60 Years Without the European Cup, Is This the Year For Benfica?
The biggest European club competition will enter a crunch stage this coming week. Eight teams have made it into the quarter finals of the 2021/2022 UEFA Champions league and it promises to be the best of European football artistry on display. The pairings couldn’t have been any better and Tuesday’s game between Benfica of Portugal and Liverpool of England has once again awakened interest in the history and fortunes of the Portuguese club in European club football. It has been a long time since “The Eagles” as Benfica is fondly called, held the holy grail of European club football. It has been 60 long years since they last won this trophy. Could this be the year that Benfica makes it into the final in Paris and end up lifting the cup for the third time?
Liverpool has won 6 European cups or Champions league and is a highflying club at the moment, parading some of the most lethal strikers in the world as seen in Sadiou Mane and Mo Salah, but one must still make no mistake about the equally outstanding place of Benfica in European club history. This is a team that produced the high-scoring Eusebio da Silva Ferreira who scored nine goals for Portugal in the 1966 World Cup in England. Equally noteworthy is the fact that Benfica won the European cup in a back to back series in 1961 and 1962 and have appeared in 10 European final matches. Benfica is a giant in Portuguese football in just about the same terms that Liverpool is a colossus in English club circles. Both have won all there is to win at domestic levels and only seek to consolidate their positions on the European and world stage. So, this particular pairing seems like a perfect match, indeed, a clash of two domestic giants on a European stage. And that is the whole essence of the UEFA Champions league, a series where the very best at home come to a continental stage, watched by the huge world of football. Fame and fortune, history and pride will all be at stake when both teams line out at Estadio da Luz.
Liverpool goes into the game with 19 goals from 8 matches in their kitty. This is a key asset in game which thrives on goals. On the other hand, Benfica has just 10 goals from an equal number of games played. The Portuguese team also has a weak defense when compared with Liverpool having conceded 11 goals to Liverpool’s 7. The English team boasts of a sharper attacking machine which is spearheaded by the likes of Mane and Salah. But Benfica can’t be written off with a wave of the hand. Adel Taarabt, Darwin Nunez and Joao Mario may prove just as lethal on their good days in front of goal.
Going into Tuesday’s game, Coach Nelson Verissimo must prove that Benfica is serious about becoming the best in Europe again. Fans of the Eagles deserve something tangible after waiting for six dry decades without touching the very best trophy in European club football. But they must attack knowing that Jorgen Klopp is a great tactician at Liverpool who plays an exciting attacking football that blends skill with speed, indeed a man with a tactical culture that has been built overtime. The outcome of this game will provide an early indication whether this will be the year of the Eagles.