What a difference a year makes. This time last season Benfica were sweeping all before them at home and abroad and coach Roger Schmidt could do no wrong.
Although domestic results have been largely positive in 2023/24, the team’s performance level has been poor and the Eagles’ Champions League campaign has been disastrous.
Schmidt has endured heavy criticism for his erratic team selections and in a fresh blow forward David Neres suffered a knee injury in the 1-1 draw against Casa Pia at the weekend that will keep him out of action until 2024.
Neres has a torn meniscus in his left knee and will undergo an operation. The injury is of particular concern given that the Brazilian injured the same knee in 2019 when playing for Ajax, which forced a lengthy spell – almost a year – on the sidelines.
The 26-year-old has been one of the bright sparks for Benfica this season, winning back his place after beginning the campaign on the bench and earning a call-up for Brazil in the recent international break.
There has been no official information from Benfica about how long Neres’ recuperation is expected to take.
Neres joins Alexander Bah and Orkun Kökcü on the injured list, with both players ruled out of two crucial matches for Benfica in the coming days.
Next Wednesday Benfica have a final chance to rescue their Champions League hopes, needing victory in the Basque Country against Real Sociedad to keep their slim hopes of remaining in the competition beyond Christmas alive.
Four days later it’s back to Primeira Liga action as Benfica host table toppers Sporting in the Lisbon derby.
By Tom Kundert