FC Copenhagen +1.25 over Benfica @1.78 (Betfair e.g.)
- First leg played in Benfica.
IMO, this match boils down to in what gear Benfica are they in an international match atm and whether their normal, great strength at home is applicable? Below, I've listed the points I find important:
* In last year's group stage, Benfica drew 0-0 in Copenhagen (same time of year, the Portuguese league had not started) and won easily 3-0 in Lisbon much later in the season when they were warm. Should be stated that Benfica was little surprising very defensively oriented in the first match.
* Benfica is according to Portuguese media a worse team than last year on paper (should be said tho that many are in disagreement whether the new, heavy signings will make it a stronger team). Simao (cpt and huge idol) and Miccoli, 2 very key players last year, have left and to compensate, Benfica pulled out the big wallet and bought di Maria and Andres Diez, Oscar Cardozo plus wonder body Freddy Adu as the most important signings.
* Benfica has only had 3-4 weeks to weld the team and as mentioned above, there are several new elements to integrate.
* Benfica is struggling with several injuries - Nuno Gomes, Cardozo, di Maria and Zoro (tough to say who might play) are all injured and at least non-optimal form-wise.
* The overall fact that Benfica is a great home team is significant. The team has not lost a league match at home since Jan 28, 2006, since then they're 15-6-0. In Europe, the team was 5-1-1, the loss to Man U in the group stage.
* FC Copenhagen is not the team they were last season, clearly weakened by the departure of midfield nucleus, Linderoth, who had much more international poise/experience than Rasmus Würtz. Würtz is very talented but on the defensive midfield, it will take him time to cover the bomb crater after Linderoth and he's coming back after injury atm. Furthermore, the second position where FCK are very weakened is the right back where Lars Jacobsen, having left for Nürnberg, is by no means replaced fully by the young William Kvist who's doing his best but is not a classical and talented right back. Should be added regarding the midfield that the new signing, Czech player Sionko, is looking promising and could be an asset in this match.
* FCK has started the league decently but without shining play. They are effective and Morten Nordstrand looks a great purchase, ppl in our beloved kingdom say he's the next Jon Dahl Tomasson but he's young and untried on the international stage.
* The matches vs Beitar Jerusalem showed many interesting things imo:
- FCK were in a very low gear in the first match, got lucky with a goal and were dominated almost by a 10-man Beitar side in the second half, being content with a 1-0 victory. Poor performance but effective and a bit lucky.
- The slim advantage and not going for a 2+ victory in Copenhagen had its consequences in Beitar where the home team, having flunked terribly in the first half, was inspired by a slighly coincidental goal and showed the great football Beitar can play
- It should tho be said that FCK were very well organised the first hour of the game but then left back Niclas Jensen fell asleep on the great cross opening the attack that led to the goal.
- Beitar should have scored twice but FCK keeper Christiansen denied them with good skills
- Lucky escape and qualification tho for FCK, very lucky indeed, altho they in all fairness showed their greater international experience in extra time, and keeper Christiansen showed that he's growing and can be a decisive factor on the international arena.
Not an easy match to call but FCK have played 5 league matches and 2 CL qualifiers whereas a clearly changed and all things equal (at least early in the season) weaker Benfica side has trained for 3-4 weeks. FCK is boosted by the total win over Beitar and some recent good, effective performances and a growing form in the league (5-2 at home over Esbjerg on Saturday).
I think this is more open than the 1.50 for home win also given that Solbakken is tactically a good coach whose defensive organisation should make it challenging for Benfica to break through. FCK have never been more experienced internationally and they have very good offensive, counter-attack skilled players up front in Gronkjaer, Nordstrand and Allbäck. In the other end, esp.ly Hangeland is in very good form atm and with Gravgaard, he forms a solid central defense. Benfica should be focused on keeping FCK scoreless and that could limit a home win.
Personally, I'm laying home win @1.50 for trading purposes but the most value I find in the punt, FCK +1.25 - I dont see a 3+ win for Benfica given their lack of serious match practice and I could see FCK limiting the loss to 1 goal, should they lose at all...
FT 2-1, small win (half stake voided, half stake won). Home win was traded at 4+
Benfica playing poorly, much possession but very few chances created. Symbolically, an error by the inexperienced Würtz led to the 1-0 goal (great long range shot by Rui Costa) but after that Benfica looked very pale and out-of-form for a long while as FCK were closer to getting the lead. Game decided by another individual effort, another long range shot from Rui Costa. Deserved victory given Benfica's overwhelming possession but they were not unlucky to win...