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Benfica - Has the sleeping giant awoken?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

There's something in the air that's causing the Portuguese people around the world to
experience a vast array of feelings. Sheer euphoria and reawakened pride for some, and genuine concern and apprehension for others. This spectrum could easily be labeled as what the Benfica fans are feeling, and what Porto and Sporting fans are dreading.

For the last 15 years Benfica, arguably one of the world's top ten football clubs has been comatose. It could best be compared to someone who was in a critical condition, practically at death's door but managed to hold on and stabilize. But instead of a full recovery this patient just remained in a prolonged slumber.

And while Benfica fans around the world despaired that their beloved club showed no sign of significant recovery, the Porto and Sporting fans rejoiced and grew in stature and reputation.

But after 15 years of being in the shadow of its two greatest rivals, are Benfica finally showing some signs of life? Is there a little green line beeping and jumping up and down in their ECG? Benfica fans sure seem confident of this. And maybe they have a right to be.

This season Benfica have been in an outstanding form, in 8 league games benfica have scored a jaw dropping 30 goals, giving them an average of 3.75 goals a game, which if it was to continue would guarantee them 112 league goals by the end of the season. To get a true sense of these numbers, last year under Quique Flores Benfica only managed to score 30 league goals after 18 games. But its not only in the league that Benfica have been scoring goals for fun, in Europe too Benfica have scored 12 goals in 5 games including a 5-0 thrashing of Everton. In total Benfica have scored an impressive 48 goals in 14 games in all competitions. Making them the currently the team with the highest goal average in Europe. Defensively Benfica have also been surprisingly efficient conceding only 8 goals in all competitions.

The main catalyst for this amazing start of the season is the oddly named Jorge Jesus who for the first time in his 20 year career is in charge of one the big three in Portuguese football. A firm believer in tactical consistency and fast flowing total football, Jesus has revolutionized Benfica's style of play.

Using a 4-1-3-2 diamond formation Jesus has managed to turn a team of "has been's" and "wonder kids" into one of the most exciting teams in Europe. The back four maybe the weakest area of the team, has two quality center backs. Luisão, the Brazilian international is accompanied by David Luiz one of the hottest prospects in European football who has been described as a mixture of Paolo Maldini and Ricardo Carvalho.

The midfield is where the team finds its strength, in Javi Garcia the former Real Madrid player who arrived in Lisbon this summer for 7.5 million Euros has been one of the true surprises this year, physically imposing (1:86m, 78kg) he's the typical anchorman but with an above average technical ability and distribution.

Another new addition is the Brazilian international Ramires a complete athlete who has been averaging 10.3km a game, and endless pool of stamina but technically gifted as well. Super agent Kia Joorabchian has recently described him as Pirlo meets Essien and that the 7 million Euros Benfica paid for him was a bargain.

On the left there's Argentine international Angel Di Maria who in his third season at Benfica has finally exploded, and is showing all his potential, a truly gifted winger who like David Moyes recently said reminds him of the "throwback" wingers from the 1960's and 1970's whose only role was to beat the man and run down the channel.

But the true creative force comes from one of the "has been's" Pablo Aimar who spent the last 3 seasons out of the limelight but this season has emerged, like a Phoenix risen from the ashes in true style. The old Aimar is back in his preferred role as the creative nº10, all of Benfica's attacking play is orchestrated by his amazing ability and vision.

Up front Jesus opted for the tried and tested method of having a tall and strong target man accompanied by a small and quick second striker. Oscar Cardozo who has scored 11 goals in 8 league games and is already leading the European Golden Boot ranking this year, has been in phenomenal form a true predator and clinical finisher. Next to him is the other "has been", Javier Saviola who after spending the last 3 years rotting at the Bernabeu has finally found his form having scored 9 goals in 14 matches.

Could this be Benfica's year? Or after this amazing start are they going to fail spectacularly? Its still too soon to know, but one thing is certain, for the last 15 years Benfica fans have never felt so confident in their manager and their team.

Time will tell if this sleeping giant will finally awake and if a still more glorious dawn awaits.


posted by teedoubleyou


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