Scout Report: Benfica
Ahead of Newcastle United's Europa League quarter-final clash with Benfica we take an in-depth look at the Portuguese giants and pinpoint how they might hurt Alan Pardew's side
By Oliver Todd
Last Updated: 04/04/13 10:27am
Newcastle face arguably the toughest tie of all the English clubs in the quarter-finals with a trip to Portugal beckoning to face local champions Benfica.
Having started the season in the Champions League, Benfica dropped down to the Europa League after finishing third in their group behind Barcelona and Celtic, and have been impressive since - with a record of four wins from four games.
Ahead of the first leg, Oliver Todd has taken a look at the players Newcastle will have to watch out for and how Benfica may approach the game.
Oscar Cardozo already has three goals in his four Europa League games this season to add to his 18 others in all competitions and is the second highest scorer in the Portuguese league after finishing as top scorer in 2011/12. Physically imposing and a superb finisher, the Paraguayan will fancy his chances up against Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, James Perch or Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Good in the air and a set-piece specialist, Cardozo will undoubtedly be the main goal threat for the Eagles.
Nicolas Gaitan's style is one of typical South American flair - the Argentine is blessed with superb vision and has been a vital player for Benfica since signing in 2010. He reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United last season and has continued his fine form for Benfica again this year with one Europa League assist so far along with a hatful in Portugal. Effective both in the middle and out wide, Gaitan will need to be kept in check by Newcastle's midfield.
Another player constantly linked with Europe's top clubs, Ezequiel Garay is a reported target of Barcelona and United, and this Argentine international has flourished in Lisbon since his move from Real Madrid in 2011. Benfica have yet to fall behind in a Europa League tie this season and have only conceded once with Garay on the field. Benfica have also only lost to Barcelona at home and Spartak Moscow away in games that he has been involved in this season. His height also makes him a threat from set pieces.
STYLE OF PLAY
Benfica tend to play with a relatively slow tempo as favoured in the Portugese Primeira Liga, but with plenty of balls in behind for their three-man forward line to chase. Gaitan and Nemanja Matic will look to pull the strings in midfield and set up attacks out wide which Newcastle's full-backs will need to be wary of. The Magpies will look to focus on the Premier League-style high tempo that suits their game in order to catch out the Portuguese side who prefer to operate at a slower pace. If they can do this it will prevent Benfica from taking control of games as they have done all too often in the league and Europa League already this season.
EUROPA LEAGUE CAMPAIGN TO DATE
Having finished below Barcelona and Celtic in their Champions League group, Benfica dropped into the Europa League. Since their entry into the competition they are the only side to have won all four of their knock-out games. They have come up against Bayer Leverkusen and Bordeaux so far with few feathers ruffled - seven goals scored to just three conceded shows as much. They currently lead Porto in the Primeira Liga and are undefeated in all competitions (except the Champions League).
Jorge Jesus is a big fan of 4-3-3 with two pacey wingers usually deployed wide of Cardoza. Former Chelsea man Matic tends to play as a holding playmaker alongside Gaitan and one other. The third favourites for the trophy will look to attack with pace down the wings whilst relying on Cardoza's scoring touch to continue to guide them through to the semi-finals. With only 14 goals conceded in the league this season, Newcastle will need Papiss Cisse to continue his goalscoring touch in Europe if they are to beat the Portuguese champions.