After 23 games with 11 to the end of the season, Benfica and FC Porto are the only two candidates to win the Portuguese Primeira Liga champion's title. Lisbon Reds lead the table with 59 points, four ahead of their blue historical rivals. The other chronic candidate, Sporting Lisbon, are completely off the pace, after losing 3-0 against FC Porto, last Sunday. They are now 12 points behind the first place.

Jorge Jesus, in his sixth season as Eagles' manager, will fight for championship title retention, but will have to rely on strong opposition from the northerners, led by the inexperienced Spanish coach, Julen Lopetegui.

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This has so far been a competition without major surprises. Braga and Guimarães occupy positions immediately following the big three, as expected. Braga has been in recent years the fourth team in Portugal, with successive qualification for European competitions, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. After a difficult season, the club hired Sérgio Conceição as team coach and the results were very positive. Guimarães, led by Rui Vitória, have achieved excellent results, focusing almost entirely on the young players from their academy.

The big surprise, however, has come from the other team in the city of Porto. Boavista returned to the first league, directly from amateur championships, climbing three divisions. Also known as 'Black Panthers' or by its checkered shirts, Boavista returned with the smallest budget of all teams and with several inexperienced players, that never played in professional competitions.

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Led by former Portuguese international Petit, Boavista have grown a lot since the beginning of the season, surprising everyone who bet that they would be the weakest team. They have 22 points, fighting for the top ten.

The big disappointments have been the "European" Rio Ave and Estoril, who are both well away from qualifying for the UEFA competitions.

At this stage of the competition, the teams that stand in the relegation places are Gil Vicente and Penafiel. Both have already replaced their staff team in attempting to escape the bottom places.

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