Sunday, April 28, 2024

Benfica look to have found Rafa replacement

Benfica Blog
Welcome to Benfica. Orkun Kokcu, the Turkish attacking midfielder seems to have finally found his place with the club after a handful of sparkling performances in the attacking midfielder role. A position that Kokcu seems most comfortable playing and a position that earned him the Eredivisie Player of the Year during the 2022-23 season.

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt tried to see what kind of versatility he could get from the 23 year-old during the season by playing him in a variety of positions, but other than a decent performance here and there, it was a continuous failed experiment. 

It looks to have taken a Kokcu interview with a Dutch media outlet in March to change the mind of the German manager, an interview in which Kokcu stated his lack of playing time in his preferred attacking position had a lot to do with a string of poor performances this season. 

With current XI starter Rafa Silva set to become a free agent at the end of the season, Benfica is finally getting what they paid for when they acquired Kokcu during the summer for a club record fee of €25M and they have hopefully found the heir apparent to Rafa going forward.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Heat turning up on Roger Schmidt as season winds down

Benfica Blog
The heat has turned up on Roger Schmidt's future at Benfica after a disappointing season that saw the club capture only the Super Cup to kick off the club's 2023-24 campaign. On too many nights, the club lacked creativity and saw too many poor performances from a squad that, on paper, was the best in Portugal, but Schmidt's tactics and lack of utilization of players contributed to the club's downfall.

Benfica's SAD is now in the process of holding meetings to discuss whether Schmidt is the right man to lead the squad into the 2024-25 season. According to reports out of Portugal, the sacking of Schmidt and his staff would prove to be costly to the club, with the figure said to be €22M over the next two seasons. 

Benfica President Rui Costa now faces the most difficult decision of his term: keep or dismiss Schmidt. The majority of Benfica supporters are against the German continuing as the bench boss of the club. The way Schmidt has lost games, more so than the results of those games themselves, is what has irked supporters to the point of wanting the coach gone.

If Rui Costa goes against the grain and continues with Schmidt, he will then become the main target of supporters, a decision that could prove costly to his future as the President of the club. Benfica fans will look to get Costa's attention tomorrow with a planned protest on the ouster of Schmidt and hope that the President has all eyes on them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Benfica's Schjelderup excited to return to club after loan

Benfica Blog
Benfica's 19 year old winger Andreas Schjelderup has spent the season on loan with his former Danish club Nordsjaelland and has been in fine form during the season. Schjelderup has scored seven goals while providing ten assists across 32 competitive games.

Schjelderup recently spoke to Danish radio about his excitement about returning to Benfica in the summer and being prepared to fight for a place with the club next season.

The loan at his former club looks to have brought back the confidence that the youngster seemed to lose after not getting into much game action after arriving at the club during the winter transfer window last year for €9M.

Benfica are happy with the strides that Schjelderup has made this season and hope that this translates onto the field with the club next season.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

What now for Benfica after a disappointing season

Benfica Blog
Benfica President Rui Costa will need to figure out the direction of the club for next season after a deifying past two weeks that saw the club fall twice to rivals and league leaders Sporting in league and Taca de Portugal action and although they do remain mathematically in the title chase, the chances of capturing the league title are slim at best.

Benfica also exited the Europa League in penalties to an inferior opponent in Marseille when manager Roger Schmidt decided that his game plan in the second leg was to protect their first leg win by doing so without high pressure and playing a defensive block. He was punished for his choice of a poor strategic plan, as the club lacked any offensive dynamics.

Schmidt is the big question mark in all of this, as moving on from the German bench boss will cost the club a hefty price tag, but the blame for this dilemma lands squarely at the feet of club President Costa. It was Costa who decided that German deserved an extension to his contract only a few months into his tenure. A decision that the President may have felt differently about if he had just waited for the season to conclude.

Schmidt also continues to show little flexibility and adaptability when his style of play does not work, his lack of proper use of substitutes, even when it clearly calls for them, is one of the more worrying signs for Benfica's future. The club now must decide if they will invest more funds in acquiring the players that fit into his style or move on from him and bring in a new sideline boss with a new identity who can get the most out of what the club already has on hand.

There is no doubt that Benfica, on paper, has the best squad in Portugal, but unfortunately, the game is not played on paper but on grass and on grass is where the club has faltered at almost every turn this season. Benfica fans require someone's head on a platter and President Rui Costa needs to decide what now for Benfica? Before that head is his. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

It's time to see if Benfica has players

Benfica Blog

When Benfica's game against Farense kicks off on Monday, the club could be as far back as ten points from league leaders Sporting. With little or no chance of catching them for the title at that point, it just makes sense that Benfica sees what they have in players like Orkun Kokce, Tiago Gouveia, Alvaro Fernandez and Marcos Leonardo to name a few.

With the expiring contracts of Rafa Silva and Angel di Maria at season's end. there is no need to give these players a regular spot in the starting XI going forward. There is no need to continue to play Fredrik Aursnes out of position at left back and there is no need for Otamendi to take up the playing minutes from the club's younger backs.

Roger Schmidt Out, is a common noise that you continue to hear from the club faithful, but without some sort of agreement on the departure of the German coach and the club, it may prove to be too costly to make the type of move that a large number of fans would love to see.

What Roger owes the fans after such a miserable season is a chance to see what Benfica has in players he does not use often enough. Let the fans see if these are Benfica players or not. It's the least you can do for the fans, think of it as a parting gift, Roger.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Benfica exit Europa League on penalties after abysmal performance

Benfica Blog
Benfica arrived in Marseille with a 2-1 lead after defeating the French club just one week ago and decided to lay an egg in the second leg, with a performance that you would not expect to see from a club of Benfica's stature who got their game plan all wrong on this night.

Benfica's blueprint was simple: stay back and protect a lead and hope to possibly score a counterattack goal. This plan allowed an onslaught of Marseille chances that finally paid off in the 79th minute when they scored to equalize the aggregate and take this game to additional extra time.  

Benfica were the better of the two sides in AET since they actually decided to try to get the win but by then, Marseille's players made sure to lay all over the grass, cramping and wasting time, hoping to get to penalties. The French club's plan would actually pay off, as Benfica would succumb on penalties 4-2 thanks to misses by both Angel di Maria and Antonio Silva (Why?).

Benfica looks set to end the 2023-24 season by capturing only the Super Cup back in August. This amounts to a total failure of a season for a club that, on paper, has the best squad in Portugal but may be led by the worst manager among Portugal's top clubs.

Roger Schmidt has shown that his time at Benfica should be over, as to go into Marseille with a game plan as if they were facing Manchester City was idiotic. The French club dominated the contest thanks to the fact that they were the only team that decided to show up for the majority of the game.

Schmidt's substitute choices, although minimal again, had little effect on the game, but worse yet, his decision to remove David Neres over Rafa Silva or Angel di Maria was mind-boggling, with the Brazilian creating what little attack the club had.

Rui Costa needs to find a way out of the two remaining years of Schmidt's contract and if not, hand the German and his staff €22M to go away. The money lost by keeping Schmidt and company around at the club could become astronomical and cost the President his place on top of the club if he has not yet realized this is the move to make.

The 2023-24 season has a few weeks remaining and then we can all enjoy our summer months and hope that next season does not leave the taste of manure in our mouths once again. See ya Rafa, See ya Di Maria, See ya Schmidt, one can only hope.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Benfica, rested and ready for Europa League match

Benfica Blog
Benfica head to France for Thursday's second leg encounter against Marseille, having rested their regular starters this weekend as they look to advance to the final four of the Europa League, holding a current 2-1 advantage on aggregate.

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt actually did the unexpected and gave various starters the league game off on Sunday, with some players, playing as little as forty-five minutes before being substituted in the club's 3-0 victory over Moreirense.

Benfica are hoping the rest re-energizes their regular starters as they face the tough task of trying to escape the Velodrome unscathed and cementing their place in the competition's final four. The winner of the Benfica/Marsielle matchup will take on the winner of Liverpool/Atalanta, with Atalanta holding a surprising 3-0 advantage over the English based club.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Benfica need to rest players for Marseille rematch

Benfica Blog
Benfica go into tomorrow's league game against Moreirense needing to rest some of their key players, with a big second leg rematch against Marseille on the horizon on Thursday. 

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt has started the same XI the past three games with few substitutes used during these contests and will need to refocus the squad for a final four spot in the Europa League after falling seven points behind league leaders Sporting going into their game tomorrow.

Schmidt would be wise to rest players like Rafa Silva, Fredrik Aursnes, Otamendi, Antonio Silva, Joao Neves and Angel di Maria, all of whom have appeared in over 3,500 minutes of action this season. With the Portuguese League title looking more and more like a pipe dream with six games to go. 

Will the German bench boss do the smart thing and have his key players rested, or will he continue to show the fans that he can be as clueless as they come. We will all find out that answer in the next 16 hours.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Benfica defeat Marseille for first leg lead

Benfica Blog
Benfica will head to France to face Marseille in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final encounter with one foot in the competition's semi-final round after a 2-1 victory over the French club, but they will be disappointed with conceding a goal to the French club when they were in full control of the game in the the first hour of play.

A pair of goals from Rafa Silva and Angel di Maria had the home side up 2-0 early in the second half before Aubameyang cut the lead in half at the 67th mark. Benfica striker Casper Tengstedt will rue a couple of missed opportunities that could have put this two leg contest out of reach, but hence is the game of football.

Roger Schmidt continues to struggle to make adjustments to his tactics after the opposition makes some tweaks to their style of play during the game and his lack of substitution usage of late is definitely a head scratcher especially when players look exhausted on the field. Here is hoping the club can go into France and play like they did the first hour of this contest and not the last thirty minutes.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Benfica respond to Marseille police and tell French fans to stay home

Benfica Blog
Benfica have responded to the Marseille police's actions and have banned Marseille club fans from attending the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final game less than 48 hours before kickoff.

Benfica announced earlier today that, after receiving communication from French authorities, the club's fans would not be permitted to attend the second leg in France. The club pursued the action of canceling the tickets of Marseille fans who were set to attend the first leg at the Estadio da Luz on Thursday after speaking to local authorities.

The club will now reissue the tickets to only club members and has informed the club's fans not to travel to France for the second leg to avoid potential tense situations. Benfica stated that it regrets the decision of French authorities, which calls into question the spirit of the sport.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Benfica season could all be for not with Sporting loss

Benfica Blog
Benfica suffered a devastating loss yesterday to their archrivals and league leaders Sporting 2-1 after the Lions scored the winner early in injury time. Benfica now sits four points behind Sporting, who can stretch that lead to seven with a victory as they hold a game in hand over Benfica.

With six games left in the season, this kind of lead can turn into an insurmountable amount without a complete collapse by Sporting. Benfica are still alive in the Europa League, but their lack of creativity in recent games does not give fans much excitement that they can do what is required to move past Marseille and into the semi-finals.

The fans frustration with manager Roger Schmidt continues to increase as his lack of in-game adjustments with substitutions or tactics might finally put the German on thin ice with the club's management team as well. Schmidt continues to be outcoached and outclassed in games of importance this season and his stubbornness to constantly play his players out of position proved costly on the opening goal yesterday.

The season is not over and Benfica will do their best to fight until the bitter end, but yesterday's loss has almost hammered the casket shut on the club's season. This is not what you would expect from a club that has the best and deepest squad in the league.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Al-Sadd make offer to Rafa Silva

Benfica Blog
Qatari club Al-Sadd have returned back into the picture as they look to land Benfica's Rafa Silva in the summer once the player's contract runs out with his Portuguese side. Al-Sadd tried to land Rafa before the start of the current season but were not able to agree to terms for a move, but now are hoping that the 30 year old will make the choice to become a member of the club during the 2024-25 season.

Al-Sadd is said to have offered Rafa a substantial raise of upwards of €7.5M per season for three years, but Rafa chose to remain at Benfica and finish out his contract with the club. Rafa has been one of Benfica's top performers this season, scoring 19 goals while providing 14 helpers across 46 games for the club. Benfica still hopes to retain Rafa's services next season but will be in tough against the deep pockets of Al-Sadd.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Benfica suffer first strike with Taca de Portugal loss

Benfica Blog
Although Benfica played well in their second leg Taca de Portugal semi-final draw, it was not enough to advance to the semi-finals as they lost to Sporting on aggregate 4-3, handing them their first strike in what is a crucial next two weeks in defining their season, as we discussed in our previous blog.

Benfica in for rough next two weeks

Benfica will now need a victory on Saturday in a rematch against Sporting in what could be a league title deciding match as the Lisbon club goes into Alvalade one point behind their city rivals, who hold a game in hand. A loss by Benfica would see them fall back four points from the top spot, and a win by Sporting in their game in hand would see the lead stretched to seven points with only six games remaining on the season.

Benfica are also still a part of the final eight clubs in the Europa League competition and are set for their first leg next Thursday against French side Marseille. Benfica are hoping that their cup hopes will not go by the wayside when the end of next week comes around.... here is hoping that they are.