Portuguese football will return on June 4 after the country’s governing body signed off the Primeira Liga’s new restart date. The league sports one of the best title races in Europe, with Porto holding a slim one-point lead over Benfica.
Tuesday marked two months since the Primeira Liga was suspended alongside Europe’s other major leagues due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Portugal has approved a comeback in three weeks.
Each of the 18 teams has 10 matches left to play in the 2019-20 campaign, and Liga Portugal published a statement confirming Week 25 will begin on June 4:
"Over the past few days, various entities have carried out successive alignment meetings so that the recovery can take place safely and with all the protection measures that mitigate the risks of returning to the activity.
"It is anticipated that this joint work by DGS [Directorate-General of Health of Portugal], FPF [Portuguese Football Federation] and Liga Portugal will serve as a model for the resumption of other economic activities, with the aim of this professional competition providing an example of the good practices that this pandemic imposes on us.
"In order to ensure that the stadiums are strictly inspected and medical tests are carried out on all professionals involved in the games and their organisation, the date of June 4, 2020 is set for the first game of the 25th round of the Liga NOS."
Portugal’s Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, first announced matches could begin behind closed doors from May 30, but changes have since been made to adequately inspect the selected stadia.
Primeira Liga writer Tom Kundert recently commented on three positive coronavirus tests among Vitoria Guimaraes’ squad, which could have played a role in the slight delay:
Porto lead rivals Benfica by just one point at the Portuguese summit, with the pair in a breakaway battle for this season’s title after 24 games. Braga sit 13 points below in third, while Sporting CP and Rio Ave make up the European places in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Aves look destined for relegation and are nine points from safety at the bottom of the pile, though Portimonense (17th) are only three points ahead and also struggling for safety.
Portugal has had a little more than 1,100 coronavirus-related deaths from around 28,000 confirmed cases, per data collated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.