How have Benfica, Porto and Sporting performed?

Matchday Three saw Sporting lose 4-3 in an incredible match in Germany against Schalke 04, while FC Porto continue to sit pretty at the top of Group H following a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao. Benfica will attempt to haul themselves back into contention at Monaco on Wednesday night.

PortuGOAL runs the rule over how the Portuguese trio have performed so far and what their prospects are for the rest of the tournament.

We also look at the major tactical issues facing each of Portugal's three main teams at this stage of the season.

 

FC Porto expert Simon de Sousa

1) How would you appraise Porto's performance overall in this season's Champions League so far?

Barring some individual errors which could have led to different results, FC Porto are deserved leaders in Group H. Winning matches at home is key in the Champions League - and Porto has done just that.

An away draw to the current group runner's up (Shakhtar) has to be seen as a positive result. Julen Lopetegui has shown no fear of fielding young, inexperienced line-ups in these matches.

 

2) What have been the major positives and what have been the disappointments?

The major positive for Porto this season is the resurgence of striker Jackson Martínez. After a lacklustre 2013, the Colombian seems to have found his identity and goalscoring touch again - paving the path for several victories thus far. While Jackson had an off night against Athletic Club, it was his late brace as a substitute in Lviv which stole Porto a point against Shakhtar. A new supporting cast of Yacine Brahimi and Óliver Torres always seem to treat the Porto faithful at the Dragão to quality football. And does 17-year-old Rúben Neves still need an introduction?

Disappointments have come in the form of uncharacteristic, sloppy passing errors. Porto seem to struggle to get through a full 90 minutes without a poor pass or two or three in the defensive third which is turned into a goal or scoring opportunity for the opposition.

 

3) Will the team qualify for the knockouts?

Likely, but nothing is a guarantee in the Champions League. Should Porto pick up three points at San Mamés, qualification looks very likely, probably as group winners.

 

Talking tactics, with Vasco Mota Pereira

As far as the Dragons are concerned, the celebratory mood that had been filling the air in the vicinity of the Dragão for the initial weeks of the season seems to be on the wane. Poor results, coupled with less than stellar performances and the supporters' difficulty to grasp the coach's pinch for squad rotation, have increased the pressure upon recent incumbent Julen Lopetegui.

At the moment, there seem to be two pressing issues when it comes to FC Porto – and both have to do with the team's specific brand of football – the Spanish-inspired tiki-taka, if you will. The first problem is clearly the lack of organisation in the defensive phase. In shorter, simpler words, this means that FC Porto look most vulnerable from the moment they give the ball away.

One of tiki-taka's main precepts is that, if that style is to be ultimately successful, the team has to react incredibly fast and efficiently to the moment the ball is lost, which has hardly been the case with FC Porto this season. Because the ball is not recovered within seconds, Lopetegui's side often looks unbalanced and, if the opposition manages to break past the first line of pressure, there is always acres of space to attack into. This is something that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible if FC Porto still harbour any chances of domestic or European success.

The second issue is tied to the other side of the game: the attacking phase. One of the risks of this possession-based approach is the mechanisation of movement and passing patterns, and that seems to be more and more true as far as FC Porto are concerned. The offensive strategy seems to lie solely on quickly switching the side of play so that the talented attackers that usually occupy the wings can face 1v1 situations and serve Jackson Martínez, turning the centre of the pitch into a barren area of the pitch, seemingly unsuited to use to create danger. By now, opponents have picked up on that tendency and have taken measures to stifle that threat, simultaneously allowing the Dragons time on the ball and waiting for them to be caught in possession – an increasingly frequent outcome.

 


 

Sporting expert Richard Cole

1) How would you appraise Sporting's performance overall in this season's Champions League so far?

Not nearly as bad as our one point would lead people to believe. A last minute howler against Maribor and an incredibly unlucky defeat of 10 versus 12 against Schalke really distorts how the team has played so far.

Certainly the team that was fairly average against Maribor has improved with more to come, I'm sure.

 

2) What have been the major positives and what have been the disappointments?

The major positives have been individual performances from the likes of Nani, Adrien Silva and Rui Patrício. The gutsy second half display against Chelsea and the even more gutsy fight-back against Schalke with just 10 men also show that Marco Silva has given this Sporting side an excellent spirit.

Disappointments have come through individual errors. Maurício seems lost without Marcos Rojo there to support him and Naby Sarr also looks capable of errors.

 

3) Will the team qualify for the knockouts?

It's not impossible and wins over Schalke and Maribor at home would leave Sporting finishing with 8 points should they lose to Chelsea. Yet this has been an odd group and I think even a 3rd place finish would be acceptable should it lead to a possible challenge for the Europa League.

 

Talking tactics, with Vasco Mota Pereira

Despite their better-looking domestic form, Sporting currently lie in fourth place of their group. Even though we won't be going into painstaking detail about the reasons why, it is hard not to focus on the centre-backs.

Anyone who is dedicated to running, cycling or any similar activity will know about the importance of having a strong core. While Marco Silva has done extremely well in managing to strike a balance between a defensively organised team and a side who knows when and how to pounce on the opposition, the centre-backs at the core of his defence look weak. The pairing of Maurício and Sarr looks vulnerable against mobile attacking opposition and ominous whenever they are required to bring the ball forward, which could leave Sporting quite exposed with limited attacking options. It is hard to envision the Lions progressing with such a glaring handicap in one of the most important areas of the pitch.

On the other hand, however, there's Nani. Even though most people were acutely aware of the winger's potential, witnessing him not make the most of it was enough to wonder how he would face his return to the Alvalade. Not only has his attitude been irreprehensible (Ryan Gauld's words of wanting to follow his example prove exactly that), but his positioning – and resulting contribution – also merits a few words.

Sticking to one of football's unspoken rules that dictate one should put the best player in the centre, whatever his original position may be, Marco Silva seems to have stumbled upon a winning recipe by allowing Nani to roam from the left to the centre and act as a hub for his team's play. The fact that he can nutmeg virtually any opponent, shoot, cross or assist – and with both feet, no less – consequently provides an immediate threat to Sporting's oppositions, but the need to close him down also opens up space to his team-mates, whom Nani has been happy to provide for.

 


 

Benfica expert Marco Lopes (to be updated after Monaco match)

1) How would you appraise Benfica's performance overall in this season's Champions League so far?

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2) What have been the major positives and what have been the disappointments?

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3) Will the team qualify for the knockouts?

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Talking tactics, with Vasco Mota Pereira

Under Jorge Jesus Benfica have steamrollered most of their domestic opposition with incredible ease. In fact, if we remove Vítor Pereira from the equation (including his time as André Villas-Boas' assistant coach), Jesus has dominated the past few seasons of the Portuguese league.

However, despite all the success in the Europa League, the Champions League has proved a different story and this season does not seem to be much different. As so often has been the case, Benfica's style of play has seemed ill-suited to the particular characteristics of Europe's top-tier competition.

The transition-based approach of quick breaks and reliance upon their defence's ability to fight against opposing attackers in evenly numbered fashion has led to difficulties against Zenit and Bayer Leverkusen. The transitions that Benfica tend to need to create opportunities for themselves leave them exposed to breakaways from more powerful and clinical teams. The picture below tells a story of a team that is consistently vulnerable down the middle, not unlike the previous seasons.

 

On the other hand, Ezequiel Garay's absence should not go unnoticed. The Argentinean centre-back was a crucial lynchpin to initiate Benfica's attacks from the back, ensuring there was always someone comfortable on the ball in the back-four. With Garay's departure, neither Luisão nor Jardel look particularly at ease carrying out that task, something that has become too obvious for anyone paying enough attention and often costly to Benfica's best interests.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars

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  • More of the usual top quality from Portugoal. I must say, there is no comparing this website to 99.9% of the other footballing sites out there. I agree with much of what has been said, with a few thoughts of my own.

    Sporting were downright robbed today. The ref and linesman may as well have been wearing royal blue jerseys today to fit in with their Schalke teammates. That penalty at the end was preposterous. I think one of the reasons futebol remains so corrupt is this adherence to the decisions of the officials. If a decision is so obviously wrong, and directly impacts the results of the match then it should be appealed.

    Paulo Oliveira should be the #1 CB for Sporting. He is consistent and good at snuffing out threats. Mauricio has been linked to ManU and I have to ask why. He has always been less than stellar in my eyes. Naby Sarr is also sub par in my opinion, but he may pair up with Oliveira better than Mauricio. I might even consider giving Rabia (new signing) a shot at the back. Otherwise, Sporting outplayed Schalke even with 10 men. They had their hearts on their sleeves. Nani may be taking the headlines, but Adrien is for me, the real MVP of this team this year. What a player.

    FC Porto, great result. I was thrilled to see Quaresma play and score the winner. Why he does not start is beyond me. Brahimi is a true talent and deserves a great deal of the kudos as well. However, I disagree with the Porto expert on Oliver Torres. He has been an overhyped addition to this team. When he plays, the errors in possession go up, and I cannot count how many times he goes missing for large portions of the game. Sure, he may pop up and display a nice dribble move, but I don't see what the hype is about. He was decent at Atletico, but he often warmed their bench and is just not developed yet.

    In my eyes, Porto need to get at least 7 points from the next 3 games in order to qualify 1st in the group and potentially gain a top spot ranking going into the knockouts. Sorry Benfas, not expecting very much from Jorge Jesus and the Funky Bunch tomorrow. They have looked horrible in the CL this year, and I don't even see them making the Europa League this year. I hope I am wrong.

    Cheers.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    Heartbreaking for Sporting to say the least.

    First, they drop points in the last minute to the easiest team Maribor after dominating all way through.

    Second, Rui Patricio has the best game of his life until Matic curles an unstoppable header just under the bar and out of Patricio's reach to help Chelsea steal all 3 points.

    Third, Sporting travels to Germany where they lay their hearts out playing a man down for 60+ mins and scoring twice to salvage a draw until they were utterly robbed by a disgraceful Russian referee.(Gazprom sponsors Shalke) There was no mistake here, the goal line linesman saw exactly where the ball hit and made a brutally corrupt call to crush their spirits. Even the 2nd yellow card (I missed the first) was a load of sh**. Extremely harsh on a 50-50 air challenge.

    Sporting were owning Shalke 10vs12. In a fair world with no bribery they will beat them at home.

    Credit to Marco Silva who is a fantastic coach.

    UEFA disgusts me.

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  • Guest - miklos12

    I just have to say "sorry, Portugal". this referee rated as a total clown in Russia, and I really don't understand, WHO could recommend Karasev for the Champions League. He is just a clown, and possibly the weakest referee in Russia, but he is the ONLY referee from Russia in CL. Unbelievable.
    This idiot killed Olympiacos 2 weeks ago, and Sporting yesterday. Shame.

    from Russia
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  • Guest - antonio/orlando

    Ever since I started to see Portuguese teams playing abroad regardless who they are, always obvious to me to cheer for Portugal, however if u read online port newspapers, yesterday n today benfiquistas comments are not only unpatriotic they are stupid and ignorant. rooting for a german team when sporting playing w 10 men for over an hour which for me is by far their best display of the year, it is so very sad. Regardless of their classless patriotic act today I will be cheering for benfica, even do Leonard jardim being a sporting coach last year, I have xero alliance to Monaco! but sometimes they say if u cant beat them join them, so with a benfica win I will be a proud Portuguese and with a jardim win I might drink another beer LOL. Shame on Benfiquistas n I don't mean all, there r some classy people here, just cant remember their names. LOL, JK

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  • Guest - Bill

    PortuGOAL.net is fantastic. I'm sharing and recommending the site to my fellow football fans and friends - this site deserves it. Keep it up boys, you give many of us such amazing reading joy in our working days (and weekends)! :-)

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  • Yesterday's Champion's League match ve. Schalke 04 was a travesty simply because of the officiating. Any casual or impartial observer could plainly see that the Russian ref did everything in his power to ensure that Schalke obtained a positive result. I am not one to usually resort to blaming officiating, but this was DISGUSTING.

    My Greek friend who is a Olympiacos supporter was ranting and raving about this same ref who made very questionable calls against Olympiacos two weeks ago in their CL match against. The following two quotes are from a Sky Sports article which I will cite below:

    "Kasami thought he had given Olympiakos the lead in the 40th minute with a well-executed scissor-kick volley, but referee Sergei Karasev blew for an infringement in the build-up"

    "Olympiakos began the second half with real purpose and were denied a clear-cut penalty when Giannis Maniatis was hauled down in the area 11 minutes after the restart but, instead of pointing to the spot, Karasev booked the midfielder for simulation."

    http://www1.skysports.com/football/live/match/325337/report

    Karasev has blown several major calls in two consecutive Champion's League matches. How is this guy allowed to continue officiating? There needs to be a shakedown within UEFA, FIFA, etc. Corruption and the lack of consistency and transparency is completely out of control. It has always been this way and I feel that it is getting worse. I have never been more supportive of video replay than I am now. The refs need to be scrutinized and called out for their mistakes and for influencing matches.

    Schalke's victory over Sporting was very generous and not indicative of what truly transpired on the pitch. Shame.

    I've said my peace.

    Attachments :
    from Boston, MA, USA
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  • Guest - SMH

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Well at least Sporting know next time they play a match with the same ref to expect 11v12 at the start and maybe even towards the match if the ref is kind enough 9v12. Only if Silva had a bloody nose maybe we would of had a chance lol this ref and his butt pirate brigade should be banned from major tournaments not the only game where they messed up big time.

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  • BTW, for those that care, as Portugoal.net has a new format, I too will be freshening things up and am retiring my former handle: "Bubba Zanetti SCP". Moving forward, I will be using my real name. It feels liberating. If anyone knows how to upload an image next to your username, please let me know. I have never had an issue editing a profile, but I am having difficulty with this format. Thanks!

    [img]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_NMp6SnohApk/TCzb9b_MefI/AAAAAAAAAdg/cJKt2PwFbsw/s1600/Sporting+C.P..jpg[/img]

    from Boston, MA, USA
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