Benfica and the Race for the 34th title

badge-campec3a3o-nacionalAs it stands, Benfica leads the Liga NOS 3 points and 3 goals ahead from Porto. The third classified Sporting being too far behind to create a surprise come-back, the title is being disputed by the rivals – a North-Capital battle which has shaped the last 20 years of Portuguese football.
The numbers are striking, and should one ignore the history behind Porto’s dominance and Benfica’s trouble to assert themselves as the undisputed champion, they may think that the Encarnados’ golden era has been over for a long time. But this isn’t the case. The nineties and early 2000 have been a turning point in the way the Liga table looks. On one side, Porto led by a president unanimously proven to have versed into corruption to win titles, on the other hand, Benfica’s descent to hell through a president who used the club to finance his own institutions and fill his own pockets.
In the past 20 years, Porto won this title 14 times, Benfica 3 times, Sporting twice and Boavista once. Whilst Porto let Boavista take the brunt of the punishment for the Apito Dourado affair, getting thus relegated to the second-tier of the Liga de Honra, they were themselves left literally unpunished.
But this was the past. Benfica has gained a lot of stability since Luis Filipe Vieira took up its presidency and they have retained their manager for 6 years. We are far from the impressive 18 years done by Cosme Damiao at the service of the club, but nonetheless, the trust put into J Jesus shows that Benfica has finally found a style and an organisation that suits them. The number of Liga titles may not be the greatest under JJ, however it wouldn’t be doing him justice to occult the 2 consecutive Liga Europa finals disputed as well as the 1 Taça de Portugal and 5 Taças da Liga put away in the Museum. The fiasco of the 2012-2013 season also serves as a reminder for the quality shown by the team, only overpowered in the last couple of games by Porto.
What are the Aguias’ chances to win it in 2014-2015? JJ has ensured that the objective of winning the Title twice in a row would be the club’s priority. The poor Champions’ League campaign of this season is an example of the emphasis and importance this objective has. The team, in its famous 4-4-2 formation has finally found combinations that work on the field, and even has the luxury of quality options.
On the other hand, Porto knows too well the limitations faced by their team. Fighting two fronts (they will soon be facing Bayern Munich in the 8th finals of the Champions League), they have not fared well under pressure. The game against Nacional was the perfect time to catch up to Benfica, but Lopetegui’s men were still unable to secure a win against the mid-table club. Them dropping out of the Taça da Liga last week was also probably a testimony of their fear to finish the season without any silverware. Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that they will progress further in Europe and any mishap in the Liga would prove fatal.
Seven games left to play, including a decisive Classico against Porto at the Luz. The pressure is equally on both clubs, both having the obligation to win all games to have a chance of holding the coveted trophy. The twist is, Benfica depends only on themselves and even a loss against Porto, provided all other games are won with multiple goals, would consecrate them as Champions. For the third time in JJ era, giving the deserving fans a first “dobradinha” in over 30 years.

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Author: Laura Da Silva

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  1. Great article. To me I think Porto’s players are going to leave everything in Munich, too many of them are currently in the race for potential big transfer tickets. Even they lose, their players know that if as an individual they look good against Munich in the CL, they will have their pay day.

    In looking at SLB, we need to drop the fear of Porto. Good for them on their title wins in recent years but we are in a new era and this title is ours to win. If we just focus on our game we’ll come away champs!

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  2. Great article. Having been to the preseason games at the Emirates, I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that a second successive title is in our hands. However I’m already nervous for O Clássico and this hasn’t helped the nerves. First goal will be crucial.

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