Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Benfica
Benfica are 11/4 to win Champions League Group C and will be hoping they have a better run of things than last season when they couldn’t progress through to the second round from a pool containing Zenit St Petersburg, Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen.
Domestic League: Portuguese Primeira Liga
How they qualified: Benfica made it into the group stage draw by winning the Primeira Liga, by three points, finishing three ahead of 2003/04 Champions League winners Porto.
Best Champions League era performance: They have a rich history in European football; though, in the modern era of the the competition, which changed from being called the European Cup to the Champions League in 1992 they have failed to live up to the achievements of their past.
However, their best performances since the turn of the new Millennium, came in the 2005/06 season of the Champions League, when they beat Manchester United in a decisive group match, to then go to record a 3-0 aggregate win over holders Liverpool, before losing to Barcelona in the quarter-final.
Coach: Rui Vitoria is a Portuguese native and actually started his managerial career as junior coach of Benfica. A respectable season with Pacos de Ferreira led to a position with Vitoria de Guimaraes and in his four-year reign consolidated the club’s status as a top-tier side, also winning their first ever Portuguese Cup against, who else? Benfica.
Hired as coach on June 15th 2015, Vitoria signed a three-year contract with Benfica and was tasked with restoring their European fortunes.
Ins and outs: With no notable departures, the club were quite active in the summer transfer window, spending £9m alone to bring Mexican striker Raul Jiminez in from Atletico Madrid, while promising Dutch winger Bilal Ould-Chikh also arrived, among others.
Familiar faces: Viewers will recognise Adel Taarabt who arrived on a free transfer this summer, while Kostas Mitroglou jetted in for a loan spell from Fulham to add options in attack.
Key players: Argentinian wide players Nicolas Gaitan and Eduardo Salvio have long been linked with a move to Premier League and this duo remain the obvious threats for the Portuguese outfit.
Emerging talent: At 21, Brazilian attacking midfielder Talisca is a prodigy with huge potential, having also starred in his country’s Olympic football team.
CL group and fixtures:
V Astana (Home), September 15th
V Atletico Madrid (Away), September 30th
V Galatasaray (Away), October 21st
V Galatasaray (Home), November 3rd
V Astana (Away), November 25th
V Atletico Madrid (Home), December 8th