There are five league games left for Benfica to play in this year’s 2014/15 season and although this weekend’s “Classico” may be the most important (to secure a 34th League Championship) of the remaining fixtures, Benfica are not only the favourite to win this weekend’s “Classico” but have been the best team in The Portuguese League this year.
The Numbers Game
With a 3 point lead over our rivals from the north, Benfica have scored approximately 100 goals in all competitions this season. 73 of those goals in Liga Nos competition (40 at home 33 away) allowing only 15 goals in the league (4 goals allowed at home all season long). Although Benfica have already defeated FC Porto this season, Benfica has not defeated FC Porto back-to-back in league competition since the 1971/72 season. September 12, 1971 FC Porto lose 3-1 at home to SL Benfica (2 goals by Eusebio, and Artur Jorge) January 23, 1972 Sl Benfica win 1-0 at home to FC Porto (goal by Antonio Simoes)
12th Man Advantage
Does this mean that The Benfica Nation should go into this weekend’s game expecting a draw because out of the 161 “Classico’s it is a favourable result? In theory a draw is better than a loss (4 point lead) however the pressure is not on a healthy Benfica team but it is on a fatigued FC Porto. FC Porto this week need to try to save the Portuguese coefficient by keeping their 3-1 aggregate lead in the UEFA Champions League and advance in Munich, Germany against a very powerful Bayer Munich. Regardless if FC Porto advance to the UCL Semi – Finals for Benfica it’s simply a factor of “mind over matter” (We don’t mind that they don’t matter) if anything it may be great for FC Porto to be distracted with the Champions League because once they go into this weekend’s “Classico” and 60, 000 members of The Benfica Nation are chanting for 90 + minutes it will be near impossible for FC Porto to come out on top. The fans will most definitely be the 12th man in at this game giving Benfica a mental advantage and confidence booster over FC Porto.
We’ll all settle with a draw but coach Jorge Jesus enjoys success and more importantly loves to be praised. For Jorge Jesus it’s to be able to go down in history as one of the few Benfica coaches ever to beat FC Porto both home and away in one season will definitely be another honor in which he would like to achieve. Regardless of the politics behind his future at the club, for JJ it’s about achieving the unachievable and reaching greater success at the club. Defeating FC Porto in both legs this year is just as important and winning two back-to-back Championships because it has been so long since another Benfica coach has done that.
Although FC Porto’s Jackson Martinez is the top goal scorer in the Liga Nos with 17 goals, here comes Jonas with 16 goals and Lima not too far behind with 14. Benfica’s starting 11 proved to Porto in the first leg that they are the better side. The mid-field combination of Samaris and Pizzi took some time but is finally working. Nico Gaitan is considered not only the best player at Benfica but the MVP of the Portuguese League. The pairing of Brazilian centre-backs Jardel, Luisao will also be a key factor. Let’s also give credit to goalkeeper Julio Cesar who has done a great job this season replacing the almost forgotten Jan Oblak.
In the event that JJ needs to rely on his bench, there are many healthy options at this point in the season in which he did not have earlier on. Fejsa, Ruben Amorim, can help create chances in the midfield. Although Salvio may be the only Benfica player in question to start in the “Classico” Ola John is an option to fill in on the wing. Benfica may also be in a position in which they may need an additional goal, Jonathan Rodriguez (J-Rod) may very well be an option as he now has 6 goals this season with Benfica’s B squad and was given minutes during Benfica’s 5-1 bashing of Academica.
Winning the league this year will be monumental for the club as it will increase the argument that there is a change of the guard now in Portugal. FC Porto have dominated and now it’s Benfica’s turn to dominate. Benfica although were unsuccessful in UEFA competition this season, managed to consistently be on top of the league for a second year in a row. This is something in which the Benfica Nation has not seen in over 30 years because FC Porto have won 20 of 30 league championships.
Although the league is still not over, coach Jorge Jesus has yet again impressed us with his tactics and player development. SL Benfica continues to be the most talked about team in Portugal and the most supported team in the world with over 270, 000 registered supporters (Socios) with millions of supporters young and old constantly with the team in their hearts.
Rumo Ao 34!