Blog

A clean sweep?

With Sporting already qualified to the last 16, it's down to Benfica and Porto to make it a clean sweep for Portugal

WORDS Simon Hart

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

A clean sweep?
Blog

A clean sweep?

With Sporting already qualified to the last 16, it's down to Benfica and Porto to make it a clean sweep for Portugal

WORDS Simon Hart

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Portugal has hosted the last two Champions League finals but its competition pedigree stretches all the way back to the days of Eusébio and the great Benfica side of the 1960s, twice winners of the European Cup. The country can also lay claim to the competition’s record scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit he scored not a single one of his 140 Champions League goals for Sporting Clube de Portugal, the club where he began his career and whose academy today bears his name. 

The nation’s ever-impressive production line of talent, meanwhile, is illustrated by the presence of a Portuguese side in three of the last four UEFA Youth League finals, though it is now 17 years since José Mourinho’s Porto became the most recent Portuguese winners of the senior trophy.

It is fair to say that the economics of 21st century elite club football do not favour teams outside the very strongest domestic leagues, yet there is the possibility of a fresh feat for Portugal’s participants as the Champions League group stage concludes this week. After all, never before have three Portuguese clubs advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Indeed only once in the past decade have two made it through together – Benfica and Porto four years ago – and those same two clubs enter their respective fixtures against Dynamo Kyiv and Club Atlético de Madrid aiming to join Sporting in the knockout stage.

In the case of Sérgio Conceição’s Porto they are guaranteed second place behind Liverpool in Group B if they defeat an Atlético side whom they held to a goalless draw in Madrid in September. In Group E, Benfica must beat Dynamo and hope that another side from across the border, Barcelona – currently two points better off – suffer defeat at Bayern München.

Porto may have the greater reason to believe. Putting to one side their results against Liverpool – opponents who do to them what Kryptonite does to Superman – they are a reflection of their coach Sérgio Conceição, in the sense of being a fiercely competitive unit. Indeed, the sight of him and Diego Simeone on the touchline on Tuesday night should be a sub-plot worth following.

Sérgio Conceição during Porto's clash with Liverpool in the group stage.

According to Mehdi Taremi, the club’s Iranian forward, working with Sérgio Conceição “is both very difficult and enjoyable because he always has his own rules, and you have to obey them”. Their aggressive pressing game was certainly too much for Juventus at the Dragão in last season’s last 16 and they need not be fearful of an Atlético side who have scored only four times and kept one clean sheer so far in the competition, and fell 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday. 

While Primeira Liga leaders Porto can draw on the experience of quarter-final runs in 2019 and 2021, Benfica have not reached the Champions League’s knockout rounds since 2017. Jorge Jesus’s side would be in a much more favourable position had Haris Seferović not poked the ball wide of a gaping goal in stoppage time in the goalless draw with Barcelona a fortnight ago – a miss that literally left coach Jesus on the floor and declaring he had not seen anything like it “in 30 years”.  

In a less emotionally charged moment, Jesus spoke to Champions Journal for issue 10 and said that in his second season back at the club “it’s not easy to stop Benfica in attack and it’s not easy to score against Benfica so little by little we’re constructing our identity”. Friday’s 3-1 home derby loss to Sporting suggests the construction work goes on yet at home in this season’s Champions League they have performed well, beating Barcelona 3-0 and matching Bayern for 70 minutes before a late collapse (and eventual 4-0 defeat). In short then, some reason for Benfiquistas to believe. 

As for Benfica’s neighbours Sporting, they have no such anxieties with second place in Group C already wrapped up ahead of their Amsterdam encounter with Ajax – thanks to an impressive 3-1 home success over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 5. Coach Rúben Amorim, a former Benfica player, is only 36 but he has instilled a strong winning mentality in a side who earned Sporting their first league title in 19 years last season. They shrugged off defeats in their first two group games with a run of three straight victories and are now looking forward to Champions League knockout football for the first time since 2008/09. 

“Obviously, winning the league last year was very important to all of us,” says their captain Sebastián Coates of the psychological impact of that title triumph. The former Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back is one of Sporting’s key men along with midfielder João Palhinha – a Portuguese international ranked in the competition’s top 10 for recoveries – and wide attacker Pedro Gonçalves who troubles defences with his movement and awareness, as highlighted by his back-to-back doubles against Beşiktaş and Dortmund. For them, it’s job done as we enter matchday 6. Over to the other two now... 

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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