With just two games to go, the battle for promotion to Portugal’s top flight is heating up. Interestingly, all of the top three teams in Liga Portugal 2 (Rio Ave, Chaves and Casa Pia) are guaranteed to finish in the top three. However, only the top two teams gain automatic promotion to Portugal’s top flight, the team who finishes in third place will have to play a two-legged playoff against the team who finish sixteenth in the Primeira Liga. This is where the promotion race gets interesting.
Note: If teams finish on the same points, it then goes down to head-to-head record.
Let’s have a look at the remaining games and see who is in the best position to gain automatic promotion.
- Rio Ave – 64 points – Last season in Primeira Liga: 2020/21
Rio Ave currently sit on the top of the Liga Portugal 2 table and are in a strong position to gain automatic promotion to the division they were relegated from last season.
Going from losing 8-9 on penalties to AC Milan in a dramatic UEFA Europa League qualifier in 2020, to spending the following season in the Segunda Liga, it has been a whirlwind couple of years for Rio Ave but they are recovering well. This season, Vilacondenses bounced back from a spot of poor mid-season form in the best way possible, embarking on a seven-game unbeaten run, winning six consecutive matches and jumping from fourth to first in the table. They did momentarily slip to second place following this run, but in their last league fixture they crucially beat promotion rivals Casa Pia 1-0, knocking them off the top-spot in the process.
SC Covilhã (16th) and GD Chaves (2nd)
An incredibly difficult last two fixtures for Rio Ave. First up is SC Covilhã who are fighting for their life at the bottom of the table, Covilhã need just one more win in the bag to guarantee their Segunda Liga status for another season. Leões da Serra come into this match in good form, they have won four of their last eight matches, drawn two and lost two. They have recovered remarkably well from a three month period where they failed to win a single match, losing five and drawing four in the process. Since then, their performances have vastly improved, winning four of their last eight matches, drawing two and losing the other two.
Next up for Rio Ave is a match that all eyes will be on! They take on GD Chaves in their final fixture of the season. There is hardly anything to separate the two sides at present, Rio Ave sit just a point ahead of Chaves. Chaves have lost the least amount of games in the league with five, whilst Rio Ave have won the most amount of games with 19! It’s looking as if this game will be the decider.
- GD Chaves – 63 points – Last season in Primeira Liga: 2018/19
Let’s rewind back to late November, Chaves had just lost 1-0 at home to Mafra, they had won a single match since September and were languishing in 12th position, closer to the relegation zone than to the promotion spots.
Since then however, Chaves have been brilliant. Vítor Campelos’ side have lost just one game from their last 20, and have won their last five consecutive matches. They go into their final two games in the best possible form. For Chaves, a club who were last in the Primeira Liga back in 2018, automatic promotion looked already too far gone come Christmas, but fast forward to today and a return to the top-flight is almost close enough to touch.
Estrela da Amadora (13th) and Rio Ave (1st)
The first of Chaves’ final two games sees them welcome Estrela da Amadora to Estádio Municipal de Chaves. Form suggests that this should be a routine win for Chaves, who have lost just one game at home all season. Estrela come into this game winless in their last seven matches and have won just one away game since the beginning of January. Despite looking relatively comfortable in 13th, Estrela are not safe. They are currently three points above the relegation playoff place with two games to go, so they will also be up for this match and looking to guarantee safety to avoid any final day nerves.
- Casa Pia – 62 points – Last season in Primeira Liga: 1939
Casa Pia are within touching distance of their first Primeira Liga season since 1939! After narrowly avoiding relegation due to Aves and Vitória Setúbal’s punishment just a couple of years ago, Casapianos dusted themselves off and haven’t looked back since. Last season they secured a mid-table finish, finishing comfortably in ninth place and securing their Segunda Liga status for yet another year. This year, Casa Pia have taken it to another level. Filipe Martins’ team have prided themselves on their organisation, discipline and defensive solidity, no team in Portugal’s top two divisions have conceded less goals than Casa Pia’s 20. The Lisbon club have also won the joint-most amount of matches in the second tier with 19.
There will be some frustration however at how their recent form has ever-so-slightly dented their chances of automatic promotion. At the beginning of March, Casa Pia sat top of the table, four points clear of Rio Ave and a massive eight points clear of GD Chaves, since then however they have lost to both of their promotion rivals, losing 4-1 to Chaves and 1-0 to Rio Ave.
Something that goes strongly in their favour in their bid for promotion is their remaining fixtures, especially compared to the fixtures of Rio Ave and Chaves.
Vilafranquense (10th) and Leixōes (8th)
On paper, Filipe Martins’ men have the easiest run in of the three clubs chasing automatic promotion. When Rio Ave and Chaves are squaring up against one another, Casa Pia will be taking on Leixōes, a solid side but a side with nothing to play for. The same can also be said for the Vilafranquense match. Both Vilafranquense and Leixōes have guaranteed their position in the league for next season and will be playing for nothing more than as high a league position as possible.
With just three wins from their last seven matches, the time for Casa Pia to get back to winning ways is well and truly now.