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Tuesday, 02 October 2012 09:32

Benfica aim to break Spanish hoodoo as Barça come to town

Braga face crucial Galatasary test in Istanbul

estadio-da-luz-20100815.jpgA mouth-watering Champions League week for Portuguese clubs kicks off tonight with Benfica hosting Barcelona in front of a capacity crowd at the Estádio da Luz, and Braga taking on Galatasaray in the Turkish capital, Istanbul.

Benfica v Barcelona 

First the encouraging news. Whenever these two clubs have met in Europe’s foremost competition, the winners have gone on to lift the trophy, starting with Benfica’s triumph in 1961. Antoni Ramallet’s own goal, sandwiching strikes from José Águas and Mário Coluna, gave Bela Guttmann’s Benfica a memorable 3-2 victory over Barcelona in the 1961 European Cup final in Berne. In 1991/92 and 2005/06 it was the Spaniards who got the better of Benfica, winning the home legs after 0-0 draws in Lisbon on their way to Champions League triumphs. 
Another piece of history, meanwhile, carries dark portents for the Eagles tonight. Not for three decades have Benfica managed to beat a Spanish team in Europe, accumulating only draws and defeats in the 12 matches played in those 30 years.
Perhaps with this in mind, the usually belligerent Jorge Jesus was keen to play down his side’s aspirations. “Drawing against the group favourites, even at home, is a positive result, and could pave the way to make progress from the group,” said the Benfica coach. 
“Let’s see if we can stop Barcelona and do better than everybody else who have played them. Barcelona have won practically all their games and are on a seven-match winning run. We respect them, but we aren’t scared. We are going to try to do better than the other teams and stop Barça.”

Cardozo out, Lima in

First-choice striker Oscar Cardozo misses the clash through injury, meaning the in-form Lima is expected to remain in the starting line-up. The former Braga forward has started his Benfica career with a bang, scoring 3 goals in his first two matches since making the switch south to the capital. 
Aimar.jpegPablo Aimar is included in the squad, but the genial Argentine remains a fitness doubt. Talismanic right-back Maxi Pereira comes back into the side after missing the opening Champions League match at Celtic through suspension. Club captain Luisão is forced to sit out again as he serves his two-month ban.
Likely Benfica starting XI: 
Artur, Maxi Pereira, Jardel, Garay, Melgarejo, Salvio, Matic, Enzo Perez, Gaitán, Aimar/Rodrigo, Lima
As for Barcelona, the star-studded team are expected to be at full strength, although Iniesta will take a late fitness test. New coach of the Catalans, Tito Vilanova, was not convinced by Jesus’ claim that he would be happy with a point. 
“I don’t think Benfica will hold back, and I don’t think they’ll play for a point. Benfica playing at home are one of Europe’s giants. Jesus said that a draw would be a good result, but I know that deep inside he believes his team can win. They are opponents that concern me.”
Kick-off at 7.45 pm local time at the Estádio da Luz. 

Galatasaray v Braga 

José PeseiroBraga travel to Turkey in need of at least a point to get their Champions League aspirations back on track. After surprisingly losing at home to CFR Cluj on matchday one, a second defeat ahead of the double header against Manchester United would practically kill off any hopes of making it to the knock-out phase. 
The Arsenalistas go into the match in good form, having thrashed Rio Ave 4-1 and beaten Vitoria Guimarães 2-0 in the Minho derby in their last two matches. Coach José Peseiro is keen to bounce back after their poor start in the competition. 
“We didn’t start the Champions League well. We would have liked to have beaten Cluj but what’s important now is that we are focused and ready for this match,” said the Braga coach. 
“We know Galatasaray are a great team, but we want to play a good game and to win. We won’t be playing to draw but to win, although we know the ability of our opponents. I believe we can win,” said the Braga coach.

Braga striker Éder, who made his Portugal debut recently, will be looking to continue his sparkling form. The man who is charged with replacing Lima has scored three goals in his last two matches. As has been the norm for Braga this season, the biggest doubt in their starting eleven would appear to reside in which of the two Rúben’s Peseiro selects in midfield - the more circumspect but defensively stronger Amorim or the more creative Micael.
Likely Braga starting XI:
Beto, Salino, Douglão, Paulo Vinicius, Ismaily, Custódio, Ruben Amorim, Hugo Viana, Mossoró, Alan, Éder
MossoróAs ever when travelling to Turkey, the visiting team will be facing an intimidating atmosphere created by the fanatical home supporters. Midfielder Márcio Mossoró insists it will not be a problem. 
“It’s a positive factor for them, but the fans aren’t on the pitch. We have the experience of last year, in the game against Besiktas, which we managed to win and I hope that the fans serve more to get on their back rather than encourage them,” said the experienced Brazilian. 
As well as that win in Istanbul last season, Braga also won on their only other competitive match in Turkey, against Sivasspor in the 2008 Intertoto Cup. Can the northerners make it three out of three?
Kick off at the Turk Telekom Arena at 7.45 pm Portuguese time.
By Tom Kundert 
Comments (11)
Good Luck From a FCP Fan
11 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 18:30
Good luck Braga and Benfica. Hope you both win. Would be nice to at least see ONE Portuguese in the Benfica lineup! Amazing that Braga will have a least 5!!
Only One Guarantee
10 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 16:54
The only thing you can bet the house on (if you are the betting type) is that in Champions League play IF Barcelona is tied or behind late in the game

1) a penalty kick will be given to Barcelona, with a member of the opposing team being sent off


2) an inordinate amount of extra time will be given after ninety minutes to allow Barca to secure the result they (and their fanboys) believe to be their God-given right.

Ok, so that is TWO things you can guarantee.

I'll call my shot - Benfica 2 - 2 Barcelona (late goal by Barca)
9 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 15:42
Lol if the Portuguese players are not as good as the foreign players then the Portuguese players won't play...But I still want to see at least 1 or 2 big Portuguese players playing for Benfica, like a Moutinho thats at Porto whos massive for Portugal...
8 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 14:36
When any team matches up with Barca it’s expected that Barca will win the game. This doesn’t mean that they are unbeatable but there’s a reason why they have been the best club in the world for the past several years. The core of the Spanish national team is the main reason why they are so strong. Even against the likes of Real, City, and other top teams, Barca will control the bulk of possession, I see no reason why it would be different against us.

JJ made a comment that the biggest issue isn’t Messi, it’s Xavi and Iniesta who control that possession game of theirs. It is very rare teams are able to control those two’s passing game. Too much attention on them and it opens up Messi, Cesc, and D.Villa.

However I still think we can put on a good show. If Barca goes into this game over confident, we get a bit of luck, and finish when we get our chances, it’s possible to come away from this game with something. A draw or win would be huge for any club and it would be amazing to pull off the win. Given the ability Lima showed at Braga to create goals on his own, he would be an ideal striker for this game.
Portuguese players in the starting XI
7 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 14:18
Braga = 5
Benfica = 0

Que Vergonha!!!!!
6 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 13:48
If Benfica wins this game, it will be nothing short of a miracle and it's not because the difference in the quality of both teams but the referee favors that Barcelona seems to benefit from in every single match. Hopefully since it's still early in the campaign maybe the referees won't be as influential. (no red cards or cheap penalties) and if so we might be able to come away with a scoring draw.
Tough Tough
5 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 12:35
Very tough games coming up (Porto v PSG on the horizon as well).

For Benfica I think the game will be won up front. I can’t see them keeping Barca off the scoresheet all game so they need to pop in as many goals as possible to outscore their opponents. Barca are NOT invincible and their record so far is very flattering. I would go for broke with Benfica’s firepower, but thankfully for Benfiquistas, I am not the manager. 

Braga’s finishing againat Cluj was horrid but I guess there is going to be some adjustment to playing without Lima. Eder has stepped up to fill the void but he doesn’t (yet) have the ability to create goals from nothing like Lima did. I wish they could play both Micael and Amorim, but if you need a win should you not play Micael and bring on Amorim only if you have a lead? If Braga does not win today could be lights out, the prospect of trying to sweep Man U is daunting…
Can't Wait
4 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 12:12
I agree with Tito when he says he doesn't think Benfica will park the bus. Due to Barca's usual strangle hold on possession it always looks like opponents are parking the bus. The fact is if we sit and punt the ball away, we will get shredded.
I for one would start Rodrigo and let him run and chase. When we do have to punt it away he should have the pace and stamina to pressure defense. Especially Mascherano if he's back there, whose shown to be prone to mistakes.
I also feel that we could really counter off wide set pieces, especially corners. We have the pace to break out and put them on the back foot. We also need to make sure the same doesn't happens to us.
Artur needs to come up big for us. That goes without saying.
I am concerned about cards in this game. Getting someone sent off would be disastrous as could the accumulation for future matches.

My lineup 4-2-3-1 that should play like a 4-5-1.
....... Artur........
Maxi.. Garay.. Jardel.. Ugh
........... Matic.. Enzo.......
Salvio...... Bruno....... Nolito
................ Rodrigo............

Eu Sou Benfica!!!
Eu Sou Campeao!!!
3 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 12:09
Benfica's gettin smoked tonight..BYE, BYE.
Huge match!
2 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 11:49
This is indeed a mouth-watering match-up tonight, 2 of the biggest clubs in Europe, 2 of the 4 most succesfull clubs on the Iberian peninsula...and both teams which play an attacking and entertaining game..it should be very entertaining whatever happens in the end. I seriously doubt it will end 0-0 like it did the last 2 times these two met in Lisboa. Barca will definitely score against this defence of ours, and I also think we can score too...so it should be a great match-up.

Let's not kid ourselves, Barca are the huge favourites even though the match is at Da Luz. They are the best team in Europe and are favourites for any match on any ground. Even for Classico matches in recent years at the Bernabeu, Barca still start the match as favourites, in my mind at least. So the good thing for SLB is there is nothing to lose, and it will be great for the team to test themselves against the very best.

I think Benfica at their very best is capable of beating any team at Da Luz, but those are the key words, "very best", and it will have to be the case tonight. I have always thought looking at this group, that the matches against Barca are kind of like bonus matches, any points we pick up in them would be bonus points. What is imperative really is that we finish ahead of the other two teams, and the matches against them will likely be more important in determining what happens in the group.

As a result it's important that whatever happens tonight, the team doesn't get carried away, either way. If we lose tonight, even if we lose convincingly, we shouldn't let it affect what is the main goal in this group: to beat the other two teams and qualify. There is no shame in losing to Barca even at home. Similarly if we won tonight, even though it would be an excellent result, it would still be best not to get too carried away and keep focused on the main goal, which is to qualify.

I think we have to play 3 in the middle tonight. 4-4-2 would be a big risk against that midfield and they would likely steam-roll us if we only have 2 in the middle. Let's go with 4-2-3-1, with 2 holding midfielders. I hope Aimar will be fit to play, because his experience and technique could really help us. Lima has been on fire, but i actually think Rodrigo would be the better option as the lone striker, because he is more mobile and works harder. I would also play Nolito on the left, as he carries a bigger goal-threat than any of our other wingers...but also tracks back and defends which will be vital. Our defence makes me nervous I have to admit against Messi & co, hopefully Garay, Jardel and Matic play the game of their lives tonight. But really it's best to attack tonight, as Barca's defence is also their weakest point. Should be a great match and a great advert for futebol Iberico tonight. Forca sempre!!!!
Tough week for Portuguese clubs in the CL.
1 Tuesday, 02 October 2012 11:08
I'm really hoping for a shock result by Benfica but with their weakened defence and midfield I think Barça's tika-taka and Messi will have a field day I'm expecting a monster score for Barça.
Braga has the biggest chance of not losing but after hte first match day I'm lowering my expectations of them.

Anyway I'm mentally preparing myself for three Portuguese losses in the CL (which seems quite likely)

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