho if they are to secure an unlikely victory in this game, with the Brazilian having seven Primeira Liga goals and an assist to his name from 13 league appearances.
They recently picked up Sassa in a January loan signing from Cruzeiro, with the Brazilian adding a much-needed option in attack for Os Verde-Rubros.
Sporting picked up the biggest deal of deadline day in the Primeira Liga, smashing their transfer record to bring in forward Paulinho from Braga.
He joins a strong attack including Pedro Goncalves, who leads the league’s scoring charts with 12 goals in 14 Primeira Liga appearances since his move from Famalicao in the summer.
The away side will be without experienced centre-back Luis Neto, who is suspended for this game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the win over Benfica.
Maritimo possible starting lineup:
Abedzadeh; Winck, Andrade, Africo, Junior, Hermes; Jean, Bambock; Macedo, Pinho, Guitane
Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Adan; Coates, Feddal, Inacio; Porro, Nunes, Mario, Mendes; Goncalves, Paulinho, Cabral
We say: Maritimo 0-3 Sporting Lisbon
We cannot see Maritimo putting an end to Sporting’s rich vein of form in this clash, and see a fairly comfortable win for the visitors.
We expect Paulinho to hit the ground running with his new club, getting on the scoresheet alongside the prolific Goncalves, while the solid defence of Amorim’s side should be able to keep another clean sheet.
Top betting tip
— to www.sportsmole.co.uk