Though they lifted the Taca de Portugal for a 19th time in June, the Lions were pipped to top spot by Benfica, who beat them again in Wednesday’s curtain-raiser; their hosts, meanwhile, are back in the top flight after just one year away.
Returning to competitive action after a busy pre-season schedule, Benfica’s first match of the 2023-24 campaign brought them head to head with old foes Benfica, in the Portuguese Super Cup at Estadio Municipal de Aveiro.
In a tempestuous encounter, two second-half strikes proved enough to see Benfica run out winners, as 12 yellow cards and two reds were issued by the referee. Despite both being old enough to know better, 40-year-old Pepe was sent off for kicking David Jurasek and Porto coach Sergio Conceicao received a red card for verbal abuse.
All of which highlights the Dragons’ bitter disappointment at losing to the Lisbon giants again, having relinquished the league title to Benfica last season. Nonetheless, Conceicao and company did at least manage to secure two pieces of silverware in 2022-23 – the Taca de Portugal and the Supertaca.
They also stayed in the title race right to the last day of the season, by winning each of their last nine matches and going unbeaten through their final 12, but that was still not enough to avoid a frustrating runners-up finish.
As Porto prepare for another crack at the domestic crown and an upcoming Champions League campaign, five friendlies leading up to their Supertaca defeat brought two wins, two draws and one loss – the latter at the hands of Premier League side Wolves.
No club has retained the Portuguese title over the past six seasons, which may give heart to Porto in the months ahead, and the summer arrivals of Spanish duo Nico Gonzalez and Fran Navarro should certainly aid their cause.
Albeit at a lower level, the Dragons’ first-day opponents Moreirense did manage to secure top spot last term, as they finished first in Liga 2 by a margin of 10 points.
Relegated in 2022, at the end of a season in which they tried three different managers without success and were demoted via a playoff, the club from Moreira de Conegos returned to the top tier under experienced coach Paulo Alves.
However, Alves left at the end of the season, allowing former Boavista assistant Rui Borges to take his first step in Liga Portugal management.
Moreirense now kick off their 13th campaign at the elite level, following a mixed pre-season period and last month’s Taca de Liga first-round exit to Farense – a tie in which they were beaten on penalties following a 1-1 draw on home soil.
A difficult start to the league season awaits Borges’s side, as after meeting Porto on Monday, Braga will be their opponents in the third round, and a visit to Sporting follows in September.
Moreirense pre-season form:
Porto pre-season form:
We say: Moreirense 1-3 Porto
After the upheaval of losing their promotion-winning manager and several players during the off-season, Moreirense may have lost some momentum from their exceptional 2022-23 campaign. Despite home advantage, the gulf in class to a well-drilled Porto side should be apparent on Monday evening, so the visitors are set to secure maximum points.