Five Challenges For Chelsea Against Benfica

Chelsea are the bookies' favourites to win the Europa League on Wednesday, but Daniel Storey looks at five of Benfica's strengths the Blues will need to look out for...

Last Updated: 14/05/13 at 13:46 Post Comment

Latest Articles

WhoScored's Team Of The World Cup

Post comment

Who would ever have thought that Ron Vlaar would feature in that line-up? He's one of three Dutchies but there's only one German despite their status as favourites...

F365's Complete List Of Summer Transfers

24 comments

The list is growing. Still to sign a soul are Arsenal, QPR and Tottenham...

All Articles

Wounded Animal
With 90 minutes played of their title decider against Porto last weekend, Benfica's league season had been nothing short of remarkable. They were without defeat, scoring 74 goals during a campaign that saw them build up a 21-point lead over third-placed Pacos Ferreira.

However, the stoppage time goal from Porto's 19-year-old striker Kelvin changed all of that. It brought coach Jorge Jesus to his knees and saw the title slip from the Aguias' grip.

With Benfica now forced to rely on their title rivals to slip up, their eggs now firmly sit in a Europa League basket. Whilst Chelsea, with a top four place now secured, would have hoped for Benfica to be fighting on multiple fronts, their Portuguese opponents will now be more motivated still to secure Benfica's first European trophy in over 50 years.


Europe's Most Underrated Striker
One of the most surprising elements of Benfica's defeat to Porto was that striker Oscar Cardozo was left on the bench. Whether or not this was tactical or due to concerns over the Paraguayan's fitness is unclear, but the forward will surely have added motivation to impress on Wednesday night.

There is an argument for labelling Cardozo as Europe's most underrated striker. Since his move from Newell's Old Boys in 2007, Cardozo has scored 159 goals in 255 games, one of the best goal-to-game ratios in Europe over that period. He also has six goals in this season's Europa League, more than any Chelsea player has managed.

Left-footed and possessing an impressively powerful shot, Cardozo is also incredibly dangerous from set pieces. He scored twice against Fenerbache in the semi-final second leg to ensure Benfica's safe passage to the final.


The One That Got Away
Now 24, Nemanja Matic was brought to Stamford Bridge from Slovakia by Carlo Ancelotti in August 2009, but made only two Premier League substitute appearances as Chelsea won the title. After spending a year on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, the Serbian was included as a makeweight in the deal that saw David Luiz move from the Estadio da Luz.

Matic has flourished in Portugal, establishing himself as a first-team regular after the departure of Javi Garcia to Manchester City. His reputation at Benfica was emphasised by the new contract he signed after scoring a wonderful volley against Porto in January. It contains a minimum release clause of €45million.

There were even rumours of Manchester United interest last month in a player who remains calm under pressure, playing simple passes while maintaining the ability to drive forward and support the attack.


Solid Foundations
Whilst Benfica rightly have a reputation as one of Europe's most attractive teams to watch, there is no doubting the solid foundation on which such eye-catching attacks are grounded.

One of the club's best pieces of business over the last few years was the signing of Ezequiel Garay in 2011. After struggling for first team football at Real Madrid during his three years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Benfica were able to capture the Argentina international for around £5million.

Garay's partnership with Brazilian Luisao has been remarkably effective, and Benfica have conceded just 17 goals this season. Both men stand at 6'4", and combine a huge aerial presence with the composure to pass the ball out of defence, a perfect combination for Benfica's entertaining style.


Tricky Winger
After struggling for form earlier this season, Nicolas Gaitan has since returned to his best, and is one of the brightest jewels in Benfica's crown. Signed in 2010 as a replacement for the departing Angel Di Maria, the Argentine has been utilised predominantly as a left winger, although he is comfortable on either flank and regularly switches wings mid-game.

Repeatedly linked with a move to Manchester United, Gaitan has a £38m release fee. Still only 25, the winger scored Benfica's opener in the semi-final second leg against Fenerbahce. Gaitan is also more than aware of what the final means to both himself and Benfica.

"You dream about this as a child. I have been watching [this competition] since I was a child, and now it is a reality," Gaitan told UEFA.com.

"It has been a long time since Benfica reached a European final. Now we have a chance to achieve that as well. So in terms of history, the time is now."

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

B

rilliant article. Anything that makes a man of Scolari's age wear a cap with a hashtag on it will surely precede a disaster

westwoodbo
Brazil Team Over-Subscribed To Idea Of Neymar As Deity

R

ather than Sanchez nearly done could you provide the completion status please? Maybe today Sanchez deal 72% done and then tomorrow Sanchez deal 74.3% done , leading up to 100% on the evening of the transfer window close day. Thank you.

CamberleyGooner
The Autopilot Gossip

L

ast five Arsenal captains: Gallas, Fabregas, Van Persie, Vermaelen, Arteta. Talk about a poisoned chalice...

juan de gunnaz
The Sluggish Gossip

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Transfer news: Arsenal complete signing of Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona

Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for a fee believed to be £35million.

World Cup: Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal insists third-place play-off

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal insists a World Cup third-place play-off "has got nothing to do whatsoever with sport."

FIFA rejects Luis Suarez appeal against ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini

FIFA has rejected an appeal from Luis Suarez against his four-month worldwide ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini.

Mail Box

Mails: It's Not Entertainment, It's Sport...

When did we start getting the idea that football was an entertainment business? It's about winning and winning alone. We also have some defences of Louis van Gaal...

Do England Need Scholes, Lineker Etc?

They've all got ideas about where things are going wrong, so why don't they step up and help? Plus, we have lots of fall-out from the dullness of Holland v Argentina...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property