There were the usual predictable results in this week’s Champions League fixtures with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all clinching victories, although the former team needed two late goals to overturn a 1-0 deficit when hosting Bayer Leverkusen. Yet it is the progress of two Portuguese teams which demonstrates that expensive purchases are not the only key to success in Europe’s prime club competition.
Benfica and Porto both beat more favoured opposition during the week when Atletico Madrid and Chelsea were their respective defeated opponents via 2-1 scorelines and while they tend to dominate the Primeira League alongside Sporting Lisbon, they are generally viewed as selling clubs to the richer teams in England, Spain and Germany. Nevertheless, the last few days has demonstrated that both teams aim to prove their ability in the group stages.
In the case of Benfica, the loss of legendary manger Jorge Jesus to city neighbours Sporting Lisbon was viewed as an ominous sign for the forthcoming season. He was replaced by Rui Vitoria while Andre Gomes
Joao Cancelo and Rodrigo were completing permanents deals at Valencia during the summer with Bernardo Silva having already departed the club for Monaco. There have been other departures with Konstantinos Mitroglu arriving from Olympiakos but it was club stalwart Osvaldo Gaitan and youngster Concalo Guedes who scored the goals during the victory in Madrid which added to their earlier 2-0 win against Astana in Group C.
For Porto, much was expected of former manager Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team when playing against the current Primeira Liga leaders. A 2-2 draw at Dynamo Kiev had served notice that Porto needed to be respected but the loss of leading striker Jackson Martinez to Atletico Madrid during the summer was reckoned to be a weakening effect on the team.
However, Vincent Aboubakar was acting as deputy for Martinez last season after netting 16 goals for Ligue 1 team Lorient during the 2013-14 campaign, and he has already netted four league goals this term. Jesus Corona (FC Twente) and Gilbert Imbula (Marseille) also arrived at the club this summer for fees far less than the sales of Martinez and Alex Sandro, who moved to Juventus. All three signings featured in the squad which beat Chelsea 2-1 on Tuesday but it was long serving Brazilian defender Maicon who scored the winning goal and thus spoil the return of Mourinho.
It is not anticipated that the two Portuguese teams will feature in Champions League tournament from the semi-finals onwards but they may upset more high-profile opponents before they are eventually eliminated. The problem now shared by Porto and Benfica is that other teams have now been pre-warned by their ability. Yet they stay competitive by recruiting players from the proceeds of sales to other teams and by retaining a blend of long serving players and promoting younger players through the junior ranks.