With less than a week left for the start of the Liga BPI season, the top-tier women’s football league in Portugal, tipster Joe previews each team for the upcoming season and the players to consider for the RealFevr Liga BPI Fantasy game.
Around mid-January, I was looking through RealFevr fantasy games to see what leagues they had on there, and I noticed they had Liga BPI. I decided to play it for two reasons: I have never played a women’s fantasy before, and the other I had zero knowledge of this league. Coming from England, the only women’s football we see is the WSL (which has only been on regular viewing for the past year), England’s international and international tournaments.
I had never heard of Liga BPI before and couldn’t even name a player in the league. So I thought playing this game would help to further my knowledge of the women’s game. Over the season’s final half, I enjoyed watching the games on Canal 11 YouTube. I stopped watching the games from a Fantasy perspective and watched them as they were fun to watch. So from this, I decided to get more in touch with the league by following all the clubs’ social media accounts.
The league has changed from last season to this season, instead of having the league split in half. The top four teams from each league play in a winners bracket, with the same happening to the bottom four. This season the league is a traditional European-style league. 12 teams play each other twice. However, I found that only three teams are professional (Benfica, Sporting, and Braga), with three more heading in that way (Famalicão, Maritimo, and Torreense). The other six teams in the division are all amateurs.
At the same time as this was happening, I decided to book some tickets for the Euros as the Leigh Sports Village is near where I live. When I looked at the teams who were playing, I saw it was Portugal and thought it was a funny coincidence that the national team of a league I started following would be playing near me. I managed to book tickets for a few friends and me to go watch Portugal vs. Switzerland. Portugal played brilliantly (excluding the first ten minutes) and deserved to come away with three points. It was a similar performance against the 2017 Euro winners, the Netherlands, in which they only lost to a wonder strike.
From this, I could see the excitement on Twitter from the journalists and fans, who I had just recently followed, for these amazing performances. Then the last game against Sweden came and went, and Portugal was comfortably beaten. Despite this heavy loss, Portugal can hold their heads up high, and it is now down to the FPF to help fund the women’s game in Portugal. This is a league where more than 50% of the teams aren’t professional and a league where the professional players can’t get the right professional equipment.
With all this, I decided to do a mini preview of each team in the league to help to give people an overview of what the league looks like, but before, I just want to give a big shoutout to all the people who I found on Twitter who talk about women’s football in Portugal. They have watched this side of football a long time before me, and I don’t want to look like I am stepping on their toes with this article. Here is a list of the and their Twitter handles:
Please do give all these people a follow and check out all the great stuff they have done.
As stated before, I’ve only started watching the league in January, so if I get something wrong, please tell me. The stats I use will be from the ZeroZero website, and this website only credits some assists. I’ll be going through the teams in order of last years league position.
Liga BPI Team Previews
The title holders are favourites to defend their title and will want to add the domestic cups under manager Filipa Patão. Last season in the Winners’ Bracket, they only conceded four goals in 14 matches. Despite this impressive defensive record, an injury to star right back Catarina Amado has forced them to change formation from a back four to a back three. Surprisingly, new signing Daniela Silva will partner Carole Costa and Ana Seiça in this back 3. This comes as a surprise as she was signed from Famalicão, where she played as a quick winger.
Liga BPI Player of the Season Costa will be the main center-back with Silva and Seiça facing competition from the experienced Sílvia Rebelo and Lúcia Alves. Alves was the main left-back last season and will have to adjust to this new center-back role. Benfica had lots of depth in the midfield position last season and added to it by signing Andreia Norton. She was one of Braga’s best players last season and shined in the Euros for Portugal. Norton likes to pick up the ball from the defenders and uses her close-control dribbling style to run at the opposition.
This only makes Benfica stronger but will give Patão a headache when selecting her team. Defensive midfielder Pauleta will play every minute of every match. She easily breaks up opposition counterattacks and is a threat from attacking set pieces. Nigerian international Christy Ucheibe will look to nail down her spot in midfield. She’s a physical midfield but can easily join in with the expansive football Benfica play. Nailing down a spot in this Benfica midfield is no easy task as there is a range of options to choose from. I’d go with this midfield if I were Patão, but I am no expert like her.
Finally, we come to the front three and, by far, the most exciting players. Wonderkid Kika Nazareth has played 54 matches in the last two seasons scoring 27 goals and providing nine. These are great returns for such a young player who usually plays on the left for Benfica. She will want to put a disappointing Euros performance behind her, and I think she’ll be hungry to improve on her goal tally. To add to this front three you have Cloé Lacasse and Jéssica Silva. Both will be battling it out for the league’s top scorer.
Jéssica, like Norton, is coming back off a great Euros campaign for herself, which will only boost her confidence for the new season. Lacasse has scored 67 goals in the last three seasons. Do I have to say any more? Even their backups are great. Valéria, Cintra, Raylsa, and Pintassilgo will all have the same aim this season: to try and break into this team. They all proved last season how good they were when they were required to step up, but they will all be wanting this to become more of a regular occurrence. A few young players to look out for are Beatriz Nogueira (Bibocas), Inês Simas, and Ana Cruz, as these players could be the next big thing.
Famalicão are the best-run club in the league outside of the previous three clubs. The Famalicão board clearly have a vision for the club as they have trusted manager Jorge Barcello with money for the club. Soon as I wrote this article, Barcello left Famalicão due to personal reasons, with Reneto Lobo stepping in as interim manager. We saw this trust in their manager last season with the signing of the talented midfielder Raquel Fernandes.
Fernandes helped to boost Famalicão to become runners-up in the Taça Portugal. This season Barcello has made the right balance of signing players who are proven in Portuguese football and foreign players who come with a good pedigree. Mafalda Marujo comes under the first bracket after spending three successful seasons with Amora, in which she scored over 100 goals for the club. She’s a traditional number nine and will score goals as long as she gets the right service.
Under the second bracket is Cypriot international Andri Violari, who scored 32 goals in 16 in the Cypriot first division last season. Violari is making a step up by joining Famalicão, but she can certainly fit in. In the few clips I’ve seen of her, she likes to play on the last defender, constantly pushing the defenders back. This should fit well with another exciting signing in Marie-Yasmine Alidou. It looks like she’ll play the number 10 role when in possession, and out of possession, Alidou will drop back into the midfield three alongside Inês Maia and Paty Llanos. Alidou likes to carry the ball forward and will benefit from the space Violari has created. She’ll be battling for this role with Fernanda Tipa. Tipa was Famalicão’s top goalscorer last as she started the season as their main striker.
Over the course of the season, she was often used in this number 10 role and even as a central midfielder. Defensively Famalicão will be hurt by the loss of Rute Costa. Stepping in will be Dani Neuhaus, and from what I saw in the Supertaça, she didn’t play amazingly. Neuhaus will need to put her mistakes behind her quickly. At left-back, they have 20-year-old Mariana Campino, who has been playing first-team football since she was 15 years old. She’s solid defensively with an eye for goal as she started off her career as a forward.
For center-back, they have a new signing, Raquel Infante. She is the definition of a journeyman as this will be her 13th club. Her longest spell at one club was with Benfica between 2018 and 2020, in which she made 23 appearances. Infante will face competition from the likes of Laís Araújo and Vãnia Duarte for a starting place. This season could be a big season for Famalicão, with Sporting lacking depth and Braga going through a rebuild, they could push for that second spot. From a neutral perspective, this could be the best thing for the league as they could be seen as a blueprint for a smaller club on how to run a women’s team successfully.
Last season Marítimo were the definition of a midtable team as they won seven and lost seven of the 14 games. Despite these results, they only finished one point behind Famalicão and four behind Braga. The main issue they have is they heavily rely on wonderkid Telma Encarnação to score goals for them. Telma is the biggest youth talent in Portugal outside of the top three teams, and her incredible goal-scoring record earned her a call-up for the National Team to play in the Euros. It looks like she will be staying the season for them and that in itself makes this a great transfer window for Marítimo.
Unlike most teams you’ll see later on, Marítimo have only made a couple of signings, so keeping a player like Telma is a success for them. If it wasn’t Telma scoring the goals, it was winger Tânia Mateus. She likes to run with the ball, trying to cause panic for the opposition. Tânia’s goal-scoring record has improved each season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she manages to reach double digits this season.
One signing they have made is a player with lots of potential, Joana Prazeres. Only 19 years old, she played a big role in Amora’s defence last season, where she was out on loan from Famalicão. The Famalicão fans should be disappointed that she didn’t stay with the club. She’s a center-back and can easily play out from the back. With the loss of Paula Fernanades Marítimo have replaced her with Priscila Campota joining from Torreense. She’s an experienced center-back, and Marítimo fans will be hoping this experience helps Prazeres to build her confidence.
I can’t talk about this club without mentioning Bárbara Santos, the goalkeeper who scored a goal against Braga last season. She took a free kick from her own half, and it flew into the back of the net. For me, Santos is the best keeper in the league that doesn’t play for a professional club. She made an outrageous number of saves last season and kept Marítimo in the game for countless amount of matches. The issue that Marítimo have is that they seem to panic when teams pressure them high up in their own half. This explains the midtable form as the teams nearer the bottom lacked the ability compared to the teams at the top. Marítimo will finish high mid-table this season, but the only way they can break into the top three is if another attacking player can score alongside Telma. Finding a secondary goal scorer will also help Telma, as the pressure will not all be on her.
Albergaria started the Winners’ Bracket league poorly with only one point in 12 games; however, they won their final two games, which saw them overtake Vilaverdense for the second last place. One of the positives about Albergaria is that they do a lot for the women’s game in Portugal. They have a great youth system, allowing them to put on trial days for girls to come and play football. Benfica’s Jéssica Silva played for Albergaria, which led to her breakout season.
This season, Daniela Martins will be hoping it’s her breakout season. Last season she finished as the top scorer in the under 19s league, and she has the raw potential to carry on this form for the main team. Martins can play across the front three and will be stepping up to replace Inés Santos.
Slovenian international Nika Babnik likes to dictate the play and has a great amount of energy to do this, constantly asking for the ball and wanting as much of it as possible. For me, I really think she is an intelligent player, and she has the rare experience of playing in San Marino. Another key player that could be crucial for Albergaria is Samara Lino. She partners with Babnik in the middle of the field and works well with her. This duo could be the key for Albergaria, and if teams fail to pick up on it, they’ll be in trouble. A few other young players which are stepping up to the first team are: Ana Matos, Maria Teixeira, and Andreia Tavares. All three young players will be given first-team football this season, and all could go on to do big stuff in the future.
Vilaverdense are coming back from an up-and-down season, as despite making it into the Winners’ Bracket, they only managed to get three points from 14 games. Current manager Daniel Pacheco will want this season to follow the same pattern as the first half of last season. To help with this, he has recruited three key players from Valadares Gaia this season – Malu Schmidt, Shelby High, and Madalena Marau.
From what I saw last season, Schmidt has the ability to be one of the best players in the league, and she’s only 21 years old. She scored 12 goals last season, but one thing we should consider is that she’ll be without her strike partner Cristina Ferreira. This could affect the way she plays, so it could take a few games for her to adjust.
On the other end, you had High, who likes to protect the back four by closing down the space from the opposition number 10. By doing this, it allowed the two center-backs to pick up the lone striker. Marau will be the first-choice left-back for Vilaverdense as she was part of a great Gaia defense last season. An exciting loan signing they have made is Francisca Silva from Sporting CP. From what I’ve read about her, she can play either as a full-back, or if they want to go five at the back, she can play the left/right center-back role. Based on pre-season, it looks like she’ll start off as the right back, but this versatility will be crucial for Pacheco’s squad throughout the season.
To add to this, Pacheco has made a few foreign signings that I can’t claim to know much about. Players such as Sini Laaksonen and Natalie Oronoz will have joined to get regular minutes. Vilaverdense have also signed an unknown prospect in Huynh Nhu. She becomes the first female Vietnamese female player to play for a European club. She has a rich history and is probably the most notable Vietnamese player ever. Nhu is the national team’s highest-ever scorer and is their captain – to add to this, she has won four golden boots in the Vietnamese domestic league.
She’s also helped her country qualify for their first-ever World Cup in 2023 and has moved here to improve her game before the World Cup. I’m already excited for the deadly partnership of Schmidt and Nhu for this season. Finally, they have signed some exciting young talent to keep an eye on, and these are Mara Gonçalves, Rafaela Mesquita, and Cheila. All three of these are attacking options, and I won’t be surprised if any of them go on to nail down a starting spot.
Amora finished top of the Losers’ Bracket comfortably, finishing nine points clear of the playoffs. The main reason they got promoted was due to how good at going forward they were. They scored 53 goals in 14 games, just under an average of four goals per game. However, with the loss of several key attackers such as Mafalda Marujo, Ana Rocha, and Beatriz Rodrigues, it looks like they will struggle to replicate this attacking form. They only managed to keep three clean sheets at the other end of the pitch in these 14 games. This stat shows they played “heavy metal” football, trying to get as many players up the field as possible.
To stay up in this league, they will have to change their style of football as the top teams will slice through them, and the score will get ugly. To try and make themselves more defensively stable, they signed Irís Silva, who helped Damaiense in their promotion season. She kept 13 clean sheets in 23 mmatches in the second division last season and could provide this stability at the back for Amora.
They also signed exciting prospect Ines Moreira from Sporting CP. Moreira is a winger but can play as a makeshift forward if needed. Carolina Durque will be the main forward after scoring seven goals last season. The loss of other key forwards means that the pressure will be on her to provide the goals for Amora. It’s a big ask for a 20-year-old, but I believe she has the ability to keep Amora up in what it looks like to be a tough season.
On the final day of the season, Gaia managed to get promoted with a 3-0 over Clube Atlético Ouriense in the Losers’ Bracket. Gaia were completely opposite of Amora in that their defensive numbers were far better than their attacking numbers. Let me list some important facts:
- They conceded 10 goals in 14 games.
- They kept 7 clean sheets out of these 14 games.
- 4 of the 10 conceded goals came against Amora.
These defensive numbers are down to keeper Erin Seppi who was signed just before the Losers’ Bracket began. Seppi was a great shot-stopper and will be their number one this season. The defense in front of her deserves the same credit. Inês Queiroga (right back), Opal Curless (center-back), Madalena Marau (left-back) were the mainstays of the team, with Chelsi Jadoo and Joana Monteiro fighting for the final center-back position.
As you read before Marau has left to join Vilaverdense, and it looks like Jadoo won’t be staying with Gaia this season. They have signed 20-year-old Swedish left-back Grace Wallin, and it seems like she’ll be the one to replace Marau. Another loss to the defence is Shelby High, and as mentioned before, she was perfect for Gaia last season. I’d be lying if I knew who would step in this defensive midfield hole, captain Claudia Lima could play, but it would waste her ability in the final third. It’ll be interesting to see who new manager António Martins Silva chooses for this role.
At the other end of the pitch, last season Gaia relied heavily on both Malu Schmidt and Cristina Ferreira. Between them, they scored 27 goals across both leagues. With Gaia losing Schmidt, they will lose this key strike partnership. I feel Gaia will change formation, so Ferreria will be the lone striker, and they’ll play with wingers. This will allow them to play another midfield if they need protection after losing High.
Rita Dias will be the one to benefit from this, as she can play on either wing. Rita scored nine goals last season but played more of a left/right midfield position. Pushing her up the field will allow her to have more of the ball in the final third, and this could be Gaia’s secret weapon to fix the loss of Schmidt. If Gaia can replicate their defensive numbers from last season, then they should achieve a solid mid-table finish this season. It’s hard to say whether these performances were actually good or if they were just down to the teams they faced in the Losers’ Bracket, but numbers in football don’t lie.
Clube Atlético Ouriense
Despite losing the playoff final to qualify for Liga BPI last season, Atlético are still in the league. CF Benfica failed to register in time, forcing the league to kick them out and allow Atlético in. Manager Marco Ramos has let key players such as Raíza Paraíba and Ana Sampaio go. In total, only five of the squad from last season remain. Ramos has replaced these very smartly as he knows they won’t get a second chance again. Newly signed Melanie Cunha will make a good striker partnership with Sara Brasil.
Cunha is a quick striker that likes the ball to be played in front of her, whereas Brasil likes the ball to her feet. This partnership could be key if they want to survive relegation. Sofia Sena looks like another smart signing. She arrives from another Atlético Mineiro in Brazil and will help to dictate play for her new club. Ana Rita Oliveira will be playing for her 5th top division Portugal club despite only being 24 years old. She’s changed club this time to get first-team football, as when she joined Torreense at the back end of the season, Ana Rita was rotated in and out of the squad.
A key defender in front of her is Sony Costa. She’s an attacking right-back that likes to get stuck in with her tackles. Costa scored two goals and set up three last season, but her goal involvement will only improve with a regular goal scorer like Cunha. A signing to look out for is Leonilde Rodrigues – she’s a right winger who played for a poor Atlético CP side last season. Playing in that poor side, she still managed five attacking returns for them. Atlético will probably be one of the favourites to go down, but they’ll be hoping for strong defensive displays to help carry them to safety. They also have the experience of club captain Jéssica Pastilha who has been playing regular football since she was 16.
Damaiense are the only promoted team in the Liga BPI this season. They are the only team that I didn’t watch or check any of their results last season, so I can’t go into much depth about them. Despite this, I’ll talk about some of their new exciting players and how they will help Damaiense to a comfortable position at the table. Their two new forwards, Marta Ferreira and Melany Fortes, are both young forwards, but they’ve already established themselves in Portuguese football.
Ferreira left Sporting CP to join Damaiense for guaranteed first-team football. Sporting CP fans wanted her to stay to build on her first couple of senior seasons. The fact that those fans wanted her to stay shows that she is a great player with an exciting future ahead of her. Then you have Fortes, who has come from a different path. Fortes scored 27 goals in 31 games for CF Benfica in the second division last season and will want to prove herself in the top division.
Another player with a similar history to Ferreira is Beatriz Cameirão, who left Benfica. Despite playing regular football last season, I think she wanted guaranteed starts and a chance to prove that she is a great player who doesn’t need top players around her to perform. I’m looking forward to this trio of players and seeing how they get on this season. Defensively, Damaiense have 18-year-old Ana Assucena. As stated before, I don’t know anything about these promotion winners, but Assucena’s goal contributions for a center-back will certainly catch your eye. She scored 18 goals in 22 games in the league. For a center-back, that’s very impressive and must mean she is a huge threat from set pieces.
Thank you all for taking the time to read the article, and I hope you are excited for the start of the new season as I am. I just want to thank Tre for allowing me to publish this article on his website and Jath for proofreading this. If you haven’t created an account for the RealFevr Liga BPI Fantasy game yet, click on this link to join!
You can find additional Liga BPI Fantasy resources for the 22/23 season here.