Today, Benfica will face Estoril Praia in the modest Estadio Antonio Coimbra da Mota holding a 5500 spectators capacity. Kick-off is at 18:30 GMT. (Here is a link already up to watch it live)
After earning their spot in the Primeira Liga by winning the Liga de Honra title in 2011-2012, Estoril surprised all by finishing 5th in 2012-2013 and 4th last year, only 7 points away from 3rd classified Porto. Those are amazing results for a recently promoted team. However, since new coach José Couceiro has taken over, this Estoril side doesn’t seem to be shining as much as the previous two years.
Indeed, over the 5 games that have taken place so far in the Primeira Liga, they lost two (against Rio Ave 1-5 and Braga 2-1), drew two (Arouca 1-1 and Académica 2-2) and won one (Nacional 2-1). They are also representing in the Europa League, where they lost their first group stage game against PSV Eindhoven 1-0 in the Netherlands.
Couceiro has had a tumultuous career and was sacked from his position at Vitoria de Setubal before signing his contract to manage the Canarinhos. It could very well be that their past 2 year performances won’t be replicated this season.
Here is probably their best line-up, and the one we could expect to see today against Benfica:
(Click to Amplify)
Benfica remains undefeated in the Liga so far, winning 4 games and drawing 1 against Sporting. Although this seems like a dream start to this season, we cannot ignore that this current squad is showing some problems, some of which seem to be the fruit of Jesus’ players choice, and others due to our lack of available options.
With the integration of Julio Cesar in last week’s game against Moreirense, the back four have gained a new serenity. Unfortunately, Julio Cesar was a late scratch off the game roster following a training injury, and we will most likely see Artur come into goal.
The Jardel vs Lisandro Lopez situation has been discussed many times and it seems that JJ wants to carry on placing his trust in the current CB duo Luisao-Jardel. Samaris was substituted in the first half as he didn’t seem to be bringing any solutions to the team, and the dynamic brought by Derley confirmed that. Samaris is an extremely technical player with one flaw: he has an atrocious long pass success rate. That could possibly restrict him to a 6 position where he can get away with shorter passes in the midfield, although it would, in my opinion, be better for the team if he could move up to an 8 and create openings for the forward line.
It has also been touched upon that we would all like to see Gaitan play 10, since he has this capability of finding space, as well as excellent dribbling and ball control skills. He can read the game ahead but needs to improve his vision so as to not see his many opportunities dying in the last third because of lack of options. As an example, We have seen him many times running from the midfield, dribbling and passing a couple of defenders, to eventually cross the ball in an empty box…
Another key player is Enzo Perez, who can really be labelled as the engine of the team. With a pass accuracy of 83.7%, 117 controls, 72.2% of won duels and 3 goal chances, he is the leader on the field, connecting the midfield to the forwards and linking with the back.
Jonas will not be making his debut quite yet since he isn’t fit yet. Not having played pre-season must have been detrimental to his physical form and I hope we will see him pairing up with Lima very soon so that goals can be back from this part of the team.
Here are some stats I have picked up from the Moreirense game, to give you an overview of what happened that night in terms of numbers:
Shots 19 5
Shots on target 9 1
Shots accuracy 47% 20%
Corners 9 1
Crosses 26 4
Duels won 54% 46%
Total # of passes 615 186
Pass accuracy 85% 54%
Possession 77% 23%
If we break up the game’s areas of action, we can notice a good offensive from Benfica into the Moreirense’s half, with 31.7% of action happening there.
The rest of the action was split between Benfica’s half (18.4%) and the midfield (49.9%).
I predict a 1-2 win for Benfica, and here is the line-up I believe we will see:
(Click to Amplify)