Within our group Benfica are the team to beat. They play a very aggressive, high speed, game, which most teams are unable to keep up with.
So, can we defeat this team? To be blunt, this is a Bayer Leverkusen-type game, and to win these higher-level games we need to turn up.
There is no point talking about tactics, if we put in the woeful performance we did last year, when we gave Bayer Leverkusen, the ball for 50 minutes, before we thought ‘eh, why don’t we do some attacking?’…
The point is, there is no reason for Rangers to play a long defensive game, when we already showed last year we know how to beat the top teams in Portugal.
For some background, Benfica changed coaches and are now playing under Jorge Jesus for their second time. During his first reign he won 225 out of 321 of the games he managed, and he only lost 45 of them. He also led them to the Europa League finals twice.
In total Benfica have won 84 trophies, and they won the UEFA Cup twice in a row, but despite repeatedly getting to the finals of the major European competitions they have now lost their last eight European finals.
That argues this is a really good team, and clearly one of the best teams in Europe, and on paper most would argue we have zero chance, because the team we face this Thursday is worth over 300 million Euros!
But Portuguese teams have a weakness. They are goal machines, who play crazy Braga style, with a suicidal back line that plays just far too high up the park, and as Braga and Porto (who are the least suicidal of the Portuguese teams) found out, that just does not work against a good team that can play out from the back.
So, even though they paid 21 million Euros for two center backs to support the four center backs they already have on their payroll, they are going to struggle against a fast attacking side,
And that key weakness clearly surfaced in their game against Lech Poznan, when they lost two goals, and were struggling at (2:2) for most of the match.
If we do the same against Benfica, we can expect this to be an entertaining match.
This year our team is stronger. For example, all our strikers (Yes, this includes Morelos) are being re-trained by Gerard to become better midfielders. So they know how to pass the ball forward to others.
This is to give our already strong counter attack even more bite.
Just now, the Portuguese press are very confident their team will progress from this group, but their manager, Jorge Jesus, already knows this is going to be a tough match.
And I agree…
It IS going to be tough, but I see no reason why we can’t make it nine points out of nine.