International Champions Cup: Focus on Benfica
August is upon us, and with it, the debut of OL in the International Champions Cup. Bruno Genesio's men begin the homestretch of their preseason on Wednesday against Benfica (Portugal), followed by Inter Milan (Italy) on Saturday and Chelsea (England) on Tuesday.
SL Benfica, a giant of Portuguese football…
Founded on February 28, 1904 under the name of Sport Lisboa, SL Benfica, which would be renamed after a merger with Sport Club Benfica in 1906, is one of Portuguese football's biggest clubs, alongside Sporting Portugal, its Lisbon neighbor, and FC Porto. The club is one of the founding members of the Portuguese Football Championship, created in 1934 and today known as the Primeira Liga - the top flight of Portuguese football, which SLB has never left, just like its two main rivals. But what distinguishes Benfica from the other two giants of Portuguese football is its track record. The club holds a record number of titles in each of the national competitions, both in the league (36), the Portuguese Cup (26) and League Cup (7).
… and a mainstay in Europe
The team's standout performances in the domestic league were soon repeated on the international stage, with Benfica winning two straight European Cups (1961 and 1962), becoming the first Portuguese club to lift the continental trophy in the process. However, it's been 56 years since their last triumph in Europe, despite reaching seven finals. Many blame it on a "curse" by Bela Guttman, the man who coached the team to its two European titles who, upon leaving the club under acrimonious circumstances, allegedly said: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions."
In the tradition of its glorious past, Benfica remains today one of the powerhouses of Portuguese football. Runners up last season, SLB won four league titles in a row between 2013 and 2017 and has played two Europa League finals in the past decade. Moreover, Benfica is the team with the second largest number of members (over 180,000) in the world, second only to Bayern Munich. More than a club, it's a real institution, marked by a strong identity and bond that unites its fans. A sense of loyalty that perfectly describes Benfica's motto: E Pluribus Unum ("Out of many, one").
All-time OL-Benfica showdowns
OL and Benfica have only faced each other twice in official matches. Both occurred during the 2010-11 Champions League group stage. In Gerland, in the first leg, OL won 2-0 before falling in the Estadio da Luz after an epic match that ended in a 4-3 victory for the home side. Two years ago, both clubs faced off once again at Groupama Stadium, a friendly that Lyon won by a 3-2 scoreline. Another memorable encounter took place on July 21, 2000, on the occasion of OL's 50th anniversary celebrations. That night, the Portuguese club visited Gerland, where nearly 150 players participated in an entertaining 1-1 draw.