Benfica scouting report: Portuguese side prepare for Chelsea with goalless draw
00:01 GMT, 27 March 2012
Benfica travelled to the Algarve on Friday night where they were held to a 0-0 draw by Olhanense — a club with a budget said to be the size of Scunthorpe’s.
But Olhanense are seventh in the Portuguese league and it would be unhelpful to think Benfica’s performance was poor.
It was a high-tempo game, particularly in the first half, that would have sat easily in the Premier League.
Class act: Nicolas Gaitan shines for Benfica
Olhanense are hard to beat as their lack of defeats show and though a reading of the game was skewed by substitute Pablo Aimar’s 63rd-minute red card, it could be argued this was as vigorous a 0-0 warm-up for Benfica as Chelsea’s was against Tottenham.
Seven of the Benfica team who started in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, in November’s group game, started at Olhanense. Aimar’s introduction made it eight participants from that game.
Luisao is Benfica’s defensive leader. He was in charge on Friday night, rattling into tackles, and into his full backs. Chelsea’s scout will have noted their vulnerability as opposed to the captain’s strength.
Leader: Luisao is Benfica's main man at the back
The highly-rated Belgian Axel Witsel was anonymous and Aimar replaced the toiling Nolito at half-time. But the 24-year-old Argentinian Nicolas Gaitan showed some of the footwork that makes him wanted across Europe.
Similar to Samir Nasri in stature and movement, Gaitan was Benfica’s most creative and dangerous player. A few touches were exquisite, though he faded once Benfica were down to 10 men. If Chelsea nullify Gaitan, they have an advantage.
Oscar Cardozo scored the opener against Manchester United in the 1-1 draw in September at Estadio Da Luz.
He has 22 goals this season, though he didn’t get a sniff on Friday until the 85th minute, when he missed. Chelsea’s assessment of Cardozo will be based on previous displays.
In the goals: Oscar Cardozo has scored 22 times this season
Benfica are good enough to beat Chelsea narrowly this evening.The same can be said of Chelsea in the return at Stamford Bridge. It should be tight.