Having beaten Russian club Anzhi in the round of 16, the Magpies can now look to their quarterfinal matchup against Portuguese giants Benfica in the Europa League. The Lisbon based-club is one of the most historic clubs in European football, and will undoubtedly pose a touch opposition for Newcastle.
In order to give you a bit more information on our Portuguese opposition, we have compiled together a comprehensive Factfile. Enjoy:
Benfica (Or Sport Lisboa e Benfica) are Portugal’s most successful club in history, both domestically and internationally. Part of Portuguese football’s Os Três Grandes or The Big Three along with FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon, Benfica have won 32 league championships, 24 Portuguese Cups and 2 European Cups.
The club was founded by a group of former students in 1904 under the name Sport Lisboa, carrying on the tradition of many clubs of the period by taking an English name. At the time, it was decided that the club’s colours would be red and white, their emblem would be an eagle and the motto would be the latin E Pluribus Unum or “Out of many, one.”
In 1908 the group merged with the smaller Grupo Sport Benfica and became Sport Lisboa e Benfica. Despite being known as Lisbon’s flagship club, Benfica is actually named after a suburb in the North-west of the Portuguese capital where the team’s home ground, Estádio da Luz is located.
After being in the shadow of Lisbon rivals Sporting for most of the first half of the 20th century, Benfica began to emerge after the Second World War. The signing of Mozambique-born Portuguese international Eusébio ushered in the club’s golden age in the 1960s where they won two European Cups (1961,1962) and made three more finals (1963, 1965, 1968).
In the 1970s and 1980s, the club’s European successes ended as clubs from Northern Europe and Italy began to dominate the European Cup, though Benfica continued to dominate domestic competitions.
In recent decades, Benfica’s domestic supremacy has been usurped by that of FC Porto. The Águias or Eagles have only won the Portuguese league 4 times since 1990-91. In contrast, Porto has won 15 championships and Sporting Lisbon 2. So far this season however, they hold a two point lead over Porto.
Famous former players include former Fiorentina and AC Milan midfielder Rui Costa, Chelsea’s Ramires and David Luiz, Manchester City’s Javi Garcia and Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria.
The Estádio da Luz or Stadium of Lights is located in a North-west Suburb of Lisbon but is easily accessible from the centre of the city and Portela airport by the Metro. The Colégio Militar/Luz station is the closest stop to the stadium and only requires a short walk.
The stadium is often referred to as the Cathedral of Portuguese Football. It remains the largest stadium in the country, and has a category 4 rating from UEFA. It was rebuilt for the 2004 European Championships and hosted the finals of that tournament. It will host the 2014 UEFA Champions League final.
Benfica manager Jorge Jesus is highly experienced in domestic football and is known for his combative personality. After an unremarkable career as a midfielder, Jesus made a quick transition to coaching after retiring. He has managed eleven different clubs in Portugal.
This is Jesus’ fourth campaign as manager at Benfica. His greatest success came in his first season at the club in 2009 when Benfica last won the Portuguese league. Jesus was also named the coach of the year.
Benfica could still realistically complete a treble if they win the Portuguese League, the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League. As mentioned, they remain two points behind rivals FC Porto in the domestic league with 8 matches left. Though this does still include a match in Porto that could very well decide who wins the Liga Zon-Sagres this year.
Jorge Jesus’ club began this season in the Champions league and were drawn in a group with Spanish giants FC Barcelona, as well as Celtic and Russian club Spartak Moskva. They finished a disappointing third with 8 points in six matches, and only scored a dismal 5 goals. But they have since eliminated Bayer Leverkusen and Bordeaux to reach the quarterfinals of the Europa League.
Despite being a Portuguese club, Benfica regularly field squads made up of mostly South Americans. Benfica’s most influential creative force is the diminutive midfielder Nicolas Gaitán who has drawn interested from several Premier League clubs. Another Argentine Eduardo Salvio is also a highly regarded attacker. Former Chelsea player Nemanja Matić has made the most of Javi Garcia’s departure and is the club’s first-choice defensive midfielder.
Up front, Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo and Brazilian Lima are both in the top 5 in scoring in the domestic league. Though Brazilian-born Spanish U21 forward Rodrigo has been used as a centre-forward and a winger this season. 20-year-old Dutch winger Ola John is enjoying a good season and was recently called-up to the Oranje for the first time.
Jorge Jesus has been rotating his squad recently because of the reality of playing in three different competitions. In the domestic league, Jesus has usually used Lima and Cardozo together upfront. In European competitions, squad selections have been difficult to predict though Jesus usually uses a variance of the 4-3-3 formation.
Like many Portuguese clubs, Benfica like to utilize the flanks by getting their full-backs involved in the offensive zone. Paraguayan Lorenzo Melgarejo has been the club’s regular left-back this season after being converted from the wing.
Uruguayan Maxi Pereira has been the club’s regular right-back for several years now, though his defence has been heavily criticized recently. Portuguese André Almeida, who is nominally a defensive midfielder has been used as a right-back this season as well.