Well that wasn't especially pleasant. Early on it appeared as though Villa's backline was tired, and Benefica sought to take advantage early and often with streaking runs down both flanks spreading the defense and leading to numerous opportunities early on. David Luiz hit a screamer towards goal that took a deflection off of a Villa player (didn't see which) and past Brad Friedel to put Benefica ahead 1-0 in the 11th minute. Curtis Davies came on to replace an obviously gassed Carlos Cuellar immediately afterwards, but the change did little to improve Villa's fortunes and it was 3-0 to Benefica as the first half ended. The temptation is there to chalk the lackluster performance up to fatigue, but of the four defenders that finished the first half only Richard Dunne played significant minutes in yesterday's match. The reality of the situation is that Luke Young looked very rusty (which is to be expected to some extent,) Nicky Shorey looked bad and Davies looked like he had no idea what was happening around him. While it wasn't pretty, I don't expect Shorey to see significant time in the coming season and Luke Young isn't as poor as he looked this afternoon. Davies is no higher than third on Villa's CB depth chart and the team won't be playing games on back to back days all too often. I'm slightly concerned, but I'm not worried.
The play of the central midfield does worry me a bit, however; Sidwell and Petrov are most likely the options MON decides to go with should Milner depart, and they looked very poor. They gave the ball away a great deal, offered no support to the backline and weren't much help in the attack. Things improved once Nigel Reo-Coker came on, and Petrov's energy level was clearly an issue, but the fact is that the pairing that started this match aren't good at holding possession and Villa's effectiveness is largely determined by their ability to maintain possession and prevent counter-attacks. I'd have to think that Villa will bring in another central midfielder should Milner depart, but if not things could get ugly fast. Not taking too much from it, as this was only a friendly, but it also served as a minor confirmation of some fears I've had going into the season.
Bright spots; Albrighton continues to impress, Carew was a beast in the attack and the effort in the second half was significantly better than in the first. I have some concerns, obviously, but Benefica are a very good team playing at home. Villa played yesterday and weren't playing a full-strength side. Not fun to watch, but luckily it didn't count. I'll start to worry for real if Villa look like this on August 14th, but for now I'll just be annoyed that this is how I spent two hours of my Sunday.