Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nurnberg - Benfica - Uefa Cup 2nd Leg Preview

This thursday Benfica plays the second leg of the Uefa Cup against German side Nurnberg. Carrying the smallest of aggregates into the second leg, Benfica has a very difficult task against a Nurnberg team who will be going all out in order to turn around the aggregate into their favour. Nurnberg will be hoping that the crowd can be factor, and they hope they are able to do what they weren't able to do in Lisbon, score goals.
On the other hand, Benfica will be looking to advance to the next round of the Uefa Cup, but for that they will need to put on a much better performance than the one from one week ago. Despite winning the first leg, Benfica did not play well and left the Nurnberg men with the sensation that they could beat Benfica in their home pitch.

Camacho called the following players:

Keepers: Butt, Quim and Moreira
Defenders: Nélson, Luís Filipe, Luisão, Edcarlos, Léo and Sepsi
Midfielders: Katsouranis, Rui Costa, Rodriguez, Maxi Pereira, Petit, Adu, Nuno Assis and Di Maria
Forwards: Mantorras, Cardozo and Makukula

20 players in all, only 18 will be able to suit up. The inclusion of the third keeper was explained by Camacho as a precaution, and that this will be the norm going forward in European competition. Nelson, Petit and DiMaria return to the game roster, the first two from injury and DiMaria from a one game suspension.
Both Nelson and Petit trained without limitations this morning, when Benfica made their game pitch adaptation training session. While Petit will most likely start, there are still some doubts in regards to Nelson, that decision will be a game time decision. Freddy Adu, is 100% after coming out of this past sunday's game with a back injury, He has practice without limitations since monday.

There is no doubt in my mind that Camacho will return to the 4-2-3-1. This is a formation that will provide Benfica with more bodies in the midfield, and will allow Benfica to have a better chance of controlling that sector, which is crucial if Benfica wants to make it to the next round.

Projected line Up
Quim in goal. Luis Felipe(Nelson), Luisao, Katsouranis and Leo on the left. Maxi and Petit in front of the defense. Assis, Rui Costa and Rodriguez will support Cardozo up front. This was the line up that Camacho put together during this morning's pre-match walk through.
Camacho picked Cardozo over Makukula, as Cardozo is better with his feet, and Benfica will be trying to play the short game with supported attack. It would make no sense to use the long ball to get into the final third as posession can very well be the key to advancing. Also, with Assis on the right, Benfica has the personnel that can make the 4-2-3-1 work, as he is clearly a more attack minded player than Maxi and he combines well with Rui Costa. The problem will lie on Assis' tendency to come into the middle, leaving the right side unbalanced, it will be up to the right back to take over this gap.

A very tough game for Benfica, despite playing a team who is in the relegation zone of the Bundesliga, Benfica will have to contend with the the crowd. Nothing new, as they played well at Celtic Park and in the decisive Shakthar match in the Ukraine. The first 25 minutes are very crucial for Benfica, who will need to come out strong and shake off the initial pressure from Nurnberg, while they make adjustments to defend against the Nurnberg set up. The midfield will have to be sharp and be able to transition the ball into the attack with precision, in order to relieve the pressure from the defense. Rui Costa will be the center of the attention for the Nurnberg men, Rodriguez and Assis will have to shoulder some of the initiative and the offensive push.
Benfica needs to manage the game and take advantage of Nurnberg's all out attack, and hope they can find the mis-matches on the counter.

Advancing into the next round could do wonders for this team. Benfica is currently showing signs of lack of confidence as a team and will need to continue building momentum ahead of crucial matches against Braga and Sporting in the coming weeks.

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