Although Benfica’s senior team have been eliminated from all UEFA competitions this season, Benfica’s Youth Team (aka Benfica U19 or The Juniors) have advanced from the group stages and onto the round of 16 in this year’s competition. Once again, Benfica’s Youth Team has shown a lot of promise in the second annual UEFA Youth League. Benfica won their group finishing with 13 points with an impressive 4-1-1 record.
Benfica’s Youth Team coach João Tralhão, has been a contributing factor to this team. In a recent interview on January 6, 2015 O Record he commented during the group stages of the Youth League.
“Each game is important for us to win and to get three points. We want to finish the first leg without loses, and with one tie.” – João Tralhão during Benfica’s group stages of the UEFA Youth League
During last year’s UEFA Youth competition, Benfica made it to the finals undefeated until they lost 3-0 to Barcelona. For Benfica fans it was disappointing losing yet another UEFA final but still a proud moment in which will be recorded in the history books. Benfica’s next opponent will be Liverpool on February 24, 2015 16:00 at the Seixal. Although Liverpool was unable to win their group, they came in second behind Real Madrid and went through on head to head with 12 points against Basel.
Unlike the UEFA Champions League, the Youth League is played on only one leg after the group stages. If after 90 minutes the match is tied, penalty shoot outs will decide the winner. This is the second year of the competition and other then bragging rights amongst Europe, the Youth League gives an opportunity to showcase the future talents of tomorrow.
One of the competitions top goal scorers is 18 year old forward Jerome Sinclair who has scored 6 goals in 6 games during this competition. Benfica’s midfield Gilson Costa has scored 3 goals in 5 games and forward Romário Baldé (who has now advanced to the B Team) also has 3 scored 3 goals in 6 matches. Benfica’s goalkeeper André Ferreira has played 4 games in the competition and although he has yet to have a clean sheet, Ferreira has made an impressive 15 saves (3 more then Liverpool’s Ryan Fulton)
This past weekend was the start of the second half of the Juniores A Under 19 season and Benfica drew 1-1 to CD Nacional with a goal from Alfa Semedo in a Jardel – esque type of goal scoring in the 90″ + 5″. Such key players of the match included; André Ferreira (GK) Yuri Ribeiro (RB) Gilson Costa (CDM or CM) and Kevin Oliveira (CM) are only a few players who stood out during the game.
The play maker and leader in assists for Benfica in this competition has been 17 year old midfield Renato Sanches who has 4 assists in 5 appearances. Also 17, João Carvalho has 4 assists in 6 appearances. Liverpool’s Sergi Canós has 3 assists in 5 appearances and has represented Spain in the U-17 European Championship.
As of right now it appears that Manchester City has the best overall record in the competition. They dominated their group by winning all 6 matches. Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Ajax advanced from their groups with an impressive 15 points. Whereas such teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, FC Schalke and even Arsenal did well in their groups and can easily finish the competition with silverware.
Benfica has their work cut out for them considering many of last year’s key players have advanced to either the B Team, gone on loan spells, or in the case of Gonçalo Guedes landed a spot in Benfica’s main squad. Although Guedes is registered on Benfica’s UEFA Youth Squad, it is speculated that “O Mister” will not allow him to participate in this tournament.