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Thursday, 22 March 2012 14:38

Benfica v FC Porto tactical analysis

Eagles get the better of Dragons thanks to set piece mastery

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A couple of weeks ago, Benfica had just lost first place to FC Porto in the Portuguese championship, the outcome of their Chamipons League tie was uncertain and their manager Jorge Jesus basically had to go. As things stand today, the Eagles may well be Portuguese Champions, win the League Cup and have the opportunity to fight Chelsea for a place in the Champions League semi-finals. Things surely change fast, when it comes to football, don’t they?
Tuesday’s League Cup match between Benfica and FC Porto was an interesting event, far from what both managers tried to make us think - something that neither team really wanted to win. The match was all too similar to the last league fixture and therefore the analysis will tackle more specific issues.


1. There’s logic in chaos. Remember Maxi Pereira’s goal against Zenit? Now take a look at Benfica’s positioning for Tuesday night’s first goal and see if you can spot the differences. Once again, Witsel (pink), Bruno Cesar (yellow) and Maxi Pereira (green) pressure and overload their opponent’s left side.
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2. Benfica are still defensively vulnerable through the middle. If the Eagles want to be successful against powerhouses such as Chelsea, it’s mandatory that they can exert better control over their adversary. Yesterday, we often saw the mere presence of Javi and Witsel a bit further up in the centre, which makes it very easy to overrun them.
3. Benfica excel in set pieces. Even though it’s a bit hard to understand why exactly other teams don’t seem to be aware of it, Benfica keep on being prolific from set pieces. Tuesday night was just another example (there were three other shots that hit the woodwork), just like the previous match between these two teams or the Zenit match.
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Luisao (yellow ) at the far post, freeing up Javi Garcia (blue)
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Luisao (yellow) offers the screening to free up Javi Garcia (blue). Dejà vu, anyone?
4. Benfica showed once again they are capable of adapting within the match. After being beaten for Mangala’s goal, Jorge Jesus changed the distribution of Benfica’s typical zonal marking approach.
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Benfica’s typical zonal marking, with no coverage in front of their line. Mangala would score.
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Benfica adapted their zonal marking shape for the second half.
FC Porto would not create another scoring chance from set pieces.

FC Porto

1. The left wing is still an express way for opponents. Despite his transfer fee, Alex Sandro proved he is still too green for these heights and that he is no substitute for Alvaro Pereira (for now, at least). In turn, Alvaro Pereira proved once again that his defensive contribution can be sketchy (to say the least), at times. Even with Joao Moutinho helping down that wing, the Eagles kept ramming FC Porto’s left side.
2. FC Porto hurt their rival’s open wound. Aware that Benfica were vulnerable defending set pieces, the Dragons didn’t hesitate. Mangala’s goal from Moutinho’s free kick certainly  had  nothing to do with chance. The ball was sent to the exact same spot as James’ free kick for Maicon’s head.
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FC Porto scored from an all too familiar free kick – this one if from the league fixture
3. FC Porto were better at controlling the game. With Defour, Moutinho and Lucho, FC Porto were capable of dictating the tempo of the match and provided better defensive coverage for their back four. Unlike Benfica, where Javi Garcia is often left stranded, FC Porto are better at defending the centre of the park.
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FC Porto always tried to make sure they were up in numbers in defensive situations.
4. Your opponent will charge down the right? Then motor down that side yourselves. Despite having Hulk against Capdevila (an odd option for this particular match), FC Porto tried to exploit Maxi Pereira’s surges upfield and the lack of protection from Bruno Cesar. Lucho, usually defending more to the right, would often drift to the left to overload that side.
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Maxi Pereira, Javi Garcia and Witsel are all drawn to their right side. Notice how little protection these players have.
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After a simple one-two, FC Porto’s three players break free, once again.


All in all, it was an interesting, even match. Even though this was a lesser competition, neither team wanted to lose and give away the upper hand for the league (which was what really was at stake, here). FC Porto were better in open play (albeit tiring in the second half), but Benfica was just irresistible from set pieces.
Vasco Mota Pereira runs http://aboladovasco.blogspot.pt/ and http://combinationplay.blogspot.pt/, two blogs exclusively about football.
Comments (3)
True Classicos this season
3 Thursday, 22 March 2012 23:16
Whether you suppourt red or blue, I think we must surely all agree that the matches have been true Classicos this year. The 3 matches have yielded a 2-2, a 2-3 and a 3-2...just fantastic!! In the past, Classicos have tended to be cagey, tight affairs producing few goals...this year that couldn't have been more different..added to the many goals were a red card, a controversial Porto winner (surprise, surprise!!), comebacks from both sides...endless drama, and have been a great advert for the Portuguese game.

Benfica v Porto is one of the fiercest contests in world football, right up there with Real/Barca, Boca/River, Milan/Inter and Man United/Liverpool....so it was fitting how dramatic the 3 Classicos turned out this season. Even though as a Benfiquista, i am still bitter about Porto's blatant offside winner a couple of weeks back. Oh well hopefully it won't turn out to be as crucial as it seemed at first. Both teams will drop more points, I'm sure, and i really believe this title is going down to the very last match of the season, by which time even Braga may be still in with a shout. All in all, the most exciting Liga campaign in many a year!!!
Good stuff, yet again
2 Thursday, 22 March 2012 16:54
Good job mate.
From my perspective it was actually a quite interesting match. Everything a classico should have, more importantly goals.
C'os is for a lesser competition I think it was a lot more open, not your usual cynical defensive tactics and more about football and less about referees.
I liked it.
Sadly, it is a big win
1 Thursday, 22 March 2012 16:49
Keep in mind that I have always said this was a "coffee cup", or maybe "cha" would be more apt. This cup is a money grab and it's value only comes to light when it's counted amongs the silverware won years from now.

Having said that, due to the circumstances in regards to Porto defeating Benfica at the Luz lately, it was an important match. Benfica needed this one.
I hate losing at home, and I feel it's crucial for teams to win at home. It raises morale amongst the fans and team. No such thing as too much love coming from the stands. In love I don't mean doing stupid stuff.

Great job in the analysis. It was great seeing the changes in the zonal marking. Not shocked that Pereira didn't have anything in place to combat it.
Let me add that Porto paid a ton for two players that have brought nothing to the table, so far this season. Great improvement will need to be seen in order for wining and dividends to come.

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