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Strong start from Portugal's record champions

All you need to know about Benfica

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Bayern are away at Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday (3pm EST). fcbayern.com has all you need to know about our Matchday 3 opponents…

Good start in the league and Champions League

Former 1860 youth product Julian Weigl celebrating Benfica’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Barcelona on Matchday 2.

Benfica finished third in Portugal last season, meaning they had to come through Champions League qualifying against Spartak Moscow and PSV Eindhoven. Jorge Jesus’s side have taken that early-season momentum into the group stage, where they’ve picked up four points from the first two games to make their best start to a Champions League campaign in six years. Their 3-0 win over Barcelona – their first victory over the Catalans in over 60 years – was a particularly loud statement in Group E.

The Eagles are also flying in their domestic league. Although they may have suffered a surprise first loss of 2021/22 at the start of October against Portimonense (1-0), the Lisbon club still lead the standings on 21 points after eight matchdays following seven straight wins to begin the campaign. Last weekend they were in cup action and rested a number of first-team players against second-tier Trofense. The game went to extra-time before Benfica prevailed 2-1. Their record in all competitions in 2021/22 is 12 wins, two draws and one defeat from 15 fixtures.

Yet to beat Bayern

Bayern won the most recent trip to Benfica 2-0 in September 2018 thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski and Renato Sanches.

Benfica’s record in Europe against Bayern makes less impressive reading. The German record champions have never lost in ten encounters (W7, D3). The Portuguese club haven’t faced any other team so often on the international stage without chalking up at least one victory. The most recent meetings were in the 2018/19 group stage, with FCB winning both ties (2-0 A, 5-1 H).

Academy and familiar faces

Darwin Nunez was named Man of the Match in Benfica’s 3-0 win over Barcelona.

One of the keys to that last win in Lisbon was Renato Sanches, who is one of many good, young players to have come out of the Benfica academy. He joins graduates like Bernardo Silva (now at Manchester City) and Rui Costa, who was recently voted the new Benfica president. The latest to step into the spotlight is Darwin Nunez after his brace in the 3-0 win over Barcelona on Matchday 2. The 22-year-old Uruguayan is their top scorer this season with six goals from eight appearances and looks set to be the latest youngster to make a name for himself at Benfica.

As well as a number of youth players, the current team also contains plenty of international experience with 2016 European champion Rafa Silva, last season’s Europa League top scorer Pizzi and veteran Belgium international defender Jan Vertonghen. There are also familiar faces to Bundesliga audiences in Haris Seferovic and Valentino Lazaro, as well as five-time Germany international Julian Weigl, who was named the club’s Player of the Season by fans in 2020/21.

Record champions with European curse

Benfica last featured in a European final in 2014 but lost the Europa League showpiece on penalties to Sevilla.

Benfica are the most successful team in Portugal with a record 37 league titles and 26 cups. However, the Eagles have struggled to take the final step in European competitions in recent years. Their last major continental honour was in 1962 when they earned their second European Cup. Since then, they’ve reached eight European finals but lost every single time.

This is said to be down to what’s known as the “Curse of Guttmann”. That came about in May 1962 when coach Bela Guttmann fell out with the board after beating Real Madrid 5-3 in the European Cup final. With the coach denied a pay rise, he left the club and is alleged to have cursed them by declaring, “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions again”. The club has tried a number of ways to end this curse. For example, the legendary Eusebio once prayed at Guttmann’s grave asking for it to be lifted. A bronze statue of the Hungarian coach was also unveiled outside the stadium. But nothing has worked so far.

Eagle’s flight in the Stadium of Light

An eagle adorns Benfica’s club crest and entrance to the stadium.

Benfica’s home is the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, better known as the Estadio da Luz – Stadium of Light in English – although Luz actually refers to the neighbourhood of the same name. The stadium was rebuilt in time for Euro 2004, with Benfica moving in the year before and fans continuing to refer to the new 65,647-seater ground as the Cathedral – the nickname for its previous incarnation. After the move, a new custom also took hold, whereby an eagle – the club’s mascot – flies around the stadium before home games. Legend has it that Benfica will win when Vitoria or Gloriosa – the names of the two resident eagles – do more than two laps of the ground. If they land before then, the away team will win.

Check out more interesting facts and figures on the clash in Portugal:

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