Sunday, November 20, 2016

SL Benfica 6 - 0 Maritimo - November 19, 2016

Saturday November 19, 2016 -   SL Benfica defeated Maritimo in a Portuguese Cup match 6-0. This was an impressive result by the Eagles who just had several players return from an international break. Cervi (2"), Pizzi (39"), Mitroglou (44", 53"), Raul (69"), Guedes (88") all contribute to Benfica's dominant performance at the Luz. No word yet on Benfica's next opponent in the Portuguese Cup but Benfica's next match will be Match day #5 in the UEFA Champions League away to Besiktas in Turkey. A win in Turkey will gain Benfica 10 points and most likely put Benfica in the round of 16 of the Champions League. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Potential 2016/17 SL Benfica Squad

If SL Benfica 2016/17 season were to start tomorrow, this is how I would set up the list of players that Rui Vitoria should take to get him throughout the year. Although injuries occur throughout the season and there are lengthy competitions (UEFA, League Cup, Portuguese Cup, Liga) each team needs to have a deep squad but sometimes it's better to have a few less core players as opposed to many.

A 23 man squad seems more likely to have each player rotate and be included throughout the schedule as opposed to a 30 or 32 man squad in which some players may never get a single minute playing on the pitch. It is crucial to allow players an opportunity to be a part of the squad as opposed to waiting around for the possibility to maybe play or be subed on. 

There are some key players which may play throughout most competitions and others that may only be dedicated for specific competitions. For example; throughout the early stages of the Portuguese Cup or League Cup, Rui Vitoria may decided to call up players who do not start during league matches and in some cases may call up players on the B team or Juniors team. 

Clearly from now until the beginning of the september we are expecting departures and arrivals from the Benfica camp. If this list was to be submitted monthly, due to Benfica deep enough squad and when you include B Team squads, Junors squads, and players on loan, Benfica has well over one injunred players on their books.  Again if matchday #1 were tomorrow (and not in one month from now) Benfica should included the following in a 23 man roster. 















Monday, June 6, 2016

Toronto FC vs SL Benfica 2016 Eusébio Cup?

As SL Benfica are coming off their third consecutive year as Champions in the Portuguese Liga NOS, their pre-season 2016/17 fixtures have not yet been announced. Last summer SL Benfica participated in the North American International's Cup which took them to Toronto, Newark, Connecticut, and Mexico in which SL Benfica lost the annual Eusébio Cup 3-0 to Monterrey.  

The Eusébio Cup is an annual single match event in which SL Benfica invite an opponent outside of the Portuguese Liga to play for the cup that honours not only SL Benfica's most important player of all time but one of the best ever players to ever play the game Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. The EusébioCup was innaugurated in 2008 and has featured such teams as; Internazionale, AC Mian, Tottenham, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Sao Paulo, Ajax, and Monterrey. The 2015 edition that was played in front 51, 000 + at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey, Mexico was deemed a success for both clubs considering it was SL Benfica's first Eusébio Cup outside of Portugal. 

Although there have been speculations that this  year's edition may be once again in Portugal, there are many SL Benfica fans (Luso Canadians or Portuguese Canadians) who would love the opportunity to see The Eagles return to North America yet again for a pre-season fixture. The Eusébio Cup should be held this July or August at either BMO Field or  the Rogers Centre in Toronto and there would be several positive outcomes and incentives for both teams

1) In a year in which Toronto FC is celebrating a decade as a professional team in the MLS and the Toronto Metro Croatia's were NASL champions during the 1975/76 season, there is a lot to celebrate from a Toronto Soccer perspective. The 1975/76 Toronto Metro Croatia team championship winning team included 16 goals in 21 appearances from Eusébio

2) Toronto FC and SL Benfica can field a B squad and if it is the only North American date for SL Benfica, both teams financially will make a profit and most likely be able to fill BMO, and possibly the Rogers Centre with SL Benfica fans coming from all over Ontario, Quebec, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and possibly across the world to see this once in a lifetime championship match. 

3) If the game is held at BMO Field, during the 24th minute the always crowd pleasing "Danny Dichio" chant will be followed up in the 71st minute by a "Eusébio chant". Not only a hero for SL Benfica, but for the Toronto Metro Croatia. Eusébio was 71 when he passed on January 5, 2014 but he was also known to score in the 71st minute of several games (he would also score throughout minutes 1-90).

4) A Toronto FC vs SL Benfica game would increase merchandise sales especially if there are limited edition jersey and scarves on sale during match day. Also, alcohol consumption will definitely rise within those few hours of game time only creating more profit for such sponsors as Labatt's who are evident throughout BMO Field and Rogers Centre. 

5) Both teams have such strong supporter's groups that it would hopefully create more exposure to such outlets that cover the teams. "Toronto FC Pitchside" and "Benfica Podcast" would hopefully be a part of this event. Such bars as; "Shoeless Joe's" may have a meet and greet with current or former Toronto FC players such as; Tosten Frings, Danny Dichio, and of course Sebastien Giovinco whereas Toronto's "Casa do Benfica" can hopefully arrange a meet and greet with Pablo Aimar, Luisao, and of course my favourite Pedro Mantorras. 

There are several other reasons as to why having this Eusébio Cup in Toronto this year would be ideal for everyone. The reality is unfortunately Toronto FC in it's ten year existence has been unable to bring home silverware for their fans. The CSA is honouring success in Toronto's Soccer history by paying homage to The Toronto Blizzard, Toronto Metro Croatia, and several other teams throughout Toronto FC 2016 seasons. The only successful Toronto team was the Toronto Metro Croatia featuring Eusébio and not to undervalue TFC and many others but this is factual. 

In honour of the great Eusébio of Benfica, Portugal, and Toronto, the CSA should join forces with SL Benfica and honour this legend of Soccer by building a statute outside of BMO Field, so Toronto fans and Portuguese fans, and basically anyone who visits BMO can have an opportunity to take pictures and pay homage to an icon who made winning in Toronto a reality during the 1975/76 NASL season. 

Prior to joining the Toronto Metro Croatia in 1975, Eusébio had a brief stint with the Boston Minutemen where he scored 2 goals in 7 NASL matches. Throughout Massachusetts there is a huge Portuguese community almost as big as the one in Toronto, and New Jersey. Eusebio playing in Boston had such an impact on the community that a few decades later local Boston businessman Victor Batista erected a statute of Eusébio outside of Foxborough stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. For Battista it;s the story of a wealthy Benfica fan being able to invest and create something for his family and the Benfica/ Portuguese community to enjoy. There was no silverware for Boston during the handful of games Eusébiowore a Minuteman jersey just the prestige of having "The Black Panther" play in Boston, Eusébio's NASL success story was scoring the winning goal during the 1976 Soccer Bowl and proclaiming The Toronto Metro Croatia the NASL Champions. 

Whether or not Giovinco and company can bring Toronto FC a long overdue MLS title after a ten year existence it is important that as Toronto fans we look at our history and celebrate our victories
from the past before we can celebrate future victories. 

“Our past is defined by how we came to be, and our future is defined by how well we adapt.”   

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thoughts On SL Benfica During 2015/16

Now that SL Benfica's 2015/16 season has come to an end, The Benfica Nation can reflect on a satisfying but at times difficult successful season. Coach Rui Vitoria was criticized and often deemed as a coach not suitable to coach any of "The Big 3" in Portugal. After a dreadful pre-season in which SL Benfica lost literally every game on their North American Tour, and a mediocre start to the 2015/16 season, 


The Benfica Nation did not believe in Vitoria and his coaching methods. Although, SL Benfica had an impressive 4-0 matchday #1 result against Estoril, just a few days prior SL Benfica lost the Portuguese Super Cup to local rivals Sporting CP. A defeat that would be the first of three loses to Sporting CP and would include an interesting feud between SL Benfica's former coach Jorge Jesus and their new coach Rui Vitoria. 

Matchday #8 saw one of SL Benfica worst defeats ever in history at The Luz as SL Benfica fell 3 -0 to an compact, determined Sporting CP. Jorge Jesus and his mind games and experience as a former SL Benfica coach paid off as his team was victorious. Sporting CP had not seen a victory at The Luz since January 28, 2006. SL Benfica were now seven points behind Sporting and sat mid table in the Liga while Sporting were continuing to enjoy their dominance in the Liga. 

JJ mentioned in a press conference that while at Benfica for 6 years he successfully defeated Sporting CP fourteen times. Vitoria remained a professional and would not comment much in the press conferences about the "JJ mind tricks."

Benfica's Portuguese Cup dreams came to an end during the fourth round in which they lost 2-1 to Sporting CP at the Alvalade. Sporting's President Bruno De Carvalho continued to be vocal on Facebook and social media constantly putting down Benfica's players, coach, and anyone associated with the club. It seemed almost impossible at this point that Benfica were going to beat Sporting CP and become champions for the third consecutive season. 

On week 25 SL Benfica were victorious 1-0 at The Alvalade in a much needed victory. After suffering 2 loses in the Liga to FC Porto, a previous lost to Sporting CP, and a controversial loss in matchday #2 to Arouca, in order for Benfica to be champions they could not afford to lose to Sporting a second time in the Liga. Had Benfica not won at the Alvalade, the "Tri" probably would of never came. 

FC Porto

Although everyone thought that it was going to be Sporting's year, FC Porto made life difficult for Benfica in both Liga matches. With such additions as Maxi, and Iker Casillas it was no doubt that Porto wanted to stop Benfica from getting their "Tri" by spending on big names. FC Porto beat SL Benfica on matchday #5 with 1-0 victory in the 86'. Benfica played a great first half playing a two striker formation and dominating in not only possession but shots on goals.

Benfica on matchday #22 hosted FC Porto and suffered their first loss 2-1 in the Liga in 13 matches. Although, FC Porto at this point seemed distant from winning the Liga and were in shambles due to a change in coach, frustration from the players, and internal turmoil involving FC Porto mastermind Pinto Da Costa, wife, and son, FC Porto will always want to be victorious against Benfica (and vice versa)

FC Porto did end up finishing third in the season 15 points behind first place Benfica (88 points). A result alongside Benfica's Tri that has convinced The Benfica Nation that there has been a change of the guard in the Liga as FC Porto's dominance is no longer evident. 

Rui Vitoria   

Now that SL Benfica have won the "Tri" looking back throughout the season there were most definitely doubts and criticism of the new coach. Vitoria's accomplishments other then winning the "Tri"and the Portuguese Liga Cup include the following:

1) Quarter - Finals stages in the UEFA Champions League (including 30 million + in UEFA bonuses)

2) Giving opportunities to Benfica's Youth & B Team players. (Most evident was Renato Sanches who was just sold to Bayern Munich. Benfica have made over 100 million in selling youth players within the last few seasons.)

3) Remaining professional while representing the club in the media during press conferences pre and post match

Vitoria went from coaching smaller clubs to the biggest platform in Portugal and possibly the world. He was the third highest paid coach in Portugal and is extremely loyal and passionate with his current coaching job. There is no doubt that Vitoria shares the same vision for Benfica as President LFV and that is investment at the Seixal amongst "Made In Benfica" players. 

With silly season approaching there is no doubt that Benfica will sell some of their current squad. Just like last season when Benfica sold an entire full squad of players, Vitoria will look at Benfica's youth for an opportunity to step up during the 2016/17 season. Just like this year Vitoria may have yet another quality "Made In Benfica" player on the cusp of breaking into the main squad and possibly be sold for millions and millions of Euro's. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Renato Sanches Joins Bayern Munich

Renato Sanches FCB

What seems to be considered the most expensive transfer in not only Benfica's history but in the Portuguese Liga NOS for a Portuguese born star, Renato Sanches signed on the dotted line earlier today with a move to Bayern Munich on a five year contract which will take him to June 2021. Bayern Munich and SL Benfica have agreed on a 35 million euro transfer move which can end up becoming almost 80 million depending on performance clauses. 

The 18 year old midfielder has been a Benfica player for a decade now and just like other "Made In Benfica" or "Made At The Seixal" players like Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, and Marcos Lopes to name a few, Sanches was a raw talent who went for big money and will go onto to bigger leagues and better opportunities. It was only recently that Benfica's President Luis Filipe Viera was recieving an award in Dubai in recognition of Benfica's youth program as being the best in the world. A title in which for many years Sporting CP was often recognized for. 

Despite of what critics may speculate, Renato Sanches was born on August 18, 1997 in Lisbon, Portugal. He is of Cape Verdian decent. He spent most of his youth playing soccer on the streets with friends and family. By age 9 he was enrolled in Benfica's youth teams and would eventually become a part of Benfica's senior team. During the 2014/15 season Sanches made his professional debute on Benfica's B team campaign and UEFA Youth League squad. At the beginning of the 2015/16 season Benfica appointed Rui Vitoria as their new coach who advertised from day one that there will be opportunity in Benfica's main squad for youth players as long as they earn their spot. Renato Sanches was slowly integrated into Vitoria's midfield and quickly built a reputation as not giving up and being aggressive yet strategic with his style of football. Sanches also caught the eye of not only Portuguese National Team Head Coach Fernandes Santos but Louis Van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, and of course Carlo Ancelotti. 

There are many memorable moments of Sanches while wearing a Benfica jersey. He contributed to the 11-1 UEFA Youth League victory against Galatassaray. There was of course the goal against Academica which got everyone talking. His performance in the Champions League Quarter - Finals against Bayern Munich but his most impressive performance came after a recent game against Rio Ave when he was abused racially by fans. Sanches response shows his humbleness and humility as most players in those circumstances would get emotional, Sanches laughed it off while walking off the pitch. 

It is sad that Sanches will not be included in Benfica's next season but the shock value should not be surprising to the Benfica Nation since this move has been reported for most of this year that Sanches leaving was a done deal. The only real shock value in this move was Renato Sanches signed to Bayern Munich when it was guaranteed that he would sign to Manchester United.

Sanches move to Bayern Munich will be a beneficial move for his career. Bayern Munich is one of the biggest clubs in the world with deep pockets who not only dominate the German Bundesliga almost yearly but are always a top team in the UEFA Champions League. Had Sanches move to the English Premier League gone through, he may very well of ended up joining the ranks of Bebe, Anderson, and Nani whose move started off with high hopes and ended up in a bust. A move to Barcelona or Real Madrid currently may only of got him a spot on the bench and not necessarily the starting 11 with the calibur of talent. 

Financially, Benfica once again hits the jackpot big with one of their home-grown talents. Sanches is now the first ever Liga NOS player to join Bayern Munich. This deal may not of been so lucrative with such top teams in Serie A or such La Liga teams as Atletico who in the past have created "secret handshake" deals or have deals with Benfica that do not make any sense (i.e Roberto, Raul Jimenez etc.) Benfica receives almost 80 million while Sanches begins another chapter in his career. Even Cristiano Ronaldo's fee from Sporting CP to Manchester United was not even  half of this one. Speaking of CR7, I'm sure he may of been a little jealous during this Portugal friendly. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SL Benfica's Final Four

SL Benfica are down to the nitty gritty as they have only four matches left to play in the remainder in the 2015/16 Ligs NOS season. Although the Portuguese Championship is still undecided there is still room for error and room for improvement between first place SL Benfica and second place Sporting CP. 

Although SL Benfica's remaining games are a less tougher schedule then those assigned to Sporting CP, one loss or a tie for SL Benfica can very easily give Sporting CP an opportunity to capitilize and win this years Liga NOS championship. 

SL Benfica are now out of UEFA competition and are still in the Portuguese Cup tournament where they will face Sporting Braga in the semi-finals. Rui Vitoria should consider resting most of his main squad players and capitalize on using such players as; Tallisca, Luisao, Goncalo Guedes, and even look to some b team or infrequently used players (Taarabt? Silvio? Jovic?) as depth to hopefully win the Portuguese Cup. SL Benfica priority should always be to win the Liga but any silverware is better then none and so the Portuguese Cup should also be taken seriously as an extra victory for the club and most importantly the fans. 

SL Benfica will travel this weekend up north to Vila de Conde to face Rio Ave a team who is currently tied with Arouca for that important fifth spot that will give birth to the 201617 Europa League. Such players as; Heldon, Ukra, Yazalde, Helder Postiga, Roderick Miranda, and goalkeeper Cassio are all very familiar with SL Benfica and will do whatever necessary to make their lives miserable up north and gain as many point possible to secure their Europa League spot. Although SL Benfica have been successful most of the time in gaining a result up north against Rio Ave, it was approximately one year ago (March 21, 2015) that SL Benfica lost 2-1 in Vila de Conde. This will not be an easy game for SL Benfica considering they looked tired in the recent 2-1 home victory against Vitoria Setubal. 

On matchday #32 SL Benfica will host coach Rui Vitoria former team Vitoria Guimaraes. Although, Vitoria is quite familiar with the Guimaraes squad, each game should be treated as a final. Losing points is not an option at this point in the season. 

SL Benfica will travel to the Madeira islands on matchday #33 to face Maritimo. Although there is a big SL Benfica fan base in Madeira, playing in Madeira is never easy. SL Benfica last defeat at the Barreiros was on August 18, 2013. Maritimo is currently in thirteenth spot. 

Finally, SL Benfica will host Nacional on the final matchday of the season. If all goes well they will be celebrating their 35th championship but most importantly their third consecutive back-to-back title. If all goes well, Sporting CP will lose points to either FC Porto or Sporting Braga on the road or in the event that they win all of their remaining matches, SL Benfica must also do the same. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bayern Munich 1 - 0 SL Benfica


SL Benfica traveled to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday April 5, 2016 to face 2015/16 German Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League. SL Benfica have not reached these stages since the 2011/12 season when they lost to Chelsea. Going into this game it was no doubt that Bayern Munich were the favorites against SL Benfica in fact, many pundits feel that Bayern is one of the favorites (Barcelona is the other) to win this year's competition. 

Rui Vitoria lined up his team like this which is a brave attacking formation considering the fact that when Bayern plays at home they usually net 3-4 goals.  While in ball possession SL Benfica looked as though they were playing a 4-4-2 formation but would often play a 4-4-1-1 formation without possession. Bayern Munich capitalized early on within the first 3 minutes of the match as they took advantage of the open spaces in the Benfica defense with Benat crossing into the middle of the match catching Arturo Vidal's head making it 1-0. With almost 90 minutes left in the match at this point SL Benfica had time to look for the equalizer. 

As the match progressed the Munich fans kept getting louder and louder trying to motivate Bayern to increase there scoreline. SL Benfica pressed on and  gave it all they could against the giants of Germany. With such players as; Ederson, Lindelof, and Sanches who are green in UEFA competitions, SL Benfica demonstrated determination and never let their guard down throughout 90 minutes. There were a few calls which did not go in the favour of SL Benfica, and SL Benfica were unable to capitalize on three very important crucial opportunities to get that away goal. 


SL Benfica lose 1-0 on the road and although it was a loss, this result in Germany was quite impressive considering the fact that Bayern can usually produce 3-4 goals at home and had opportunities to do so. 

SL Benfica coach Rui Vitoria has some work to do if he wants to defeat Bayern Munich at the Luz next week. We may very well see another attacking 4-4-2 formation with possibly Raul taking the spot of Jonas. Vitoria's commitment to this tournament will show on how he sets up his team and how he distributes his substitutions throughout the match. 

Going into the Luz next week, even without Jonas (accumulated yellows) one thing is for certain SL Benfica will create chances and will score at home. The other guaranteed outcome to the second leg will be the 50,000+ members of the Benfica Nation who will be the 12th man in supporting their team from the first minute onto the last. A few defense mistakes and possibly some calls in Benfica favour can very well secure SL Benfica a spot onto the semi-finals of the Champions League. 


The reality is again no one expected SL Benfica to do this well in this year's UEFA Champions League. The 30+ million that they have accumulated in this season's competition will do wonders for the team next season. For SL Benfica to defeat Bayern Munich in a David vs. Golliath esque comparison would be incredible. At that point, a semi-final appearance may only do more harm then good. If they got to the semi-finals with a primarily younger, inexperienced UEFA side then they should be able to go all of the way and break the Bella Guttman curse? Stranger things have happened at this point in the competition in the past. Upsets and beating the odds have occurred many times throughout the past decade. 

As good as FC Porto were during the 2003/04 competition and with the help of coach Jose Mourinho, no one ever thought that they would face AS Monaco in the finals and win. 

During 2005/06 SL Benfica defeated English giants Manchester United during the group stages and Liverpool on a 3-0 aggregate in the round of 16. At this point, the EPL was the most dominant league in the world producing should UEFA Champions as Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea. 

In 2008/09 FC Porto went through on aggregate to the Quarter- finals defeating Atletico de Madrid and then losing in the Quarter-finals to Manchester United. Not a surprise was the round of 16 elimination of Sporting CP who lost 12-1 on aggregate against Bayern Munich. 

Some can argue that Internazionale's Champions League winning season in 2009-10 was unpredicted as they took out such European giants as Chelsea, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich in the final. Inter was coached by Jose Mourinho who also helped Inter dominate Serie A that season. 

In the following year Schalke 04 went all of the way to the semi - finals losing to Manchester United. Along the way Schalke 04 won their group (Benfica was there) and defeated Valenica (Rof16) and taking out reigning champions Inter on a 7-3 aggregate in the Quarter-finals.

In 2011/12 no one had heard of the name APOEL in UEFA Champions League competition. The champions of Cyprus made their debut in the competition that year winning their group which consisted of FC Porto, Zenit St-Petersburg, and Shakhtar Donetsk. APOEL eliminated Lyon in the round of 16 and was then eliminated in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid. 

And then who can forget the all German UEFA Champions League finals between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund of 2012/13. The hipster outcome would of seen Dortmund lift the trophy but Bayern were victorious in Wembley losing 2-1. Dortmund beat Real Madrid twice in the group stages and once in the semi-finals during this tournament. 

During the 2013/14 final at The Luz in Lisbon, an all Spanish final took place as Atletico Madrid faced Real Madrid. Atletico won their group and proceeded to eliminate AC Milan, Barcelona, and Chelsea along the way. Real Madrid took out the 3 German teams to get to the final and although Ronaldo and friends were in excellent form, many were expecting Diego Simeone's side to lift the trophy. Real Madrid 4-1 over Atletico. 

Juventus turned a lot of heads during the 2014/15 campaign as they took out Real Madrid in the semi-finals only to lose to Barcelona 4-1 in Berlin. Juventus although dominate in Italy were unable to defeat the trio of MSN. 


SL Benfica need to remain focused on winning the Portuguese Liga for a third consecutive season which is something in which they have not done since the mid 1970's.  Advancing deeper in the Champions League competition would be a great boost of confidence for SL Benfica (financially) and Portuguese Football (coefficient). The comparisons to Mourinho's 2004 FC Porto winning team have been made, but would that team stand a chance to beat the Bayern Munich's and Barcelona's of today's game? 

This year's UEFA Champions League will most likely be won by a wealthier or more dominant club such as; Bayern Munich or Barcelona not by a smaller club like SL Benfica or Wolfsburg. After all, in this tournament the winning clubs are those with the wealthiest players who overpower the smaller clubs. I believe (without doing any formal research) that MSN alone (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) make more money in one single week then all of the SL Benfica players do one entire month. There is your financial fair play.