Benfica terminated the contract of manager Rui Vitória following the defeat at Portimonense with Benfica B coach Bruno Lage taking charge of the first team until a replacement is appointed. The 48-year-old coach had been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks following a string of poor performances.
Vitória took charge at the Estádio da Luz in 2015 after the sensational switch of his predecessor Jorge Jesus to fierce city rivals Sporting. During his tenure as Benfica manager Vitória won two championship titles, one Portuguese Cup, one League Cup and two Super Cups. He also oversaw the successful integration of a host of academy players into the senior team, such as Ederson, Nélson Semedo, Victor Lindelöf, Renato Sanches, Gonçalo Guedes all who went on to earn the club huge transfer fees as they were quickly sold on.
Two disastrous Champions League campaigns did not help his cause including, at the end of November, the 5-1 humiliation against Bayern Munich in Germany. Following the Bayern game news broke that club president Luís Filipe Vieira had dismissed the manager only for Vitória to be given a stay of execution. In a bizarre press conference the following morning Vieira said: “I saw a light, and it came to me in the night that he should continue.”
The media have wasted no time in speculating about Vitória’s possible successor, with José Mourinho, Jorge Jesus, Leonardo Jardim and Paulo Fonseca among the names mentioned although it has been reported that JosÉ Mourinho has ruled himself out of contention.
Whilst the red half of Lisbon wondered who would be their new coach the green half of the city was hoping to leapfrog their bitter rivals but suffered a shock 2-1 defeat against ten-man Tondela. The Lions were a goal down after just six minutes but must have fancied their chances when the home side had João Jaquite sent-off five minutes after the interval. Amazingly Tondela increased their lead through Tomane (74’). Two minutes later Sporting pulled a goal back thanks to a Jeremy Mathieu strike but despite their dominance could not find the equaliser. SC Braga, now in second place behind Porto, have quietly gone about their business having recorded six victories and six clean sheets in their last seven games.
FC Porto press on relentlessly towards a second consecutive Primeira Liga title with wins away at CD Aves (1-0) and a 3-1 home win against Madeira outfit CD Nacional. The signing of veteran defender Pepe on Tuesday will give Porto valuable cover as they face the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Pepe, 35, spent three seasons at Porto from 2004-07, winning two league titles before a 30m euros move to Real Madrid where he spent ten years winning three La Liga crowns and lifting the Champions League trophy three times.
The arrival of Pepe may enable the Dragons to release 20 year-old Brazilian defender Éder Militão who has attracted interest from Real Madrid, Everton, Manchester United and Liverpool. His transfer release clause is thought to be in the region of 45m euros, a large sum to pay for a player who has only made a dozen appearances in the Primeira Liga.