This was not in the script. At least the script hypothesised by Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira when he went all out to lure Jorge Jesus from his hugely successful stint in Brazil as Flamengo coach.

“Welcome back! With you we hope to regain our complete hegemony of Portuguese football and we want to win in Europe,” were the words proffered by Vieira at the official unveiling of the experienced coach in August. JJ himself, modest as ever, promised: “Benfica will play triple what it has done. We will destroy our opponents.”

Five months down the line and the promises are sounding hollow. A meek exit from the Champions League in the qualifiers, a sound beating by Porto in the Super Cup and erratic form in the Liga have got Benfica supporters asking awkward questions of the club’s hierarchy and manager. Given the upcoming schedule, it is no exaggeration to say January could well be a make-or-break month for Benfica’s 2020/21 season. 

The backdrop to Jorge Jesus’ return

Back in August the enthusiasm that accompanied the return of Jorge Jesus, who had revolutionised the club’s fortunes in his first trophy-laden 6-year spell in charge, was not unanimously shared. Many of the club’s fans had not forgiven Jesus the original sin of crossing the Lisbon divide and walking out to sign for rivals Sporting in the summer of 2015.

In the acrimonious aftermath of that messy departure both parties threatened to sue each other and a war of words ensued throughout the subsequent season, which turned particularly ugly in relation to JJ’s successor in the Benfica dugout, Rui Vitória. Jesus claimed: “I am the brains” behind any lingering Benfica success and he refused to consider Vitória a colleague of his profession saying of Vitória “that is no coach”. Vieira vowed that “Jesus would never again be Benfica coach while I am president.”

The Eagles and their new manager would have the last laugh, however, as Benfica’s dominance of Portuguese football extended beyond Jesus’ tenure and JJ ultimately failed to turn around the ailing fortunes of Sporting.

Vitória’s initial success, though, did not last and he was replaced by Bruno Lage, whose career at Benfica followed a similar path. An impressive start, clawing back a significant points-deficit to beat Porto to the championship, was followed by terminal decline. By the end of the 2019/20 season FC Porto had firmly re-established themselves as top dogs in Portugal, winning the league for the second time in three years, and completing the double after bettering Benfica in the Portuguese Cup final despite playing most of the match with ten men.

Porto usurping Benfica from the throne as kings of Portuguese football was especially hard to swallow given the fact the northerners had overtaken their rivals from the capital despite being straight jacketed by strict monetary restraints. Falling foul of UEFA’s financial fair play rules, Porto coach Sérgio Conceição has had to build his team with recalled loanees, non-expensive South American imports, returning veterans and academy players.

Vieira had seen enough. Having patched up his relationship with Jorge Jesus and conveniently forgotten that “never again” promise, the president made it his goal to entice the 66-year-old back to the Estádio da Luz. After leaving Sporting with just one Super Cup and one Taça da Liga trophy to show for his three years in charge, Jesus had meanwhile restored his reputation thanks to a spectacularly successful year at Flamengo, where he guided the Brazilian giants to their best season for three decades, practically cleaning up the domestic trophies, winning the Copa Libertadores and pushing Liverpool all the way in the FIFA Club World Cup final.

Credited with bringing a new mentality to the country’s club football having built a swashbuckling, high-octane, attacking team, similar to his best Benfica sides, JJ had his mojo back. With Brazilian football at his feet, Jesus was now garnering the kind of global acclaim he had always yearned. In normal circumstances it would have been impossible to prise him away from his pedestal in Rio de Janeiro, but the chaos brought by the pandemic played into Benfica’s hands, with Jesus happy to dodge the crippling effects of coronavirus on Flamengo, Brazilian football and Brazil itself.

Benfica’s 2020/21 

The fanfare surrounding JJ’s return was augmented by exciting news that Uruguayan superstar Edinson Cavani was being lined up to join the new-look Benfica. The chase of the former PSG striker ultimately proved fruitless, but the fanbase remained enthused as close to €100 million euros were spent to strengthen the squad. 

Brazil international Everton Cebolinha, young Uruguayan striker Darwin Núñez, German forward Luca Waldschmidt and experienced Belgian central defender Jan Vertonghen were the most high-profile names arriving in the Portuguese capital, and most local analysts and pundits immediately installed Benfica as favourites to win the Liga NOS. 

Things could not have got off to a worse start. A 2-1 defeat in Greece against PAOK in the first official match of the season meant no Champions League football and a massive hole in Benfica’s finances. As a consequence, centre-back Rúben Dias was sold to Manchester City, with former Porto man Nico Otamendi coming in the opposite direction, but a run of seven straight victories in all competitions, during which a whopping 22 goals were scored, suggested Jesus was quickly building a formidable outfit. The Eagles sat top of the league with a 100% record after five rounds. 

Any thoughts Benfica would speed off and out of sight were then rudely jolted by successive Liga NOS defeats against Boavista and Braga, sandwiching a somewhat fortuitous draw against Rangers in the Europa League. Benfica conceded 9 goals in those 3 matches, and the defence has looked suspect ever since, the error-prone Otamendi a significant downgrade on Dias, while Grimaldo and Gilberto are both full-backs who attack better than they defend. 

A succession of poor performances and eked-out victories in the Liga finally caught up with Benfica as a 1-1 draw against Santa Clara in the Azores on Monday saw the club drop to third place in the standings, behind Porto on goal difference and four points adrift of leaders Sporting.  

Even more galling, when Porto easily overcame Benfica 2-0 in the delayed Super Cup contested two days before Christmas, it was the fourth successive victory for the Dragons over their hated rivals. The LFV-JJ dream ticket definitively was not on track.

While not a full-blown crisis, confidence in Benfica lifting the championship title has been considerably eroded by the evidence of the opening months of the campaign. Everton has singularly failed to live up to his expensive price-tag and erstwhile burgeoning reputation. After a bright start, Darwin and Waldschmidt have gone off the boil, and the team’s attacking game has been ponderous. Moreover, and unusually for a Jorge Jesus team, the defence has been brittle. 

Nevertheless, Benfica undoubtedly have high-quality personnel at their disposal, Jorge Jesus has proven on multiple occasions he can forge winning teams and it would be foolish to rule the Lisbon giants out of contention for silverware this campaign.  

January could well prove the pivotal month in the whole season with crunch games for Benfica in the Liga, as well as the concluding Final Four phase of the Taça da Liga (Portuguese League Cup).

Benfica’s January schedule

08/01 

Tondela (h)

Liga 

12/01

Estrela (a)

Portuguese Cup 

15/01

FC Porto (a)

Liga 

20/01

Braga* (neutral venue)

Portuguese League Cup 

24/01

Nacional (h)

Liga 

31/01

Sporting (a)

Liga 

*should Benfica beat Braga, they will play Sporting or Porto in the final on 23/01

Away games at Porto and Sporting in the league, not to mention a potential further match against either one in the Taça da Liga final, and an encounter against Braga will give a good indication as to where this Benfica team is heading. 

Come out of those games with nothing and the Jorge Jesus project will start to look like a fiasco, and may seriously undermine the position of president Luís Filipe Vieira, recently re-elected largely on the back of the re-recruitment of JJ and the promise of a return to winning football. On the flip side, should Benfica finally click, they could conceivably go into February top of the table and with a trophy in the cabinet. A big month awaits. 

By Tom Kundert

Related: Two decades later, can Sporting win the Portuguese title?

 

Comments (24)

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No offense to a great football nation, but these results show how laughably easy brazilian football is. Jesus had a few weeks to adjust to a different continent, the season had already started, the team was awful, and he looked like a football...

No offense to a great football nation, but these results show how laughably easy brazilian football is. Jesus had a few weeks to adjust to a different continent, the season had already started, the team was awful, and he looked like a football genius.

He comes back, after playing hundreds of games in "his" league and is immediately crushed by a mediocre Boavista with the team playing horrible football after investing 100 millon. Not only that, it's not even Porto leading but Sporting!

Maybe he can do something next season, but he seems completely adrift in european football.

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@fernandes

For the money he spent and the amount he makes, if he does not bring home the league he has no business still being here next season.

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It’s only made out to be such a crisis because Sporting is in first. If it was Porto in first, everything would be normal and fine in Benfica land.

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This is a fantastic point, but they are struggling.

Like they would say in Italy this is reheated soup.

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I would like to start a movement of Benfica targeting Rúben Amorim as their next head coach. He has done an excellent job in sporting with the youth system they have. I remember when sporting had an excellent youth team, from 2013-2016, then a...

I would like to start a movement of Benfica targeting Rúben Amorim as their next head coach. He has done an excellent job in sporting with the youth system they have. I remember when sporting had an excellent youth team, from 2013-2016, then a coach was brought over from Benfica to coach sporting in 2016 and dissolved the whole youth movement at Sporting; Does anyone remember that coach, oh yeah it was Jorge Jesus and hes doing it again at Benfica. Going to be a long road for Benfica if they dont get rid of Jorge Jesus

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Amorim should stay where he is. He was at Braga for too short a time, and he seems to work well with the administration. If Benfica wanted to make smart moves and spend their money wisely, they would have gone after Leonardo Jardim, currently...

Amorim should stay where he is. He was at Braga for too short a time, and he seems to work well with the administration. If Benfica wanted to make smart moves and spend their money wisely, they would have gone after Leonardo Jardim, currently unemployed, with extensive experience in the Portuguese league, Greek league and French league, and someone who actually has Champions League pedigree (with Monaco).

That would have been a wise move. But instead, LFV, the former criminal and truck hi-jacker, decided to overpay again for the Portuguese Pep Guardiola (that is not a compliment; Guardiola is a joke who even with $1 billion budgets can't do anything new at Man City).

As a Porto fan, I have some real beefs with Conceicao and Pinto at Porto. We have done a horrible job of retaining and developing youth academy starlets that have flourished. But at least we have gotten some results in the league and knockouts of the Champions League. Vieira should be held accountable for the amount of money spent this season and not even seeing Champions League action.

There is of course a chance Benfica could still win the league, but that would be a minimum requirement at this point.

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Amusing how this article and the comments on it seem to be some sort of obituary for Benfica, as if the season just ended yesterday and Benfica finished the season empty handed, lol! Uh.. sorry folks but we just started the first week of January,...

Amusing how this article and the comments on it seem to be some sort of obituary for Benfica, as if the season just ended yesterday and Benfica finished the season empty handed, lol! Uh.. sorry folks but we just started the first week of January, we're only a third of the way through the season and there's almost a full 5 months still left to play this season. So let's just wait a while and speak again in March or April.

Has the general play from Benfica so far this season been rather disappointing and below expectations? Of course it has, nobody feels that more than Benfica fans themselves. But firstly, let's not forget we had a new coach in the summer plus a serious facelift in the starting 11 compared to last season. Such a ringing of changes of the coaching staff and squad will inevitably take some time to gel. Secondly, we are 4 points off top spot in the league in early January (that's just a difference of two matches, and there's still 20 odd matches to go!), we are currently still in every competition we have to play this season...and despite the sluggish performances recently, we have only lost one of the last 11 matches in all competitions...and that loss was the super taca final (we all know the super taca is nothing more than a glorified pretemporada friendly!). Hardly the crisis suggested in this article, now is it?

Now look Tom, I know that you and all Sporting fans are super excited at the moment about Sporting being top of the league for the last few weeks and having their best chance to win a major trophy in almost 20 years. But let's not forget they are only top because they've played a full 7 fewer matches (6 in Europe plus the super taca final) than Benfica and Porto. And not just fewer matches, but demanding European matches with lots of travelling across Europe. Now for the next couple of months at least, Sporting will finally have to play the same exact number of matches as their rivals, let's see what difference that makes. Again I repeat, let's speak again in March or April!

Having said all this though, I totally agree that Benfica have to improve wholesale for the business end of the season coming up if we are going to win things this season. Jorge Jesus has made some clear errors so far this season (none more so than continuing to play the hapless Taraabt as the titular number 8 in every match) and needs to quickly change some of his strategies that haven't been working. To me the central defence and central midfield needs to improve most of all. If we can get more solid at the back and more dynamic and more intensity in central midfield in the coming weeks, we could well end up having a successful season. People also mustn't forget, if you're gonna struggle in a season, much better to struggle in the first 1/3 than in the final 2/3 of the season . So let's just wait and see what happens over the next few months. Long long way to go still folks...

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I think you're being a bit defensive here Andre, and it isn't necessary. Of course it's way too early and of course Benfica is as much in contention as Porto or Sporting (and Braga as well).

The point is, it was an election year and LFV...

I think you're being a bit defensive here Andre, and it isn't necessary. Of course it's way too early and of course Benfica is as much in contention as Porto or Sporting (and Braga as well).

The point is, it was an election year and LFV promised Benfica fans the moon. He spent like a madman, and brought back Judas himself. Everyone in the red part of Lisbon was having wet dreams.

Yet the team has looked horrible. What is at question here is not Benfica's contention, but rather the level of promises made compared to the actual results so far.

The immediate loss of the Champions League was a huge blow. $40 million lost in one game and against PAOK of all teams.

The reality is that LFV and JJ have so far failed to "dominate" (that's a direct JJ quote), anyone or anything. And the question has to be asked; why were Rui V and Lage never given even 1/5 of the financial backing when both of them were able to equal JJ's greatest achievement; winning the league.

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Interesting take as ever Andre. I'm surprised you interpret this article as an obituary to Benfica's season. It really just describes what's happened so far, the backdrop to JJ's reappointment and what's coming up. Don't think it's an...

Interesting take as ever Andre. I'm surprised you interpret this article as an obituary to Benfica's season. It really just describes what's happened so far, the backdrop to JJ's reappointment and what's coming up. Don't think it's an exaggeration to say JJ is under big pressure to turn it around.

If you were told in August that by January Benfica would not make the Champions League, would be 3rd and would be well beaten in the Super Cup wouldn't you have expected much better. All my Benfica friends certainly did.

As for starting from scratch, interestingly Benfica are actually playing with more players from last season than Sporting are. That said, historically JJ's Benfica teams used to really hit their stride in January/February when the new guys settled in, so that could very well happen again.

Like I say in the article, Benfica could easily be top by February... but if they fall further behind the project will be on very shaky ground.

I actually think it's too close to call. Which could make it a thrilling season. I'd still make SLB, FCP favourites to win the title (too difficult to say who's more likely) but Sporting have given themselves a chance of being in the discussion. Let's see!

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It makes me wonder if there has been a mandate passed down by the FPF to the ownerships of the Big Three, for the best thing that can happen is for Sporting to win the league and for Porto and Benfica to go far in their tournaments. It is...

It makes me wonder if there has been a mandate passed down by the FPF to the ownerships of the Big Three, for the best thing that can happen is for Sporting to win the league and for Porto and Benfica to go far in their tournaments. It is possible that they were told to play for real and that is why the latter two have been performing well in Europe. With an improved coefficient and the third wheel Sporting winning the league, one could say things are looking up for the Portuguese league.
As for Sporting's current form, -Z- mentioned it before. The lack of crowds has helped alleviate pressure off of Sporting's youngsters. They have been able to just simply play. Sporting has been all but perfect yet only four points removed from the pack. That worries me. The way they are playing, they can only keep up for so long. This tight rope act of one nil, two nil is bound to come crashing down. Yet if Sporting can beat the teams that it is expected to beat, such as National tomorrow, then maybe there is a chance of them holding on to the end.

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Dear JJ,

You always sucked!

Signed
Oscar Cardozo

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André, Sporting is only in first because they are not playing in Europe?

Okay cool story bro. Your team spent 100
Million. Also clear penalties are being forgiven by the refs such as the one portimonense would have had.

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Relax Z. You can’t possibly disagree with the idea that the lack of Europe is helping sporting earn more positive results in the league than usual.

However, they have earned their place in first as they have easily been the most consistent.

Als...

Relax Z. You can’t possibly disagree with the idea that the lack of Europe is helping sporting earn more positive results in the league than usual.

However, they have earned their place in first as they have easily been the most consistent.

Also before you go throwing around ‘bad call here, bad call there’ keep in mind sporting have had quite a few ‘fortunate’ calls that have resulted in them attains 3 points in several games. I’m not saying this as an excuse as Benfica have also had their calls. But before pointing fingers, remember your squad has been getting them too

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Some add-ons to Chris and others who have replied to my post.

First of all Chris, I wasn't being defensive. I was merely emphasising how it's way too early in the season (1/3 of the way, remember we started a month later than normal this...

Some add-ons to Chris and others who have replied to my post.

First of all Chris, I wasn't being defensive. I was merely emphasising how it's way too early in the season (1/3 of the way, remember we started a month later than normal this season!) for people to be jumping to such categorical conclusions about Benfica, or any other teams for that matter. First of all this is proving to be a very strange season thus far, due to the covid restrictions and impact (have made things much more competitive and unpredictable across the board, in all the leagues, not only ours). Also, as I have mentioned already, the business end of the season is still coming up and only then can we start jumping to conclusions.

Secondly, anyone who has read my posts on this site down the years knows that I'm sick and tired of LFV and his "leadership" of the club. I've wanted him gone for at least 5 years already, and was real disappointed to see him win the elections again a few months back. He definitely moved the club forward after the shambles of the previous presidency... but it's also clear he's already been way too long in charge and is not the man to take the club to the next level. He's not gonna be able to enable us to keep hold of our best players every season, nor to attract better quality (and more expensive) players to the club. So it's a real shame we didn't get a new president with fresh ideas and a new direction for the club. Benfica fans are gonna have to wait another 4 years for that!

Regarding losing the CL play off against PAOK...all I can say is shit happens! The moment I saw Uefa's rediculous decision to make the playoffs one leg, and we had to play away from home, I knew it was a dangerous situation. Like I mentioned above, this covid situation and the empty stadiums has made things very unpredictable, with almost any result possible in any match it seems. And having to play away from home with no home return leg, with a new coach and so many new players in what was effectively still pre-season..well it was disappointing but I repeat, shit happens in life, what can you do? Move on basically!

Lastly, you describe Benfica this season so far as "horrible"....that's really exaggerating things mate! We have had one horrible match and result so far, against Boavista. In other matches, I would use words more like "lackluster" or "nothing special" to describe our performances...but "horrible" is definitely going too far. The truth is no team in Portugal has looked particularly impressive this season so far, have they? Porto lost against Maritimo (AT HOME!), and against Pacos De Ferreira. Sporting have done well to keep winning most of their one domestic match a week...but let's not forget they also couldn't even qualify for the Europa League group stage and were humiliated at home by a club from Austria I had hardly heard of before that game! Anyone who follows the Portuguese league knows well that the last few seasons haven't been the best for our league, with none of our clubs looking particularly strong in relation to the strong clubs of Europe. Hopefully that will change again soon, and we can get more competitive in Europe again soon.

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Andre, don't even get me started on Porto!! We'll be here all day.

I think I used "horrible" only because the way LFV and JJ were talking, they made it apparent that they were shooting for some big goals. As usual with JJ, it's been...

Andre, don't even get me started on Porto!! We'll be here all day.

I think I used "horrible" only because the way LFV and JJ were talking, they made it apparent that they were shooting for some big goals. As usual with JJ, it's been overpromising. Agreed anyone can lose in Europe at any time, but PAOK have zero Champions League history.

I disagree a bit with your point about the teams. Braga, as always have been competitive, and played some attractive footy. Sporting have had flashes of good football as well, but have been results-oriented first and foremost. Benfica have been a shell of their prior displays (as my best buddy, a big Benfiquista says- they look like they don't even want to be on the pitch half the time). Porto have been excellent in Europe, to my surprise, but extremely underwhelming domestically.

I agree that the empty stadiums has been a real x factor for all of the teams. The other factor is surprise Covid tests, as we saw with a few of the teams already. One positive test can lead to a game being re-scheduled and can really mess with any momentum.

I disagree with the Liga not being strong in comparison with other clubs and leagues. If anything, I think that some of the restructuring the FPF have done in the last few seasons, as well as investments (Famalicao, Boavista), have made the teams outside the big 3 much more competitive. Combine this with the high quality of Portuguese managers, and you have a situation where not every game for the big 3 is a guaranteed "W". Benfica just spent $100 million this year, Porto has been producing the best youth players the last little while and Sporting has acquired some good players while also bringing up some youth academy players.

All in all, it's been a bit of an upswing from prior seasons.

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You are right Andre. We still have a long way to go. Benfica may very well win the league.
As for our dear friend Chris, he is most afraid of Amorim heading to Benfica knowing that would usher in an age of dominance never seen before.
I am for...

You are right Andre. We still have a long way to go. Benfica may very well win the league.
As for our dear friend Chris, he is most afraid of Amorim heading to Benfica knowing that would usher in an age of dominance never seen before.
I am for Sporting, but know he will soon leave for greener pastures. He is just too good of a talent. When he leaves, I pray it is not for Benfica.
Amorim has the perfect profile for longevity as a coach. Not too good of a player to have things come easy for him. Meaning, he had to work and problem solve his way into being a good player. Yet good enough where his players will respect him and he will not fall victim after two years to his players like Mourinho. The best part about Amorim is that he would never coach Porto. He would never bother to coach a most boring and vanilla team with its fair weather fans. Watch, next year Chris will claim to have always been a Sportinguista.

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If you think of me as a fairweather Porto fan, you haven't been on PortuGOAL very long or just not paying attention.

Half of my family are Sporting fans, and my Grandfather was, so obviously while not a Sporting fan, I am not upset by seeing...

If you think of me as a fairweather Porto fan, you haven't been on PortuGOAL very long or just not paying attention.

Half of my family are Sporting fans, and my Grandfather was, so obviously while not a Sporting fan, I am not upset by seeing them do well.

As for your comment on Amorim, you're not totally wrong. I think he will for sure go to Benfica because he's an eagle through and through. And you're probably right that he would do very well there. Dominate? Not sure, but he wouldn't suck, that's for sure.

As for your cheap shots towards Porto, I expect this. When your team is as successful as they are, cheap shots are the only thing people like you can make because there really isn't anything else.

I also enjoy your lack of self-awareness and hypocrisy. Up top, you commended Porto for doing well in Europe and came up with some conspiracy theory that Sporting is doing well because of an "FPF mandate", meaning, Sporting can only do well if Porto and Benfica let them.

Then when Porto is associated with me, they're bland and vanilla. Lol, glad to see you're still licking your wounds. But I don't wish you ill Danny, I frankly just don't care enough to wish you any ill will. I will just continue to enjoy the season and commenting on my favourite footy site, where MOST of the community are good people with something relevant to say. Cheers.

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You just got trolled. Again! That's five wins for me zero for you!

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Danny, whenever I read your sad little attempts at "winning" without so much as saying even one thing of relevance, I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes. It applies directly to you:

"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows...

Danny, whenever I read your sad little attempts at "winning" without so much as saying even one thing of relevance, I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes. It applies directly to you:

"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool."

I see you're still quite hurt by my comments in an earlier article, and reading your comments about being a Sporting fan but bowing to Benfica really points to one thing; inferiority complex.

If it's any consolation, I promise to take it easy on you and try to be respectful of your condition. All the best little buddy.

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That's win number six.

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I'm glad these imaginary victories mean so much to you.

It's touching to know that not only are you always thinking of me, but that I bring value and meaning to your life.

What happens after your 10th "win"? Do you get invited to the adult...

I'm glad these imaginary victories mean so much to you.

It's touching to know that not only are you always thinking of me, but that I bring value and meaning to your life.

What happens after your 10th "win"? Do you get invited to the adult table and get to stop using a booster seat?

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@Tom: I just think that this article seemed like some sort of final review and look-back of a season that had already ended. Constant use of the past simple tense, as if everything is finished already....when there should have been more of an...

@Tom: I just think that this article seemed like some sort of final review and look-back of a season that had already ended. Constant use of the past simple tense, as if everything is finished already....when there should have been more of an emphasis on the present perfect tense, i.e. this is what has happened so far in a season that is still going on, and in fact the business end (when everything matters) is still coming up.

If you read my point in my first post, I said that myself and all Benfica fans are disappointed with many of the performances so far this season. But it also hasn't been all doom and gloom has it? Yes the PAOK defeat was super disappointing, but to mention again that could've happened to anyone in a one off away from home tie in this strange empty stadium atmosphere we are going through right now. We are tied third place in the league at the moment of speaking, 4 points off top spot, which we all know can potentially change in just a couple of weeks. As for the loss in the super cup. I repeat: I couldn't care less about that trophy, they could scrap the whole tournament tomorrow and I wouldn't even notice it! You're right that we haven't been anywhere near the kind of level we had hoped for yet, but to mention again, we are still only 1/3 of the way through the season. And there have been some positives too so far...we have scored quite a lot of goals...I mean we scored 18 goals in 6 matches in the Europa league group stage, no not the toughest of groups, but also not all the doom and gloom this season as suggested in the article,

@Chris: I agree with you that it's good how much more competitive our league seems to be this season, with some really surprising results so far and difficult matches for everyone. But i'm not sure if this is simply what's happening across the board in Europe. The same seems to be going on in every league....Aston Villa put 7 past Liverpool for instance. In any case, I really feel that the strength of our top teams in our league has been diminishing for a few seasons already. I mean Sporting are top of the Portuguese league right now, yet they got hammered 4-1 at home by a team that's no more than the 4th team of Austria! Benfica lost against PAOK. Porto lost at home against Krasnodar in the CL playoff last season. Yes Braga are making steady progress and that's good for our league...but they also got hammered 4-0 by Leicester in Europe this season. I think the level of the Portuguese league in general is definitely not as strong as it was 10, even 5 years ago. But things are always cyclical in this sport and things change quickly, so hopefully as soon as possible we will get to a higher general level again

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