The 2018 season of the Macau Elite League has already started, and after four weeks the standings are very much as expected, with Benfica de Macau leading the table.
The new season started with two title contenders, four-time champions Benfica de Macau and their main rivals C.P.K. However, Benfica’s main goal is a successful participation in the 2018 AFC Cup group stage and so they started to build a new squad. The first change was came in form of a new coach, Portuguese Bernardo Tavares, who previously was in charge of New Radiant SC in Maldives. Benfica also signed six new players, including Vitor Almeida (former C.P.K.), Tony Lopes (former Sporting Macau), as well as several Portuguese aids, such as André Reis, Gil Nguema, Tito Okello and David Tetteh. The former also has Kirghiz and Ghanaian nationality, so he can be used for the Asian player quota in the AFC Cup. Some of these signings were also meant to compensate for the long term injury of Benfica captain Filipe Duarte and previous top goalscorer Carlos Leonel.
C.P.K. also tried to strength their squad in order to challenge for the tittle by acquiring five new players: the Brazilian trio Denilson, Adilson Silva (both former Kei Lun) and Danilo Lins, as well as Portuguese Alexandre Matos and Japanese Seiji Saito. This might be the first year that C.P.K. have a real chance to challenge for the title, since most of the usual heavyweights in Macau like Monte Carlo, Ka I and Sporting de Macau have all reduced their budgets.
The runners-up of last season, Monte Carlo, only acquired one foreigner player, but also added one of the most promising talents of Macau football, Bruce Chantre, who was the best goalscorer of the Macau U23 team last season.
Sporting de Macau, another team which had big ambitions in previous seasons, signed four players from Nigeria, including Christopher Nwaorou (former Benfica Macau and Ka I), Bright Chidi, Malachy Iloegbunam and Prince Agreeh, as well as two Brazilian players, Fabio Antonelli and Aureliano Júnior.
Ka I didn’t make a lot of changes in their squad, but recalled their former coach, Brazilian Josecler, who was with Kei Lun last season.
So with all these moves in the pre-season, the prediction for the 2018 edition of Macau’s top flight is that it will be a two horse race between Benfica and C.P.K., with four teams behind them trying to finish in top positions as well, including Monte Carlo, Ka I, Sporting and Cheng Fung.
The remaining four teams in the league – Policia, Hang Sai, Alfandega and Lai Chi (who replaced Kei Lun which withdraw from the league) – will try their best to avoid playing in the 2nd Division next season, since two teams at the bottom will be relegated.
With four rounds already played, things are slowly taking shape. C.P.K. started the season in high fashion, scoring 26 goals in the first two matches. However, they lost 1-4 to Benfica in the 3rd round, allowing the reigning champions to take the lead once again. Soon after, C.P.K.’s confidence got another blow and they only drew with Cheng Fung in the 4th round. With these results Benfica are on top, already four points clear of second placed Cheng Fung and five points ahead of C.P.K., who are on third.