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Tuesday, 06 November 2012 12:14

Porto aim to keep up perfect record, Benfica and Braga in need of points

Champions League preview

ChampsLgLogo.jpgThe Champions League is back tonight and tomorrow. Porto travel to Ukraine looking good in Group B, while Braga’s chances of progressing to the last sixteen would be significantly boosted if they earned points against Manchester United at the Quarry. As for Benfica, anything other than victory for the Eagles against Spartak Moscow at the Estádio da Luz and they will be knocked out of the competition.
 
 

Dynamo Kiev v FC Porto

The Portuguese champions have enjoyed a perfect start to their Champions league campaign thus far, clocking up three victories in three games to top their group. One point will suffice to guarantee Porto’s place in the knockout round.
 
But coach Vítor Pereira has injuries to deal with. Midfielder Fernando, centre-back Maicon and left-back Alex Sandro missed the trip to Ukraine as they receive treatment back in Porto. All three players would be automatic starters if fit, as would goalkeeper Helton and captain Lucho González, who have travelled with the squad but who are both nursing injuries picked up on the weekend in the thumping win against Marítimo.
 
Despite needing just one point, Pereira insists his team will be looking for all three. “FC Porto walk out onto any pitch with the aim of winning. I want to leave here with 12 points,” he said. His words are backed up by the statistics. Porto are unbeaten this season having won 11 and drawn 2 of their 13 games, and the Dragons are currently on a six-match winning run.
 
 

Benfica v Spartak Moscow

While Benfica have made light of the triple loss of key players Axel Witsel, Javi Garcia (both sold) and Luisão (suspended) in the Liga ZON Sagres, the absence of the experienced trio has been felt sharply in the Champions League. Just one point earned from three matches against Celtic (away), Barcelona (home) and Spartak Moscow (away), leaves Jorge Jesus’ side perilously close to making an early exit from Europe’s premier club competition.
 
With Matic suspended for the return match against Spartak on Wednesday, and both Pablo Aimar and Carlos Martins injured, Benfica are once again likely to have to throw at least one of their home-grown youth players onto the biggest of stages. Either André Almeida or André Gomes are expected to make the starting eleven in the defensive midfielder position.
 
Regular left-back Melgarejo has recovered from an injury to his left knee, but the excellent performances of his replacement Luisinho in the last couple of weeks makes for an interesting selection dilemma for Jesus.
 
Up front Benfica are looking far healthier. Strikers Lima, Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo have all been hitting the net regularly in domestic play, and attacking midfielder Salvio has arguably been the Eagles’ most impressive performer in 2012/13. Victory against the Russians coupled with a Barcelona win in Scotland against Celtic would put Benfica back in contention for the knockout rounds.
 
 

Braga v Manchester United

When the group stage draw was made for this season’s Champions League, most analysts read Group H as a straightforward victory for Manchester United with the other three teams fighting for second place. That is exactly how it is panning out.
 
Braga came close to earning precious points at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, racing into an early two-goal lead, but were unable to hold on. Having proved they have the weapons to hurt the current Premier League leaders, the Arsenalistas will certainly not go into the match afraid.
 
Especially considering their superb run of form. That defeat in England was Braga’s only loss in their last eight matches, six of which have yielded victories. Moreover, José Peseiro has the rare luxury of being able to select from a full squad. It’s all set for an intense night at the AXA Stadium.
 
by Tom Kundert
 
 
Comments (12)
Chris... very good suggestions..
12 Wednesday, 07 November 2012 18:16
Sure you can call me O Mac many people do.. just don't call me at 4am because I will be sleeping...lol

Thank you for the compliments.. about my player selection that is why LFV fired JJ.. God the Father suggested me as Manager because of the skills you mentioned.. and he was tired of being a Player/Manager.

As for Bigfoot I thought about him and his cousin.. but they were unavailable for contact and never showed up at games.. so we demoted them to the B Team where they could play in obscurity. That is why Diaz brought in Shaka Zulu off of a boat.. it was either this or slavery.

Mantorras used to be our starting striker.. but on one of Magellan's voyages he sold him to a wealthy buyer in Brazil. I hear we got good money for him in exchange.. plus a case of Guarana to energize the team.

As for Julius Cesar although at times he was kept captive in his own end he always kept his head held high and always managed a deadly attack in return, crucifying the opposition.

At one point we ousted him but he bribed his way back in and threatened to have my head. I only allowed him to stay because he united my back line into one strong force and sat on the bench most of the time

Unfortunately Julius hadn't watched too many Italy NT games.. and in a friendly.. in the last moments when the Italians had bored us to sleep.. they pulled his shirt holding him back and 60 Italians invaded the pitch.. and with their shooting accuracy only managed 23 stabs.. the still lost the penalty shoot-out but he was put on injured reserve for a while.. and is only now coming back to fitness. He would only likely see playing time as the game is dying down. lol
@ Orlando
11 Wednesday, 07 November 2012 16:52
O Mac (may I call you O Mac?),

You research and analysis are of the highest ilk.  You have just shown us all that your punditry-prowess rivals that of Vasco on this site. 

Your picks are all shrewd, yet, I am saddened by the reality that we only co-picked one player.  Do you fail to see the value of having Bigfoot up the middle?  Better yet, we can get his younger cousin Yeti in the team, and maybe for a better value.

Also, while I understand your choice of Deus in the central striker position, even He/She dwindles in comparative quality to Mantorras, especially since Mantorras actually exists.  

Finally, your call of Julius Cesar in defence, even in only off the bench is horrendous!  He was defenceless against being stabbed 23 times, and by his own teammates!  Come on man!  Why don't you just put a pylon out there instead? Same result!
The Ultimate Benfica Squad
10 Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:05
Chris I think you got it all wrong..

First in net I would have Clinton because he has taken a lot of personal shots and did not let many in.

At RB I would have Hitler because he was not only good in defence holding attackers off but was technically superior going forward with strength.. any perceived attacker would get burned.

At CB I would have Leonidas the Spartan as he started training in the youth academy young and his ability to defend the masses even when left short handed at the back.. his warrior spirit would hold the center of defence with resilient fight till the end.

The other CB would be Harry S Truman the US President used to keep war at bay and avoided being drawn in by attackers, then he was resilient in battle and had a long range weapon that blew up and decimated his opposition, even if they were playing Kamikaze style, he always keep the defence strong and held them to outside their box.

At LB I would Have Alexander the Great whose greatest strength was field possession.. a tireless worker who covers so much of the pitch. When he wasn't on the attack his defence was impenetrable not to mention he never lost a battle..

At DM I would have Hannibal.. because of his abilities to defend and attack to his opponents weakness and no one could get past his War Elephants.

As my Right Winger I would have Atilla the Hun for his ability to attack from long distances out... tireless in his efforts with second, third, and fourth waves of attacks.. he would be relentless till the end.

As an Attacking Midfielder I would have Shaka Zulu for his ability to unite the team in the middle and to get what he wanted in attack with his technical abilities and when that failed by force. Besides I am not racist and we need a black guy on the team.

On the Left I would have Genghis Khan with his widespread attacks he would massacre the opposition, his ability to dominate field possession would also be a bonus, fierce in battle he bloodied up all his opponents and executed with precision.

At sub striker I would have Vasco da Gama for his abilities to find openings further up field, his technical ability on the ball allowed him to sail through with ease avoiding all the dangerous opposition at the time and tamed the savages, his unconventional style avoids many of the dangerous areas where others would get killed. Besides I ain't JJ I have to have a star Portuguese player in my line-up.

My main striker would of course be God the Father.. because we all know Jesus would get crucified. His ability to stir up storms out of nothing and his vision are second to none. He would command such a lightning attack that even the most devilish defences could not hold him off. The miracles he would create would takeover a game and free his fans even in the most desperate times. With him at the helm the Champions League would be ours with highlight reel capabilities.

Honourable mentions on the bench:

Support Strikers:

Gen Schwarzkopf with his superior aerial attack we could win our games early without having to take too many casualties.. not too mention his smart bombs and laser guided strikes.

Osama Bin Laden known for his fakes he terrorizes all defences.. and his aerial attacks would have the people screaming. His ability to avoid being caught would also help not to mention in defense has shutdown all aerial support grounding them.


Wingers:

Diaz this younger version of Vasco da Gama is a Portuguese star and his ability to explore long distances would always provide a bit of spice and lots of gold. His ability to navigate defences was extraordinary making slaves of them all even though the Spanish and some cheating Italians tried to trip him up his team was able to negotiate difficult defensive waters.


Midfield

The Portuguese Academy boasts other great talentwith so many coming through Henry the Navigator had great vision with conquering runs and would make slaves of them all, and his long term vision paid off in gold always another one that was master of adding spice to the game.

Also Magellan who was Maluku (Crazy or in the isles of Maluku) for a while with no Portuguese support was able to navigate through tight passes not only conquered Brazil he would battle till the end and was tripped up in the East on the way to Gold.. by a dirty Spaniard named Sebastian Elcano who ended up going all the way.

Defence:

Julius Cesar's ability to control most of the field and keep everything in place was legendary. Keeping the heathen attacks at bay, he dominated and would create for us an empire. His ability to crush England and as a leader in battle he was unrivaled and would dictate out a new calendar for achieving domination.

Josef Stalin his staunch determination when out-manned and resilience decimated his attackers using his midfield generals battle hardened in the trenches at the worst of times he never gave up and the Germans had no chance.. and ended up in a great attack that crushed them.

So here is what Benfica would look like in the Euro Cup victory...

Clinton

RB- Hitler -- CB- Leonidis the Spartan -- CB- Truman -- LB- Alex the Great

DM- Hannibal

RW- Atilla the Hun -- AM- Shaka Zulu -- LW- Genghis Khan


ST- Vasco da Gama - ST- God the Father

Subs bench:

F- Gen Schwarzkopf
F- Osama Bin Laden
M- Diaz
M- Henrique the Navigator
M- Magellan
D- Julius Cesar
D- Josef Stalin

And of course I would play a 4-4-2 that is the only way to outscore your opponents while maintaining a strong back line.
@ Val
9 Wednesday, 07 November 2012 05:39
Val, no way that squad would cut it! Benfica need all the big guns to win the game:

--------------------------Barack Obama------------------------------------

-----Romney--------Palin----------McCain------------Josef Stalin---

-----Ghandi------------------Bigfoot------------Fidel Castro-------------

---Passos Coelho-------Mantorras----------Giselle Bundchen----
Braga The Pound for Pound Champion
8 Wednesday, 07 November 2012 03:03
I will only comment on Braga, although I wish Benfica luck as well. Seeing how Porto already made it through to Quarters, they are in cruise control for their next two games.

I think if Braga can pull out a point from Manchester United this week, it will be a success. They would then have to pull out victories against Galatasaray and Cluj.

If they can finish the group with 10 points, they should be through, pending that Cluj doesn't beat Manchester United. If Cluj pulls off victories against Man U and Galatasary then Braga will need to finish with a better goal differential.

I believe Braga has what it takes. They have proven themselves in recent years with memorable victories in games that matter.

If you were to do a study of financial resources compared to victories obtained, I believe Braga would be in the Top 10 Pound for Pound teams in Europe.
Must Win
7 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 20:21
Because this is a must win for Benfica, I am calling for all former Benfica players to be called in!!

My Lineup:
- - - - - - - - - Quim - - - - - - - - - -
Miguel - Luisao - David Luiz - F.Coentrao
- - - - - - - - - Javi Garcia - - - - - - -
Ramires - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Simao
- - - - - - - - - - - Rui Costa - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - Miccoli - - - - Nuno Gomes - -

Due to his age, Eusebio will come in off the bench. :)

Good luck to all the Portuguese clubs! :)
My thoughts
6 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 18:58
Porto
Due to injuries a draw would more than suffice. The first go around provided a goal fest, and it just might continue. Not sure of the weather, but it's never easy going east.
I hope that Porto could snag all three today. It will really help them in finishing first in the group.

Braga
Getting a point will be really be tough. You would have to believe that they would have gotten a point if the last encounter was at home. Man United will be better prepared this go around. That being said, although in first, Man United has looked bad at times. We'll see.
I would really be disappointed if Braga failed to advance in the CL. They don't have a very difficult group and should advance.

Benfica

Oh the anguish. Benfica has no business being in this predicament. Benfica has looked awful in CL play, there's no other way to put it. Axel and Javi were money deals, so there's no complaining there, but it's clear we have really missed Luisao this season. Matic being out really hurts us, as well.
It will really be interesting to see what JJ rolls out there. I know a win is a must, but that doesn't mean an all out attack model. Spartak will counter well, and we've proven leaky at the back so a clean sheet shouldn't be expected.

My lineup:
---------------------- Artur -----------------
- Maxi ---- Jardel ---- Garay ----- Luisinho -
-------------- Miguel ------ Enzo ---------
- Salvio --------- Bruno -------- Nolito ------
--------------- Cardozo -----------------

With Aimar and Nico injured, Nolito needs to start. The only reason I put Enzo in the box to box role is due to Matic's suspension, otherwise I would have him out wide instead.

What I think JJ will do;

------------------- Artur -----------------
Maxi ---- Jardel ---- Garay ---- Ugh
Salvio --- Enzo --- Gomes -- Bruno
----------- Lima ---- Cardozo ---------

No cover for the back four. Artuir is going to have to stand on his head, if we are to pull this one out.

A must win. Let's hope we can actually pull this one out.
Selection options
5 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 18:35
Yeah it's a tough choice to make for our midfield...but not for the formation. It just has to be 4-4-2, we are at home, need to win and have nothing left to lose...also there is no point in breaking up the Cardozo-Lima partnership, which has been looking deadly recently!

I personally can't quite decide which midfield selection would be best, it's a tough call. I might go with Vitor at DM, and Bruno Cesar as attacking midfielder, with Perez on the left (and helping out in the middle too) and Salvio on the right. This could be best as Vitor would add proper defensive steel to deal with the Spartak counters...while Cesar could get forward to suppourt the front 2. It's an attacking line-up, but like i say we have to go for broke tomorrow...Spartak's defence is poor, let's make sure we get at them completely and score goals.

But like you guys, I doubt Vitor will be played at DM. JJ could well go with this selection: Almeida at DM, Perez as number 8, Cesar on the left and Salvio on the right. I will be worried if he does that, because as everyone else has seen, Perez' huge talent is wasted in the middle, as is Cesar on the flanks. I'd rather see Ola John on the flank than Cesar...and would rather see Gomes as number 8 than Perez. The key is to put people in their right positions tomorrow, hopefully JJ has learned this.

Otherwise though I really have a good feeling we are going to win this one! Spartak are a good team, but I also think the synthetic pitch helped them, and Benfica looked out of sorts on that turf. On a proper pitch in front of 60,000 of our own fans...I fully expect us to get the job done.
I agree with all you gentlemen...
4 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 16:20
This could potentially be a great week for the Liga.. sorry Jon crossing my fingers for all the Italians to lose.

Jon also love the line-up but would definitely prefer Vitor as the DM.. he has more experience in the CL.. but like you I doubt it will happen.

My most pressing concern is if JJ goes back to Malgarejo.. as his defensive liabilities.. and attack on each ball can leave some gaps at the back.

I cross my fingers and hope Luisinho will be the man.. as he has played exceptional.. and it should be his job to lose.. because of his play. He has not only been better defensively he also has been inspirational on offence.. and our strikers could use him to feed them some nice juicy passes.

Anyways should be some good games.. good luck to both Porto in Braga.. and I wish they get all the points.

On a sad note I have never been a fan of Hulk because of his diving but hearing that his sister was kidnapped.. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.. and pray that she will be returned safely. God Bless.
All teams still need to focus
3 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 15:45
Porto has made the best of their group this year and they should have very little worries about qualifying for the next round. The only thing they should worry about is trying to get the top spot. PSG can still very easily come back and steal it from them, so they can't take their foot off the gas.

Braga will have a hard time with United (any team would) but after the show they put on in the last round you they may just be able to take something from them this week. Even if they don’t I still think they can get the points they need from Cluj and Galatasaray to earn their first knockout stage showing at the CL.

Benfica are in the hardest spot as they need to win their next two matches. However they are both at home and despite the pressure on them, they still have the ability to qualify. My main worry is with Barca running away with the group, if they start to ease off the gas and allow one of these other teams to steal points on them, that can really screw things up. At the same time if there was a game for Barca to ease off the gas it could be their last game which is with us, so it would be a nice treat if we can be the ones to do it but I’m not holding my breath with Barca.
CL thoughts
2 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 13:19
A big week for all 3 Portuguese clubs in the CL. Benfica and Braga badly need the 3 points while Porto have a great chance to qualify with 2 matches to spare. Porto don't have anything to worry about really...they should be more than capable of getting a point in Kiev to qualify..and even if they don't, they will be 99% certain of getting the job done in their next match at home to a very poor Zagreb team (arguably the weakest team in the CL this season). The only question is whether they will finish first or second in the group.

Braga have a good chance also, but probably need 3 points against Man United for it to become a VERY good chance...with a tricky away fixture to Cluj coming up afterwards. Braga should be capable of beating Man United with home suppourt, and if they play as well as they did at Old Trafford then it's definitely possible for them. I wish them all the best.

Benfica are clearly in the most precarious position, which is not surprising given we had by far the most difficult group...and as mentioned in the article, have had to make do without 3 very key players from last season. I am still confident we can make it and qualify by the skin of our teeth. There's nothing more to lose and we just have to go for broke tomorrow night...which kind of suits JJ's approach...so i'm confident about getting the 3 points. Spartak showed they are a good team in Moscow and will likely be tough opponents again. But they are not a GREAT team..they have already lost 5 times in the Russian league this season and look very unlikely to be in the CL again next season. So SLB should really be beating this team at Da Luz, and I expect us to. All 3 Portuguese teams have a chance to qualify, but this week will be very crucial....good luck to all 3 of them!!!
Huge game for Benfica!
1 Tuesday, 06 November 2012 12:58
I cannot wait until tomorrow's game against Spartak Moscow. It won't be easy, but I am confident that Benfica will win. Anything less than three points would prevent Benfica from advancing.

There has been a lot of talk on the site about whether to use a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 in the Champions League. I almost always prefer the 4-2-3-1 because a 4-4-2 leaves us with one less man in the center of the pitch, thus allowing the opposition to overwhelm us.

However, I actually think that a 4-4-2 with Enzo Perez on the left, and Gomes and Almeida in the midfield could work against the Russians. Enzo Perez drifts into midfield frequently to help the holding midfielders, so we wouldn't be outnumbered in the middle of the pitch. Having Perez and two holding midfielders also allows us to play the excellent Lima-Cardozo partnership.

JJ may opt to use Gaitan or Cesar on the wing, and Perez as a holding midfielder to partner either Gomes or Almeida, but I feel that this will make us weaker defensively. Gomes and Almeida may not be the most experienced midfield duo, but I think they're the best combination JJ could use tomorrow. Miguel Vitor could also excel as a defensive midfielder, but I doubt that JJ will start him.

------------------------------------Cardozo--------------------------------
--------------------------Lima------------------------------------------------
------------Perez--------------------------------------------Salvio----------
--------------------------Almeida-------Gomes----------------------------

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