quinta-feira, dezembro 02, 2010

Can Jesus save Benfica's season? - Imscouting

Benfica Lisbon are the most decorated team in Portugal.

But the team that have won 32 league championship titles, 24 cups, and twice won the European Cups are not having the best of times.

Over the last 25 years. FC Porto took over as the dominant team in the league, winning 17 league championship titles to Benfica's five.

Last season, against the odds, Benfica won the league, finishing eight points above Porto, who ended up finishing in third place.

But the Eagles' great talents weren't hidden from the biggest clubs in the world, and last summer they lost arguably their two best players. The first was Argentine star Angel Di Maria, who joined Real Madrid for €25 million, and the second was Brazilian midfielder Ramires, who was sold to Chelsea for €22 million.

Benfica are renowned for their good connections with Argentinean football, and they purchased two great talents from the South American country in the summer - left winger Nicolas Gaitan joined from Boca Juniors for €8.4 million, and Franco Jara, who came in from Arsenal de Sarandi for €5.5 million.

Together with Roberto Jimenez, a talented goalkeeper who was signed from Atletico Madrid for €8.5 million, the newcomers should have ensured Benfica a good start to this season, despite the summer departures.

But four months in, Benfica have lost their chance of getting into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, and after 12 games in the Portuguese league, they are eight points behind Porto, who are top.

And to make matters worse, one of Benfica's four league defeats was a 5-0 reverse against their bitter rivals.

Formation and tactics

Benfica play in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with one defensive midfielder - usually Javi Garcia. Benfica's left side is particularly strong, with left midfielder Nicolas Gaitan and left-back Fabio Coentrao , providing plenty of explosive, fast football. Both players have great dribbling ability and link up very well.

On the right of midfield, Eduardo Salvio, who joined in the summer on-loan from Atletico Madrid, usually vies for the spot with Carlos Martinez. Together with full- back Maxi Pereira, Benfica have good right side, but the left is much stronger, and most of their attacking moves come from there.

Pablo Aimar is the playmaker of the team, using his great experience as well as his excellent vision and passing to feed the two strikers - target man Oscar Cardozo and support striker Javier Saviola .

Benfica's playing style is mainly short, quick one-touch passing on the ground, and with the help of support striker Saviola they try to avoid playing too many long balls. Both their central defenders - Lusiao and mainly David Luiz - can play as sweepers.


Aside from the left, with Coentrao - one of the best left-backs in the world - and Gaitan, another dangerous aspect of Benfica's game are dead-ball situations. They have players who are great in the air, one of them being Luisao. The Brazilian central defender goes up for each corner or free kick, and with his natural height, great leap and heading accuracy he poses major problems for opposition defenders.

Cardozo's heading is also very impressive, and besides his height, he has great positional sense in the box, turning crosses into great opportunities for himself.

As well as the understanding between Coentrao and Gaitan, another great Benfica combination is between Saviola and Aimar. Playmaker Aimar is very familiar with Saviola's movements, and always appears to know where he is going to be.

The Argentinean combination is certainly going quite well. Last season, Saviola found the net 17 times and provided seven assists, and this term he has scored two and set up five. Aimer scored five and set up nine last term, and so far has a tally of two goals and as assist this season.


Both of Benfica's centre-backs, David Luiz and Luisao, are considered by many to be the best defenders in the league. However, neither player is very fast (particularly not Luisao), and if an opposing team attacks with fast forwards, they can cause Benfica a lot of problems.

Despite Benfica's attacking strength at dead-balls, they have difficulties defending such situations. There are still problems with the coordination between the defenders and new goalkeeper Jimenez, and many of the goals Benfica have conceded this season have been from free-kicks or corners.

Another weakness of Benfica is their weak character when they go a goal down. In such situations, the players appear to lose their confidence very quickly and their playing style switches from short passes to long balls into the strikers.

Key Players

David Luiz

Deemed by many to be the best defender in Portugal. Luiz plays like a sweeper from time to time and likes to go up to the attack. He is strong, tall and fast, while possessing good control for a central defender. Luiz recently made three appearances for the Brazilian national team.

Fábio Coentrão

One of the best left backs in Europe. Coentrao is fast, has great dribbling and crossing abilities and likes to cut into the centre when he bursts forward. He combines very well with left-winger Gaitan. But Coentrao is also excellent defensively, and has improved that aspect of his game. He has good positional sense, and his strength and pace make him very difficult to beat.

Pablo Aimar

Despite losing some of his pace in recent years, Aimar is still considered the engine of the team. Most of Benfica's moves go through him, and with his amazing game vision and experience he is a very important player. When Aimar is tightly marked, Benfica's game gets a bit stuck.

Óscar Cardozo

Last season Cardozo was the best striker in the country, with 36 goals in 42 matches in all competitions, and has scored six and set up one this term. Cardozo is very strong and possesses good heading abilities. His excellent positional sense inside the box compensates for his lack of speed. He packs a powerful shot, and takes some of the side's free-kicks.

The coach

Jorge Jesus joined Benfica last season and won the league at his first attempt. However, this season has started very badly for him, with three defeats in his first four league games. Despite getting out the crisis in the league with Benfica shooting up to second place, Jesus' status at the club is still uncertain, mainly due club chiefs' disappointment in the team's failure to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages. In fact, Benfica haven't event assured themselves of the third place that would send them into the Europa League, and they could be pipped by Hapoel Tel Aviv.

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