Benfica Title Hopes: Leading Primeira Liga in Goals, But Not in Points
Benfica hold a lot of superlatives in the annals of Portuguese soccer. In addition to being the most successful football club in national history (with 34 titles and counting), Benfica also have the most runner-up finishes (27) and have won the Champions League twice (consecutive victories in 1961 and 1962). Add the fact that the Eagles are currently the two-time reigning champs in the Primeira Liga, and it’s a good time to be a fan in the Benfica home shirt 2015/16. But are the Benfica title hopes for 2015/16 on track?
With all of that said, though, Benfica are in danger of snapping their streak of top-two finishes in the league if things continue to go as they have been going so far this season. The Eagles are currently in fourth place on the Primeira Liga table, with six wins and three losses on their record so far.
To be fair, Benfica have played one fewer game than Sporting CP, the current table leaders, or Sporting Braga, the soccer club currently edging them out for third. Due to some irregular scheduling in the Portuguese top-flight, most of the teams in the division have played 10 games, a few have played nine, and one has only played eight. This irregularity makes it difficult to make concrete predictions or statements about how different football teams are faring in the pursuit of the title.
Dragging Behind Porto
Still, there is one metric by which we can judge Benfica’s current status in the 2015 – 2016 Primeira Liga. Porto are among the clubs that have only notched nine fixtures so far this season, and match Benfica in terms of wins (six), but are three points ahead of the defending champions regardless. Porto haven’t lost a game yet, picking up draws in their other three matches. That consistency is what separates Porto and Sporting CP (also undefeated, with eight wins and two draws) from this season’s not-quite-as-solid Benfica soccer squad.
Not that it’s time to start sounding any alarms about Benfica’s immediate future. Though not the dominant force that they were a year ago—when they held the top spot on the Primeira Liga from week five through the conclusion of the season—the Eagles have still been a solid football force this season. In addition to a strong Champions League performance—which has included a win against Atletico Madrid—Benfica’s 2015 – 2016 campaign has also seen the soccer club scoring more goals than any other team in the Portuguese top-flight.
An Impressive Offense
Indeed, the Eagles have notched an impressive 22 goals in their nine Primeira Liga fixtures—including eight goals from last season’s standout player, Jonas. In comparison, Porto have scored 18 goals in nine matches and Sporting CP have taken 10 fixtures to score 19. Even with a weaker “goals against” tally than their top competitors (seven, compared to four at Porto and five at Sporting CP), Benfica have the best goal difference in the La Liga.
So if Benfica are holding strong offensively, what’s the problem? Why aren’t they holding the top spot on the table again (or, at very least, the second-place position)? After all, the last time the Eagles finished the season outside of the top two was 2009.
Other than an early-season loss against Arouca (a football club that only just dodged relegation in the 2014 – 2015 Primeira Liga), Benfica’s defeats have at least made sense. They lost to Porto 0-1 on September 20th, conceding the game’s lone goal just minutes before full-time, and their only big loss was a 0-3 drumming from Sporting CP in late October. Even with three losses, in other words, the Eagles have to be considered as top title contenders, if only because two of those three losses came against top teams.
The good news is that the Eagles still have plenty of time left this season to turn things around. For now, Benfica will focus on reinserting themselves back into the top three. That should be a possibility since the football club’s next Primeira Liga match (scheduled for November 30th) will pit them against Sporting Braga.
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