With the start of the new Primeira Liga season now less than two weeks away, clubs are finishing up their preparations for the new season. Benfica expert Alfredo Fumacas, a host and creator of Benfica Podcast, took some time out of his busy schedule to give PortugalFutbol some insight into what we can expect from Benfica this season.
Work us through Benfica’s transfer activity so far this summer. Any big name arrivals/departures?
Benfica has signed a few players in the off season. Perhaps the biggest one is Moroccan international Adel Taarabt. The former QPR man, who had a loan spell at AC Milan, was picked up by Benfica on a free transfer. He is undoubtedly the most talented of Benfica’s signings to date, but along with that talent there’s also uncertainty, as the talented attacking midfielder has had issues with indiscipline and unprofessional behavior at former clubs.
Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson was picked up from Rio Ave and will fill in the empty spot left by Artur Moraes, whose contract ran out. Medhi Carcela, also a Moroccan international, was brought in from Belgium’s Standard Liege, and although not as highly touted as his compatriot, he may very well be this year’s surprise.
On the exit side, the biggest exit has to be Maxi Pereira. Benfica’s long standing right back couldn’t reach an agreement with the club to renew his contract, and signed with Benfica’s rival up north FC Porto. Lima will also be a big loss, as the Brazilian’s league output was only bested by Porto’s Jackson Martinez, and equaled by Jonas.
Jorge Jesus scandalously left Benfica at the end of last season, after more than five years at the helm. Now, Rui Vitória is in charge. What can we expect from Benfica’s new coach?
Scandalously may not be the right word, I would say shockingly. Rui Vitória brings in a solid curriculum full of successive improvements over his coaching career. Despite never having been at the helm of a big club, Vitória’s career has been a clear ascension into multiple levels of competency.
Vitória’s style is a departure from Benfica’s former coach – more calculated, calm in sideline mannerisms, along with a knowledge of the game, and coaching ability at the level of today’s top Portuguese coaches. As a Benfiquista at heart, we can expect a genuine and transparent approach as the team’s leader. Vitoria preferred the one forward setup at Guimarães, but as I have mentioned, he won’t make many radical changes to last year’s successful setup.
Just as a recap, how did Benfica finish last season? What are the expectations this season?
Benfica won their second consecutive title, a feat that hadn’t done in over 30 years by Benfica. The expectations are obviously to win a third consecutive this year. We have kept 9 of the 11 starters from last year. Having a first year coach will always be a factor, but I believe the structure behind, and within the club will make for a smooth and seamless transition.
Who will Benfica’s danger men/most important players be this season?
It’s hard to talk about Benfica and not mention Jonas. He was one goal short of equaling Jackson Martinez last season, having played fewer games.
Gaitán (if he stays) is also going to be one of Benfica’s attacking references. In a year of coaching and methods transition, Luisão’s leadership role will also be one of the most important ones in this team, along with Samaris who has emerged as a leadership voice this early in the season.
Run us through Vitória’s preferred formation at Benfica. What can we expect? Can you predict a starting eleven?
In his introductory presser, Vitória mentioned that he wasn’t going to revolutionize the team, or change what was working. So far we haven’t seen many changes to last year’s tactical disposition of a dynamic 4-4-2 with a few tweaks.
The starting eleven shouldn’t be too far from : Júlio César, Sílvio/ André Almeida at right back, Luisão and Jardel in the center of the defense, Eliseu at left back. Samaris should be in the center midfield role, along with Pizzi, while Gaitan and Carcela(in Salvio’s absence) should be on the wings. Up front Jonas will start with most likely Jonathan Rodriguez.
The transfer window will be open until September 1st. Will Benfica dip into the transfer market further?
With Lima’s exit Benfica will need to go to the market and buy a forward, this will be Benfica’s number one priority. After seeing the team in pre-season, I would say a player for the “8” position would also be an important need and crucial in Benfica’s European campaign. Lower on the priority list would be a full back for either side.
Are there any young talents who have a chance at playing time this season?
Jonathan Rodriguez, Gonçalo Guedes, Lindelöf, and Nélson Semedo are perhaps the names that emerge as young talents poised to grab minutes this season. Their utilization will vary greatly on Benfica’s depth at their respective positions.
Final league prediction.
As a Benfiquista, I am expecting another championship this year, but realistically it will be a lot harder this upcoming season as both Porto and Sporting have improved in one way or another. I believe there are a few key positions that need to be filled with important players this season in order for Benfica to be more competitive and deeper to fight on all fronts.