• @Aljeeves10

Who has impressed so far in the Portuguese League?

We may only be three games in, but we've already seen extraordinary comebacks, team capitulations, and a handful of surprises and upsets. With all of that, even at this early stage, we've learned a fair bit about this season's competitors and what may be in store in the Portuguese league this campaign.

There is no better place to start than with the reigning champions Porto, who have had something of a peculiar start to this year's league season. Having stormed to a fantastic 5-0 victory in their first match of the campaign against Chaves, it looked like they may simply pick up from where they left off last year and make an unstoppable charge to the title.

And, of course, they still might. Remember, we are only three games in and the transfer window hasn't even closed yet. However, the warning signs are emerging, and they have a lot of work to do if they wish to retain the league trophy.

In their second match, for example, against Belenenses, they went into half time with a deserved 2-0 lead, and it looked like they were certain to go on and cruise to the perfect start and six points from two games. However, after conceding two second half goals and heading into injury time on level terms, it seemed as if Porto somehow threw away their significant advantage and were on track to drop points after just 180 minutes of league football, which would no doubt hand the advantage to their title rivals Benfica, Sporting and Braga. Luckily for them, on this occasion, they were saved by a controversial penalty awarded in the last minute of the game, which was calmly converted by Alex Telles to save Porto and salvage all three points.

The next match, though, had a great deal of Deja Vu about it. Porto again earned a 2-0 lead at the break over Guimarães, with a goal from Brahimi and a controversial one from Andre Pereira, who was in an offside position when the ball was delivered, something VAR failed to communicate to the on-pitch referee.

But they also produced another disastrous second half display, and were pegged back to 2-2 by the 76th minute.

With plenty of time still on the clock, many likely expected Porto to be the ones to find a third goal and go on to once again rescue the game, but it wasn't the case. Indeed, as the game approached the 90th minute, it was Guimarães who found the winner courtesy of Davidson, which confirmed an outrageous and improbable comeback from the away side.

It's rare to see Porto throw away a two-goal lead. It's even rarer to see them do it twice in a row. And it's near-on impossible to see them actually lose from a two-goal leading position. The last time that happened, in fact, was seven decades ago, back in the early 1940s, which confirms just how concerning the first three games could be for Porto.

Goalscoring is clearly not an issue for them - they boast the best goal difference in the league despite only occupying fifth in the league standings- but 5 goals conceded in just three games - when they haven't yet played any of the other big three sides in Portugal - is concerning. Last season, for example, they only conceded 18 goals across the entire 34-game league campaign. A lot of work to be done for Porto if they want to win the league for a second year in a row.

Moving on to Benfica, and things are a little brighter for the Lisbon club. Having had to contend with also playing two rounds of Champions League qualification fixtures and therefore an extra game every week, Benfica will be pleased to have emerged relatively unscathed.

Indeed, they toppled Guimarães in the first week 3-2, thankful to come out of it with all three points having - like Porto - seen a late resurgence from Guimarães, who put the game back in contention having been 3-0 down. But Benfica were the side to emerge victorious, and followed that up with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Boavista.

Then, in their third match of the season, they hosted city rivals Sporting CP in the always highly-anticipated Lisbon Derby. In what was already, even this early in the season, potentially a title decider, it was an unsurprisingly tense affair that was still 0-0 by the time the half time whistle sounded, but it was Benfica who were the side to fall behind, conceding a penalty just past the hour mark which was converted by the recently returning Sporting legend Nani.

Benfica, having been losing, will have therefore been relieved to have found the equaliser thanks to 18-year old João Felix with just a few minutes left on the clock, with a loss, even at this early stage, undoubtedly a disastrous result. Additionally, it won't have been just the result but also the performance that will have given fans across the globe a great deal of confidence moving forwards, with Benfica looking the better side throughout the game.

The only downside for Benfica, which could prove their undoing this season, is the fact that their strikers are yet to really show up; indeed, it was a Pizzi hattrick in the first game that gave them victory, who added to his goal tally in the next match against Boavista, while young João Felix scored the leveller against Sporting. Only one of Benfica's six league goals has been scored by a striker - Facundo Ferreyra's first half strike against Boavista - which could be costly in their efforts to regain the league title. With their striker regularly looking isolated up front, it is something that really does need addressing.

Meanwhile Sporting, who had so much turmoil last season with the president's actions, the fan violence and player's terminating their own contracts, have had a solid but unspectacular start to the season. Having conceded in every match so far this season, their vulnerable defence could prove their undoing, and manager Peseiro does not seem the right man to sort it out.

They have, however, still emerged victorious in two of their three games, with the other match being that respectable away draw against arch-rivals Benfica. They got lucky though, with Benfica dominating the game and Sporting only staying in it courtesy of some fine goalkeeping from summer signing Romain Salin.

And they did not particularly impress in their other two matches either. In their meeting with Moreirense, they fell behind in the opening couple of minutes, and had to battle back to get the victory in a match they would have been expecting to win, while they also narrowly beat Setubal 2-1 thanks to veteran winger Nani, who got both goals. All in all, a perfectly respectable start for Sporting in terms of points on the board, but the performances haven't yet quite matched up, and they likely need to improve if they want to win the title that has evaded them for well over a decade now.

Braga, on the other hand, top the table courtesy of goal difference, and there's a small but significant chance that they could maintain their spot on top of the tree and pull off a remarkable title charge come the end of the season.

Indeed, having scored 10 goals already this season - at least three in each of the three games they've already played - and with striker and adopted Portuguese-man in Dyego Sousa scoring with great regularity, Braga will be confident of outscoring any opponent, and with their entertaining footballing style, their young manager at the helm and no European distraction, things seem to be falling into place for a Braga side that are currently experiencing the best decade in the club's history. Having never won the league title before, this could be the year Braga rewrite history.

Their undoing, however, could be their defence. It's the reason they're out of the Europa League before it even truly began, losing on away goals to Zorya in the third qualifying round, and why they threw away a three goal lead to newly-promoted Santa Clara to come away with only a point. A highly disappointing result for a side looking to once again challenge the traditional Big Three in Portugal. If they don't sort out their defence, the chances of breaking into the automatic European qualifying spaces - let alone cracking top spot - is slim to say the least.

Perhaps the surprise package of the league campaign so far, however, is Feirense, who are the only other side to match the points total of Braga, Benfica and Sporting, sitting in fourth on seven points.

Feirense, you may recall, are the side that sold Etebo to Stoke City this summer for a significant €7million - while it may not sound like much to fans of a Premier League club, for a side like Feirense, it is a huge sum of money.

And while they surely won't maintain their lofty position in the table, they've done a great job, having impressively beaten last season's 'best of the rest' Rio Ave 2-0 and big-summer spenders Guimarães 1-0 away from home. They followed that up with a respectable 1-1 draw with Boavista, meaning that they've made a very solid start to the season which stands them in good stead to avoid relegation and make a push for a top-half finish.

This all means that Guimarães, who were picked as one of the sides to watch out for this season, have had a very mixed start to the season. They will have been pleased with their resilience against Benfica, nearly fighting back from 3-0 down to get something from a match they were always expected to lose, while their successful fight back away from home to Porto to get all three points will likely be their greatest result of the season - arguably their greatest result of the past few seasons. However, sandwiched in between those two respectable showings, that home loss to Feirense will have disappointed them, with that encounter the type of match they'd certainly be expecting to get all three points from. It's early days though, and Guimarães fans will be expecting their side to only improve over the course of the season, and I still back them to finish as the best of the rest behind Benfica, Braga, Porto and Sporting.

So, what have we learned from just three rounds of fixtures? Well, if anything, it's that this title race is wide open, with all four of the main contenders showing their obvious strengths but also some notable weaknesses, while goals, comebacks and some outstanding goalkeeping seem to be the themes of the season. In any case, it looks like we're in store for an incredible footballing campaign filled with excitement and unpredictability, and we're looking forward to seeing

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