Spyin' Kop - Benfica v Liverpool - 1st April 2010

Posted by Slick_Beef on March 29, 2010, 10:00:15 PM




Benfica - Liverpool, Europa League Quarter Final, 1st April 2010, Estadio da Luz, Lisboa

And so, after a weekend performance that will have raised everyone's spirits, our next game sees us turn our attention to Europe, to be re-aquainted with Sport Lisboa e Benfica.

The Past

Benfica are a club which, in many respects, Liverpool fans can sympathise with, and I'm not just referring to one of their nicknames, Os Encarnados (The Reds). They are Portugal's most successful club, with 31 league titles, and 2 European cups. Their history contains stories of great sides, perhaps most notably the Eusebio inspired side of the 60s and early 70s, which still holds an all time record in Europe for consecutive league victories (29 games won in a row between '71 and '72!). The 90s were largely dissapointing for the club, and ever since then they have struggled to dominate their domestic league with the more recent rise of Porto, but Os Gloriosos still retain an enormous following whose patience appears close to being rewarded this year.

The Present

Whilst the goings on of the Portuguese league aren't widely covered within the UK, it only takes a quick glance at their league table to see that this game will be no pushover. (Hint - pay special attention to the "Goals Scored")

   

They are a remarkable 23 points ahead of city rivals Sporting, and 14 ahead of bitter enemies Porto (having also given them a sound 3-0 thumping in the league cup final last week). Also, having beaten the high-flying Braga at the weekend (an unusually modest 1-0), they are very much on course for their first league title since 2005. Although many of the players are the same, it appears to be a different side to the one that limped to third place under Quique Flores last year. Manager Jorge Jesus was brought in from Braga and the players have thrived ever since.

More on that shortly when we hear what their fans have to say. In the mean time, lets take a look at where we'll be headed..

The Stadium

The Estádio da Luz, commonly referred to as A Catedral (The Cathedral) by Benfiquistas is an impressive Stadium, completed in time for Euro 2004, which holds 65,647 fans (And is officially sold out for this match!).



It replaced the equally impressive old Estadio da Luz which in its heyday had a maximum capacity of 135,000! A few well travelled reds may well have been there before...

Previous Meetings

In competetive fixtures, Benfica and Liverpool have met on four previous occasions, each time in a two-legged European tie.

- The first was in 1978, in the third round on our way to another European Cup, when after leaving Estadio da Luz with a 2-1 lead, we sent Benfica packing with a comprehensive 4-1 victory at Anfield.
- In 1984 we once again faced Benfica in the third round of the European Cup, this time playing the first leg at Anfield, and leaving with a 1-0 lead. Despite the tie still appearing to be in the balance, we ran riot in the away leg, with another impressive 4-1 victory on our way to our fourth European Cup.
- In the 84/85 season we once again faced Benfica, this time in the second round. Rush bagged a hattrick in the first leg, which was enough to see us through despite a 1-0 defeat in a second leg that saw King Kenny sent off.
- The relative decline of both sides in the 90s meant our paths didn't cross for some time, but in 2006 we met again in the Champions League. We lost the first leg 1-0 in a match many will remember for the unfortunate eye injury that almost ended Momo's career, and despite dominating possesion in the second leg were beaten 2-0 by a plucky Benfica side whose lively fans sung their team home to victory.


And so, we meet again, in what must be the stand out tie of the UEFA Cup Quarter Final. To gauge the opinion of the Benfiquistas I headed over to have a chat with the extremely friendly and welcoming bunch on the serBenfiquista forum, armed with a list of questions and a battered Portuguese dictionary. Here are a small selection of the answers I received..

1. So, what are your thoughts on the Liga Sagres this year?

Jorge.P_: Benfica looks like the better team but Braga is much more closer than we expected... in a short setence: a very strong Benfica, Braga making points like they never did, a Bad Porto comparing with recent years and a poor Sporting (although they are a better in this phase...);

Ricardo Teixeira: It's been an unusual season compared with the previous years... Mainly for Benfica and Braga. We weren't expecting Benfica to be so strong and powerful... It's the "true" Benfica.

andre_04_SLB: Excellent. It's been some years since we saw a Benfica side so strong, and many of the young fans are euphoric this year. The sides of the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s were equal and sometimes even better... we are finally back on track, continuing on from our glorious past. Benfica is clearly superior to everyone. Braga is doing well but is running out of steam. Porto and Sporting are a complete disaster.

Mercurio_10: This season is clearly marked by the quality of the Benfica's football. It's not just the excellent results, but the spectacular football that we've played. For someone from my generation, to see Benfica playing this way gives me enormous satisfaction, because I've never lived through anything like this.

2. Will Benfica win the league?

tnlemos: I think so. The team has what is nessescary. We have the best coach, the best squad, and the best football... Nothing more to say. Unfortunately accidents can happen, and in a normal season we'd already be celebrating in anticipation of the title, but I think we'll win.

Serrasqueiro: Of course... If we don't win it'll be a huge injustice. I can't remember a team in Portugal playing such good football, combined with excellent results.

Zak: Without a doubt. They have the best attack by far, best defence, top league scorer ..... they have all the atributes to win it. They're also playing same of the best footbal in Europe at the moment. Amazing attacking football that wouldn't look out of place in the english premier league.

3. Last season Benfica finished in third position. This year they seem like a different team, what do you think it is that Jorge Jesus is doing that Quique Flores wasn't?

benficaslb1: Quique is a decent guy but he understands little of Portuguese football, and often played players out of position, like playing Aimar on the wing or alongside the striker. He often left our best striker on the bench and didn't understand the value of team leadership. We did also strengthen the team since he left with quality players like Ramieres and Javi Garcia. Also Airton who has added muscle to the midfield.

tiagowski: Quique was good at PR while Jesus is a football coach! Quique had his system and forced the players to adapt to it, Jesus gets as much as possible from each individual player.

JotaTê: We are comparing a real football coach with a guy who wears nice suites. I should say however, that I wasn't a believer in Jesus, but he had me captivated by the end of the second or third game. Jesus, apart from being very strong tactically, can talk the langauge of the players and understands Portuguese football very well. Having said that, Quique's Benfica could have finished higher in the league if they weren't robbed by Porto and some sly refereeing. The UEFA cup was nightmare...

Jesus's Benfica picks up the wins and keeps going. It's a steamroller!

4. Best player this year?

VanBasten: Probably Luisão. He's the commanding voice on the pitch.

30-miccoli-30: A difficult question. Up to a certain point in the season I'd have said Saviola, but as we reach the end I have to say Di Maria.

jase25: Angel Di Maria. When he's in good shape is almost unstoppable. Crucial player in Jesus' approach of the game.
Also Saviola is going great, when some would say he'd be in Lisbon only for a golden retirement.

fnhe: Quim!

5. And the worst?

tiagowski: In my opinion Quim. He is not as poor as some people say, but I think he is far from being World Class and seems on a lower level than most of his colleagues from the 11st eleven.

Alvi_Rubro: Well Nuno Gomes has been disapointing this year...I guess the years have finally caught up with him.

maxi04: Practically all the players in the squad have been useful to the team, but perhaps because he came so highly rated and I had high hopes for him, Kerrison.


6. Do you like the premier league? What are your thoughts on the current season?

jase25: I mean, who doesn't?  Being more serious now, I think the general value of the teams (specialy the top teams) is decreasing. We don't see Chelsea dominating as before, and United is trying to rebuid after Ronaldo's exit. BTW, Rooney is going great. Liverpool is being disappointing so far, I doubt they'll reach Champions League next season. Also the usual suspects in the fight for Europe. It has been an exiting season so far and I hope its remains as exiting till the very last end.

Kobille: Absolutely! I think Chelsea will be the champion, but Arsenal and Manchester, specially Manchester will be fighting untill the end with Chelsea. I'm kind of sad beacause Liverpool is doing such a bad season. I really hope you can make it to UEFA Champions League next year. 

JorgeP: Yeah, sure. My favourite club is Liverpool ( xD ) but well... you know better than i do... is not good. I think that probably Man U will win it again... Chelsea isn't that good (Ancelotti...?) and, unfortunately, Arsenal can't do it.

7. Our two great clubs have previously met in '78, '84 and '06. Do you have any memories of these games? I'm sure you all remember 2006... Have you ever been to Anfield before?

tnlemos: I remember as a child crying when liverpool won 4-1 in Lisboa in 1984. Bento (a great keeper) had perhaps the worst game of his whole career. Liverpool was the best team in the 80s until Heysel, but that year we had a great great team.
In 2006 I remember everything like it was yesterday. A tactical game in Lisbon, decided by a well practiced three kick and finished by Luisão. In liverpool, we spent the first 20/30 minutes stifled by Liverpool. Geovanni hit the bar, and shortly after Simão scored a great goal.


JotaTê: We've played 8 games, with three victories to us and five to you. I don't remember the game of '78, but Liverpool had a great team and won the competition. In 1983-84 in Estadio da Luz we saw perhaps the worst night of Bento's career.. a game I'll never forget and one that we justly lost by 4-1. I always liked Rush a lot, but maybe a bit less after that... and Liverpool went and won the cup again.
In 84-85 we won at the Luz with a Penalty scored by Manniche (the real one!). It wasn't enough and we were knocked out again. There was trouble at the Luz and the competition finished marred by Heysel..
Until 05/06 I'd never been in Anfield for a game but this year I saw the two games, and despite being the underdogs we got a deserved victory at the Luz, with the goal from Luisão, and a soft victory at Anfield with those great goals from Simão and Miccoli. I really enjoye dhte atmosphere in Anfield and in the city, where we were really well recieved. I wish I had known the old Kop, with the bigger capacity and more vocal power.. Anyway, I was so traumatised by those old games that until Miccoli's goal I still believed that it would all go horribly wrong. When he scored near the end I made peace with the past....   On the 8th I'll be there again!

PMBMaker: Other than the 2006 clash, i mainly remember Rush and the story about Bento, one of the greatest Benfica Goalkeepers of all time, blaming the floodlights for his poor performance.


tiagowski: Honestly I only have memories of 2006 and it was great! After more than a decade of absence from European glory Benfica was able of knocking out the European champions in a memorable display! I remember the goals like if it was yesterday (I was at the 1st match in Lisbon) but what impressed me the most was the passion and fair play of the Liverpool supporters. I became a fan of Liverpool after seeing Anfield singing "You'll never walk alone" even after the game was over. I've never been in Anfleld, but if I could chose on stadium in England to watch a game, that would be the one!

8. If Benfica had the chance to buy one Liverpool player, who would you want?

Zak: Even though i love Torres i'd choose Gerrard, without a doubt. On form he's amazing, 1 the best in the world at what he does ..... if we could get Torres in the same package i'd be over the moon. Even playing baddly, Gerrard still manages to influence the game in a positive way. That's a sign of a top top player.

JNF: Steven Gerrard (he'll pass the ball 40 yards). World class player.

fnha: Dirk Kuyt (a true team player).

RED_RUM: Torres.

9. What songs are we going to hear at Estadio da Luz? Which is your favourite?

tiagowski: First you'll see our Eagle flying and you will listen to the Anthem, called "Ser Benfiquista". During the game you will hear "SLB, Glorioso, SLB", and closer to end maybe "E nínguem pára o Benfica". If you were Everton you would also listen many times "Olé" and people asking for "Só mais um"... ("Just one more [goal]")

JorgeP: The simple but great "BENFICA!", "Glorioso SLB", "Ninguém para o Benfica" (No one stops Benfica) and much, much more... i don't have a favourite one but there are some great ones. It's strange to translate them to English so... LOL

Kobille: "E NINGUÉM PÁRA O BENFICA, E NINGUÉM PÁRA O BENFICA, E NINGUÉM PÁRA O BENFICA, ALLEEEEEEZZZZ OHHHHHHHHHH". I like them all, but particulary the club anthem.

10. What do you think of this Europa League? An improvement or the same shit with a different smell?

PMBMaker: Maybe, same shit better smell?  It could have better prizes..

RED_RUM: It was a positive step to revamp the image and model of the competition. I think that to have teams like Benfica, Liverpool and Valencia in the quarter finals proves that the quality rises

andre_04_SLB: Much more competetive, but without doubt it's the 2nd division of the Champions League. Above all, UEFA and Platini, continue to control the games and choose who passes into the next round. Uefa is a disgrace.

puke_slb: Fuck Platini!

11. Who is Jesus going to choose in the starting 11?


VanBasten: Goalkeeper - Right Back - Center Back - Center Back - Left Back - Defensive Midfielder - Right Winger - Left Winger - Attacking Midfielder - Forward - Striker. The names? Anyone will play well.

Mixpic:
Júlio César...Maxi...Luisão...David Luiz...Coentrão...Javi...Ramires...Di Maria...Aimar...Saviola e Cardozo...

Zak:
That no one knows my friend .... it's God's secret. But whoever plays i'm confident of a positive result.
We not only have a good first 11 but a good all round squad.

12. And finally...care to predict the result?

Ricardo Texeira:
2-1 in the Luz...and 2-2 in Anfield...

infeh:
Benfica wins 1-0 here in Lisbon with a goal from Cardozo, and a 1-1 draw in England, Goals scored by Di Maria and Torres.

30-miccoli-30
In the luz 2-0 to us
in Anfield 2-1 to you

Thanks again to all the lads at serBenfiquista. They gave pages of great answers, of which the above is just a sample. There are quite a few in English if anyone wants to have a gander here. Their forum also has an English section here.

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