Action Images via REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
21:00 BST, Wednesday 1st August (Estadio Algarve, Portugal)
Having played two games in America, Benfica return to Portugal for their final match of the International Champions Cup against Lyon. The match is due to take place at Estadio Algarve, located between Faro and Loule, kicking off at 21:00 local time.
The French team replaced Sevilla due to the Spanish club’s early Europa League qualifiers and Spanish Super Cup commitments. This is their International Champions Cup debut – from here they’ll travel to Lecce, Italy to play Inter Milan and London, England to play Chelsea.
Rui Vitoria will be using this friendly as the final piece of preparation for Benfica before their crucial two-legged Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce.
Last Time Out
Benfica 1 – 1 Juventus (Juventus win 4-2 on penalties) [International Champions Cup]
Having defeated Dortmund on penalties, Benfica lost their second shootout against the Italian champions at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Max Allegri fielded an under-strength line-up, without new marquee signing Cristiano Ronaldo, yet they still had the experience of Claudio Marchisio, Giorgio Chiellini, Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira from the start, and the likes of Emre Can, Medhi Benatia and Alex Sandro emerging from the bench.
There was a glimpse of the future for Benfica, as new striker Facundo Ferreyra, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk, was given a run-out to form an all-Argentinian front three alongside Franco Cervi and Eduardo Salvio.
But the new striker’s appearance was cut short after clashing heads with his own teammate, Mario Jardel, and stretchered off with a neck brace. He was replaced by another summer acquisition, Chilean forward Nicolas Castillo, but it was to be fullback Alex Grimaldo who scored for Benfica, with a delightfully dipped free-kick.
It was cancelled out shortly before full-time with an exceptional strike from Luca Clemenza. The 21-year-old youth product smashed an effort after a short dribble, hitting the underside of the crossbar as it flew past Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Jonas and Joao Felix missed their penalties in the shootout, as Juventus scored four out of four.
Lyon 2-1 Wolfsburg [Friendly]
After the women’s team closed their campaign by exerting their dominance over the German side in Kyiv’s Lobanovskyi stadium, winning a third straight Champions League, Lyon’s men did the same as they began preparations for the 2018/19 season, albeit in a game with no real meaning.
Nabil Fekir, still with Lyon after his transfer to Liverpool fell through, didn’t feature as he recuperates following France’s World Cup triumph. It was a largely second-string Lyon team, though two new arrivals got off the mark.
Leo Dubois, on a free from Nantes, scored the opener as he found himself unmarked at the far post for a simple tap-in from a deflected cross. Martin Terrier doubled the lead, hitting a corner on the volley as Wolfsburg's goalkeeper Pavao Pervan failed to claim it.
Maximilian Arnold got one back for Wolfsburg with a drilled long-range effort, but Lyon saw it out.
After experimenting in the ICC thus far, this would be the opportune time for Rui Vitoria to get his first team back up to speed ahead of next week's crunch match against Fenerbahce.
Expect more first-teamers. Ferreyra will miss the match through injury, and veteran striker Jonas will have his minutes carefully managed.
Memphis Depay will be the key man after he sat out of the World Cup after the Netherlands failed to qualify.
Elsewhere there will be plenty of rotations and opportunities for the younger players.
Key Battle: Memphis Depay (Lyon) vs Andre Almeida (Benfica)
The Dutch forward finally, consistently, showed why he was drawing comparisons with Eric Cantona from his time at PSV and very early sparks at Manchester United.
He scored a hat-trick to help Lyon secure Champions League football in the final match of the Ligue 1 season in a 3-2 win against Nice, and was irresistible throughout the final months of the season.
On another memorable occasion, he assisted four goals and scored one himself in a 5-0 thrashing of Metz.
Benfica's trusted right-back Andre Almeida will have his work cut out against the guile and trickery of a player looking to start this season as strongly as he finished the last one. A strong defender, he will need to stay on his feet as Depay will look to get past him time and again.
It was so close to happening, but the mooted transfer denied to Liverpool denied over doubts from his medical. Now a World Cup winner, it will be another few weeks before Fekir returns to the team.
Playing as a number 10, he was back to his best last season and consistently dangerous, a key component of Lyon's attacking interplay. A revival of the Liverpool move has been rumoured, and he might yet end up somewhere else.
This is a chance to see how Lyon could adapt to life without him. New signing Martin Terrier scored in the last friendly, and could be a handful playing as a second striker.
Are Benfica ready?
Having won four Portuguese titles before last season, it's been some time since Benfica had to contest a qualifier for the Champions League.
With the Liga NOS due to start on August 12th, Benfica will have to begin their season early with one of the most important matches.
Fenerbahce, who finished three points behind champions Galatasaray last season, will be a tough test.
With familiar faces Martin Skrtel, Mathieu Valbuena, Andre Ayew and Roberto Soldado, Benfica will have their work cut out if they hope to make the Champions League group stage, and all the financial rewards that come with it.
Five days before it, their friendly against Lyon will demonstrate if they're sufficiently prepared.
Prediction: Benfica 1-1 Lyon
Having been at pre-season longer, Benfica should be the better prepared of the two teams and have a balanced, solid team.
By holding Dortmund and Juventus to draws, they've demonstrated an ability to compete, but with one eye on next week's qualifier may make a lot of early substitutions.
With Depay's individual quality, he should be able to exploit a Benfica lacking cohesion, but Lyon themselves are getting up to speed.
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