Tag Archives: Primeira Liga

Benfica vs Ajax – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In a tie that is highly likely to be entertaining, two excellent young teams go head-to-head as Portuguese giants Benfica clash Eredivisie champions Ajax for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to Last 16

SL Benfica arguably caused the shock of the group stages as they pipped Barcelona to the runners-up spot in a group also containing Bayern Munich and Dinamo Kyiv.

They claimed a 3-0 win over the La Liga outfit at the Estadio Da Luz, before a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou meant they only needed to match Barca’s result in the final game. They won 2-0 against Kyiv to seal their spot, having scored seven goals and conceded nine.

Jorge Jesus has since left the club however, replaced by Nelson Verissimo until the end of the season.

Ajax completed a stunning group stage phase with six wins out of six, as Sebastian Haller scored ten goals to lead the scoring charts, scoring in all six games.

Erik Ten Haag’s side dominated a group including Sporting CP, Dortmund and Besiktas, scoring 20 goals and conceding just five to assert themselves as dark horses for the title.

Team news

Benfica have been in good form domestically but were held to a 2-2 draw most recently against Boavista. Grimaldo returned to the team and scored in that game, in a huge boost to the side.

Darwin Nunez has been in exceptional form this season with 21 goals in 26 games and will continue in attack, but Haris Seferovic is missing for the hosts. Goncalo Ramos should start in his place.

Ajax will be without trio Brian Brobbey, Martin Stekelenburg and Sean Klaiber, while Andre Onana is likely to continue to sit in the stands ahead of his summer move to Inter Milan.

Haller will continue in attack, while superstar winger Antony will continue to support him along with Dusan Tadic as they look to continue their 100% record throughout the competition.

Breakdown and Prediction

Benfica’s 442 system will be in place as usual to try and find a hole in the Ajax defence, but the Dutch giants are going to be well equipped for this fixture.

Having already been to Lisbon and dominated Sporting, they’re coming up against a lesser side who play a system more suited to them and they should have too much for them in attack.

Benfica have got plenty of firepower and defensively are quite strong, so don’t rule out an upset in the home leg but realistically this is an Ajax side at their absolute peak under Ten Hag.

The Dutch giants will dominate the tempo of the game and possession and slowly but surely chip away before scoring goals and claiming a routine win over two legs.

Benfica 1-3 Ajax
Ajax 2-0 Benfica
(Ajax to qualify 5-1 on aggregate)

Sporting CP vs Manchester City – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In a very exciting match up the Portuguese champions Sporting CP play host to the tournament favourites and current Premier League champions Man City.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to the last 16

In their first appearance in the Champions League for several years, Sporting made their presence felt by finishing as runners-up in the group of hipster teams.

Ruben Amorim’s side started poorly with defeats to Ajax and Dortmund in the opening two games, but back-to-back wins over Besiktas and then a huge home win against Dortmund saw them edge towards qualification.

In the end, it was Dortmund’s poor results against Ajax that cost them as they were eliminated on goal difference.

Man City on the other hand cruised to victory in their group of death, winning five of six games against Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Their only defeat came to PSG in Paris, when they played brilliantly but were caught out twice by Pochettino’s side.

They scored 18 goals in the group stages, more than everyone else bar Ajax and Bayern Munich, and come into the game in excellent form.

Team news

Sporting are likely to be without excellent midfielder Pote this season, who has been one of the best performing players in their team.

Joao Palhinha, Pablo Sarabia and Paulinho are the key men in midfield and attack and should all be available to start the game, while Sebastian Coates will lead the defence as captain.

Amorim’s 3-5-2 formation is likely to be set up to contain City rather than attack them too much, so expect Nuno Santos to play a little bit deeper than usual.

City will be without £100m man Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, while Kyle Walker is set to start a three-game suspension for his red card on the final match day of the group stages.

Raheem Sterling has been in fine form in recent weeks, bagging a hat-trick at the weekend while Kevin De Bruyne has had his minutes managed and is in peak physical condition for the business end of the season.

Ederson, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo will know the opposition well having previously played for Benfica and will all likely start the game.

Breakdown and Prediction

This is a game that is due to be really exciting and full of excellent tactical battles across the pitch.

Sporting play a high-intensity system with a big emphasis on scoring goals and controlling the ball, much like Pep Guardiola at City.

The difference here of course is that the quality of player that Guardiola has available to him is far greater than that of the Portuguese outfit.

Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his teams first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea...

Because of that, plus the experience at the top level, it’s fair to expect City to be able to dominate the game and implement their game plan on Sporting rather than the other way around.

With that being said, it’s hard to look past a relatively comfortable City win over the course of two legs.

Sporting will cause them problems over the course of the 180 minutes, but ultimately the added quality on the pitch and the touchline will pay dividends and City will progress to the next round.

Sporting CP 0-2 Man City
Man City 3-1 Sporting CP
(Man City qualify 5-1 on aggregate)

Ruben Amorim to the world – Sporting CP’s manager looking to take over Europe

Ludicrous, impulsive and straight-up nonsensical were just a portion of the adjectives awaiting Rúben Amorim in light of his appointment as Sporting manager for a whopping €10 million compensation fee, the third highest ever, just two months into his first stint in charge of his first top-flight club, Sporting de Braga.

The Lions’ club president, Frederico Varandas, and his camp were quick to remind critics of the last managerial gamble Sporting passed on – a relatively well-known individual by the name of José Mourinho – adding that the value forked out for Amorim would be nothing compared to money placed back into the coffers through player development and future sales.

For Sporting fans, promised a return to the glory days for so long, the vision in place seemed farfetched for a club who had not only gone 18 years without tasting Primeira Liga success, but had also seen their quality in numbers gutted by the mayhem that ensued in 2018 with widespread contract terminations, as the task to build on an uneven foundation rested on Amorim’s shoulders.



Against the better judgement of the doubters, however, of which there were, of course, plenty, what Amorim has been able to do in the green half of Lisbon since the bold move has been nothing short of miraculous, marking him out as one of the biggest up-and-coming commodities in the managerial industry.

Perhaps aided by a mid-season arrival at Sporting in early 2020, the then 35-year-old was quick to adhere to the historical connection the club has with its own academy by blooding youth, introducing a lot of the younger faces to the multi-faceted 3-4-3 formation he’s sworn by since arriving at the pinnacle of Portuguese football.

The results improved slowly and surely under the manager’s command and the eventual rise in prominence of Matheus Nunes, Nuno Mendes and Gonçalo Inácio, among others, served as the guiding light for what Amorim was looking to build.

Fresh doubts were cast during the following summer, with Sporting committing considerable funds to land the likes of Pedro Gonçalves and Nuno Santos, on top of others who had previously failed to inspire at previous clubs, such as Pedro Porro and the more experienced Antonio Adán and Zouhair Feddal.

Sporting Lisbon's Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates takes part in a training session at Cristiano Ronaldo Academy training ground in Alcochete near...

But as Pedro Gonçalves banged in the goals and ex-La Liga trio, Adán, Feddal and Porro formed part of an almost impenetrable defence, pushing its side up the table, it quickly became visible that what Amorim was cooking had clearly showed signs of bubbling.

The youthfulness of the squad continued the catch the eye as the onlookers quizzed Sporting’s manager, right throughout the season, how long such young heads could keep their title-winning form going.

Never one to pile on the pressure, Amorim was always and continues to be very measured with his words, disarming each and every press conference with rational and insightful dialogue.

He’s a grand protector of his players and in that, some may say, lies the key ingredient to his recent managerial success of late.

The rapport between player and manager is close-knit, with the fresh-faced coach often seen cracking a joke with his pupils at training and on the sidelines. That camaraderie extends itself throughout the entire squad, amongst the players, many of which are meant to be rivalling each other for the same position in Amorim’s plans.

Pablo Sarabia of Sporting CP celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Liga Bwin match between Sporting CP and FC Famalicao at...

With Sporting’s future stars, already fuelled by the prospect of causing an impression at such a young age, being nurtured by the importance of work ethic and togetherness, the club was able to achieve what the wealth of Benfica and the experience of FC Porto could not in 2021, bringing to a close a dispiriting cycle of 19 years without the evasive Primeira Liga title.

This season, with greater expectations attached to the precedent set, Amorim & co. are hoping to go back-to-back as they tussle with Porto at the midpoint of the season.

In the meantime, the former Portugal international has made inroads on the European stage too, where they made it out of the UEFA Champions League group for the first time since 2008, with a date against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City set up for the last round of 16.

The match-up presents a platform for João Palhinha and Pedro Gonçalves, among many others, to increase the number of suitors already onto the noise emanating from Alvalade, but you can bet much of the attention will also coming knocking for the 37-year-old manager, particularly if the current title holder manages to pull off a shock against ‘the Citizens’.

Ruben Amorim the manager of Sporting CP reacts during the Liga Portugal Bwin match between FC Porto and Sporting CP at Estadio do Dragao on February...

Whoever it is that comes calling will have to part way with €30 million, as per Amorim’s release clause, running across a deal that expires in 2024.

The figure has served as a repellent for interested teams during a time of absolute focus on the project at hand from the former Portugal international, but Sporting know they won’t be able to hold onto their poster boy for too long.

The club fortunate enough to reel him in will be acquiring the latest in a line of promising Portuguese managers – dubbed the leader of the new school and, still, the heir to Mourinho’s throne.

Unlike the former Chelsea and Inter boss, however, Amorim’s foundations stem from a great sense of modesty, respect and general correctness. He’s an adaptable figure who’s rallying cries touch numerous types of characters and make Sporting the thriving family-like ambience it is today.

It’s this clear vision and approach that’s enabled Amorim’s teams to dream and excel, decorating a CV that becomes more and more attractive to his suitors by the week.

Tuesday night, against City, holds the power of fast-forwarding the inevitable – presenting Amorim to the world.

Remembering Greatness: Ricardo Carvalho

Between the early 00’s and mid 2010’s the manager who running football was none other than Jose Mourinho.

Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid all hosted the Portuguese gaffer, and at three of those clubs he made sure that he had the great Ricardo Carvalho with him marshalling the defence for him.

From a period of having flowing locks to essentially going bald, Carvalho was a standout defender wherever he went and always shone, yet he never seemed to get the full credit that he really deserved.

Coming through the FC Porto academy, Carvalho was well known for his excellent tackling and dominant aerial ability. Positionally he was always flawless and he always had leadership qualities that shone through in a team full of quality footballers.

After breaking through into the Porto first-team, he found himself third choice behind the legendary duo of Jorge Andrade and captain Jorge Costa. It wasn’t long until he took the place of the skipper though and formed a tremendous partnership at the heart of the defence as Porto came second in the league.

He lost his place when Mourinho first came to Porto, with Costa earning his place back after Andrade left for Deportivo and partnering Pedro Emmanuel. He soon earned his place back once more though and as Porto went on to win the UEFA Cup by beating Celtic 3-2 after extra-time. His performances were so good that he even earned the individual honours of Porto player of the year and Portuguese League Footballer of the year.

The following year was when Carvalho became a true household name. A regular starter now under Mourinho, he led Porto to a second consecutive Primeira Liga title but also to a stunning win in the UEFA Champions League tournament. During that season he featured in every game during the competition, including the 3-0 final win over Monaco.

His performances were enough to secure him a place in the team of the tournament and earn him a call up to the Portuguese national team for Euro 2004. Once again he was deemed first choice there too as the Seleccao made it to the final, only to be beaten in the final by Greece on home turf.

Carvalho started all six of Portugal’s games, reuniting with Andrade in defence, and he made it into the UEFA team of the tournament, while also finishing ninth in the Ballon d’Or voting for 2004 and being the only defender to finish in the top ten.

He earned himself a big money move to Chelsea that summer, following Mourinho to his next destination. It was there where he formed his most famous partnership alongside Mr. Chelsea, John Terry. Together they were the mainstays in a defence that conceded just 15 goals across the entire league campaign as they won the title, a record that still stands to this day.

The following season they conceded just 22 times as they lifted the title a second time the following year, with Carvalho once again a star. He went on to feature 210 times for the Blues, winning three Premier League titles and two League Cups during his six seasons before opting for a move to Real Madrid – who were managed by Mourinho.

Once again he stepped into the team as a level headed, dominant defender and formed a great partnership alongside Portuguese national team colleague Pepe. In his first season with the club he was indispensable as Madrid won the Copa Del Rey, featuring 48 times across all competitions. In his second year he was first-choice until picking up an injury that kept him out of action.

During that spell Sergio Ramos moved to centre-back, where he would go on to become one of the best ever, and Carvalho lost his place at Madrid from that point onwards. Los Blancos won La Liga in record-breaking fashion that year, before he eventually moved on to Monaco to see out his career.

But during his time in France, he is more remembered for making a return to the national team to win Euro 2016. He started all three group games before being dropped for the knockout stages and his experience and leadership were credited largely within the squad, as the country won their first ever major international honour, beating host nation France in the final in extra time.

A phenomenal defender in his prime he was the perfect foil for his partners. Intelligent and dripping with technique and finesse, Carvalho was also always strong enough physically to never be bullied. He had pace to win foot races, a picture perfect slide tackle and a will to win.

Without a doubt one of the best defenders of his generation, Carvalho will go down as one of his nations best ever and a legend at two different clubs. Remember his greatness.

Is Ruben Dias The Answer To Manchester City Centre Back Issue?

After Vincent Kompany left the club back in the summer of 2019, Manchester City were always short in central defence. Not just in numbers, but in quality.

The Belgian left after a 10 year spell in Manchester, meaning Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Eric Garcia were the only recognised centre-backs at the club. Rather than replace him Pep Guardiola opted to use Fernandinho in defence which was fine when Laporte played, but when he didn’t (which was often) they looked shaky.

This summer City have prioritised a central defender with real quality, with Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli the number one target for the club. Nathan Ake was brought in to shore up numbers too, but Koulibaly remained the man that was most often linked to bolstering the back line.

After months of negotiations, the deal has failed to move forward and City have reportedly move on to other targets with just 9 days left of the transfer window. Jules Kounde of Sevilla was subject to a €55million bid last week, but Sevilla rejected the offer and pointed towards his €80million release clause. Koulibaly’s price has been reported to be around €70million with add-ons included, so it’s highly unlikely City go that high for the young Frenchman when their number one choice is cheaper.

This has seemingly brought them to Portugal’s big defensive hope of the new generation in Ruben Dias.

According to Fabrizio Romano Manchester City have entered talks with Benfica over a potential move for Dias, with Nicolas Otamendi likely to go in the opposite direction to help lower the fee. But is Dias the answer?

For me, not just yet. Dias is a very good defender and has shown that he is better than the Portuguese league with his performances for the national team. He is comfortable on the ball, relatively quick, strong in a one-on-one situation and competitive in the air. But he doesn’t stand out in any of those fields as exceptional to me.

As an option alongside Laporte, Dias would fit in seamlessly and he’s definitely an upgrade on Stones, Ake and Otamendi but City’s issue is when Laporte isn’t there. Koulibaly is used to being that cornerstone of a defence so he’d have no issue taking on the mantle if he was signed, while Kounde did well as the leader of the Sevilla defence despite being only 21 years old. Dias is the leader of the Benfica defence right now but it says something that Porto pipped them to the title last season and his best performances have undoubtedly come for the national team alongside Pepe.

The reported fee of €55-60million plus Otamendi seems quite extortionate in the current market but Guardiola must be keen to either bolster the defence no matter what, or this is a ploy to put pressure on Napoli.

I don’t think it’s the latter and Dias’ reputation is high. He has talent and at only 23 years old he will only improve. Personally, I think he needs a step between where he is now and Man City, so he can bed himself into the league and improve more before the big price tag adds the extra pressure on him. A club like Leicester would be ideal for him, where they will compete against everyone in the division and play with the same principles as the best teams in the league.

Overall, that step looks unlikely to come now with a deal reportedly close and I’m excited to see Ruben Dias in the Premier League.

Benfica’s Champions League Curse Continues

In the uncertain times of today, dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic, few are the football clubs willing to spend as freely as other transfer windows have allowed.

Curiously, irrespective of the risks and needs to safeguard against turns in the financial tide, one team appears to be spending like never before.

Hiring a top-20-earning manager, being linked with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur’s Jan Vertonghen and ex-Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani before spending a whopping €80 million in transfer fees on top of that, it’ll come as a surprise to many that Benfica, from cash-strapped Portugal, are the ones flaunting such fierce financial firepower.

Free-spending isn’t entirely foreign for the Estádio da Luz outfit, who’ve completed four of their five most expensive deals ever just in the last 12 months, but the manner is as aggressive as ever after a lacklustre 2019/20 season.

SL Benfica v Rennes FC - Pre Season Friendly : News Photo

Fresh in the memory is Bruno Lage’s demise in charge of the Eagles, last season, winning just five of his last 15 games at the club before resigning to the tune of bitter rivals FC Porto charging to the league title.

Lage didn’t pick up all of the blame, however, having previously sealed the title in 2018/19 after two-time champion Rui Vitória, now at Al-Nassr, succumbed to the same fate mid-season.

The board’s harshest critics were quick to point towards the club’s inability to cast in the correct personnel, struggling firstly to cater for the aging Jonas and, later, replacing João Félix effectively.

A season prior to Vitória’s sacking, Benfica also missed the chance to win five league titles in a row, a record held by Porto, who were, against the odds, able to wrap up the 2017/18 league title for themselves on a shoestring budget.

Head-to-head in the last three season, the Dragons are 2-1 up in titles, which weighs heavy on Luís Filipe Vieira’s reputation as club president, with elections looming over the club next month.

The club’s European success, or lack thereof, has been an even bigger source of disappointment, falling at the group stages in each of their last three Champions League campaigns which included 2017/18’s rock-bottom finish, accumulating no points at all in Manchester United’s group.

In addition to having his name muddied by numerous allegations into corruption, after 17 years in charge of the club, Vieira is, without a doubt, going through his least boastful spell in the red half of Lisbon. This brings us to his new, more aggressive approach ahead of the new season, as well as October’s pending election, in which Vieira really has gone for the jugular.

The first port of call has been Jorge Jesus – a name very familiar to the club for the best and worst reasons. A three-time league champion in six years, the Eagles played some of their best football under the 66-year-old, but his tenure at the club ended on a real sour note, trading the red of Benfica for the green of cross-city rivals Sporting in the summer of 2015.

Then came the signings of Everton Cebolinha from Grêmio, adding to the capture of Corinthians’ Pedrinho, Vertonghen’s free transfer, a successful move for Germany Under-21 international Gian-Luca Waldschmidt and record-transfer Darwin Nuñez, arriving from Spanish second tier side Almeria.

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With a bill north of €80 million and moves for Flamengo pair Gerson and Bruno Henrique, as well as Olympiakos centre-half Rubén Semedo still tabbed up, the message coming from Benfica was clear. This wasn’t a club simply after domestic success, but one seeking redemption on a European stage, befitting of the money invested in both players and manager.

But as the Red & Whites stretched their finances to the limit, they seemed to have overlooked one very pertinent fact about Champions League football – they were yet to qualify.

In Tuesday’s one-legged play-off, PAOK Salonika handed Benfica the most brutal reminder of that, knocking them out in a 2-1 victory sealed by their ex-player, Andrija Zivkovic, who was allowed to head for Greece on a free transfer just this month.

With it, the Serbian winger, a handsome earner during his time in Lisbon, wiped €40 million from Benfica’s coffers, upon eventual qualification for the centrepiece of European club football – a staggering 35% of the club’s annual revenue. By contrast, should the Eagles qualify for the Europa League and win the tournament, they’d only earn up to €26 million.

The elimination arrives with immediate consequences as the club battles to avoid the trail left by Sporting and Porto and landing themselves in hot water with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.

Benfica may well need to sell a player or two for sizeable fees which, with super-agent Jorge Mendes in the contacts book, may not seem like such an impossible task, but it doesn’t bode well for a squad Jesus, reportedly, still believes to be incomplete, nor will it sit well with the fans hopeful of seeing some of the club’s brightest prospects out on the pitch, rather than on the transfer market.

The Eagles have been here before with Jesus, as well as Mendes, letting go of the likes of Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, Helder Costa and João Cancelo, all curiously for €15 million to AS Monaco and Valencia, both well-connected to the portuguese agent. Today, Florentino Luis and Ferro may well be the next to walk the plank.

Financial troubles will do Vieira no wonders too going into an election. Not only is the prospect of no European football a blow to fans, eager to see their star-studded team in action at the very top, but the recklessness of it, laid bare by Tuesday’s elimination, is sure to erase some form of trust in the top man from sections of the support.

That may not be enough to dethrone the current incumbent just yet, still a favourite going into the elections, but the worries over an ambitious project, that seems to be over before its even begun, shall persist.