Despite last weekend's slip-up, Benfica fans are optimistic that 2009 will see them top the standings for the first time since 2005. And while their midpoint tally of eight wins, six draws and one defeat (the fewest number of games lost by any side) is not vastly different from that of previous years, there is a tangible feeling at the club that things are different this season. ?
However, Sanchez Flores has been less satisfied with his compatriot Reyes, who, after a promising start to his Portuguese adventure, has lost momentum of late. True to his _style_, the coach left his squad in no doubt as to what he expects of them, warning recently: "Anyone who doesn't give the maximum doesn't play, as at Benfica it's about total commitment, not half-measures."
"When a team haven't won anything for a long time, they can become comfortable with losing, which is the worst possible thing that can happen," Benfica coach Quique Sanchez Flores said in the press a few days ago. For the Spanish coach, breaking that losing habit could prove his biggest challenge at a club that has only claimed one league _title_, one Portuguese Cup and one Supercup in the last ten years.
However, the chase for league honours in 2009 is far from a two-horse race. Level on points with Benfica are Sporting Lisbon, the third member of the country's traditional big three, while just three points further back are this year's surprise side Leixoes. The Porto-_base_d club have defied all the experts by keeping pace with the big guns and now have lofty ambitions for the season. ?
I'm a coach who rebuilds teams. I feel I've been making up lost ground my entire career. Quique Sanchez Flores on his task at Benfica.
As Benfica go about their rebuilding, defending champions Porto are once again setting the pace in the league thanks in no small part to a pair of in-form Argentinians, Lucho Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez. Since signing for the Drag?es in 2005, the former has picked up a league winners' medal every year, racking up 140 appearances and winning over critics and fans alike with his goals, assists and all-round contribution from midfield.
This latest era at the Lisbon side began last summer when Sanchez Flores took up the reins at the Estadio da Luz. The stakes were high for the Spaniard, with club legend Rui Costa having just retired and his http://longmeadowsoccer.com/
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Though clearly disappointed with their early elimination from this year's UEFA Cup, Benfica should now be able to focus entirely on the league. That said, when he spoke to the press recently the coach was putting greater emphasis on creating a team capable of sustained growth.
Portugal's Liga reached the halfway stage this weekend with Benefica only a point behind leaders Porto. Indeed had the Aguias (Eagles) not dropped two points away to Belenenses on Friday night, they could have claimed the honorary _title_ of winter champions for the first time in 15 years. With just a single point now separating the country's big three, it promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the season.
His compatriot Lisandro has also been thriving in recent times with the Blue-and-Whites, even catching the eye of Argentina coach Diego Maradona. His 24 goals last season demonstrated how well he has adapted to the Liga Sagres, and the striker has every reason to be optimistic of a recall to the Albiceleste.
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