What: UEFA Champions League – Group G
Who: Benfica vs Barcelona
When: Tuesday 2nd October, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
Benfica might be topping the Portuguese league, but surely a lot more will be needed in order to overcome Barcelona, even at the Estadio da Luz. Winless in over 30 years against Spanish opposition, breaking their bad luck against Barcelona would be a dream situation. However, the Blaugrana are in good form and beating them will prove to be a hard task.
In a group that also includes Spartak Moscow and Celtic; three points will be valuable for Benfica. Having lost the likes of Javi Garcia and Axel Witsel over the summer – integral components in the Eagles’ starting line-up – many expected Benfica to be a different team this season.
However, Jorge Jesus’ side are in good shape and won at the weekend, beating Pacos Ferreira 2-1. And in the club’s first Champions League match they should have beaten Celtic, enjoying more shots on goal than the Scottish giants, meaning a 0-0 draw was a disappointment.
Benfica will not be afforded this luxury against Barcelona and will have to make every chance count.
Few teams appear to be doing better at the moment than current Copa del Rey holders Barcelona. With their win against Sevilla at the weekend, the club consolidated their perfect start to La Liga, with 18 points out of a possible 18. Facing Portuguese league runners-up Benfica, coach Tito Vilanova will want to continue his good start as the club’s boss and get his second continental win.
At 2-0 down at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan against Sevilla, Barcelona exhibited great spirit, winning the match 3-2 in the last few minutes. Thoughts though quickly turned to this match, with the scorer of the game’s winner David Villa highlighting the threat that Benfica will pose to his team.
“It is now time to focus on another competition. We’re very pleased to leave here [Seville] with such an important result and now we have to focus on the match in Lisbon. It is an important and difficult match and that’s why we cannot afford ourselves the luxury of relaxing. We want the three points”, declared the ex-Valencia star.
Celtic 0-0 Benfica (19/09; Champions League)
Academica 2-2 Benfica (23/09; SuperLiga)
Pacos Ferreira 1-2 Benfica (28/09; SuperLiga)
Barcelona 3-2 Spartak Moscow (19/09; Champions League)
Barcelona 2-0 Granada (22/09; La Liga)
Sevilla 2-3 Barcelona (29/09; La Liga)
Benfica: Oscar Cardozo
Barcelona: Gerard Pique; Isaac Cuenca; Eric Abidal; Thiago Alcantara
Players to watch
Benfica – Rodrigo: The Brazilian-born striker has grown in stature with Benfica since joining the club in 2010 and is now rated as one of the Portuguese side’s most exciting talents. A good showing against Barcelona would not just confirm his potential, it would also push him closer to Vicente del Bosque’s senior Spain squad.
Barcelona – Cesc Fabregas: Fabregas has seen his Barcelona career stagnate recently, finding himself on the team’s periphery a number of times. The former Arsenal man seems to have redeemed himself with two goals against Sevilla though and he is expected to carry on his rejuvenation against Benfica.
Benfica will need something big to beat Barcelona, considering the form the Catalan giants have shown since the season began. The home advantage will surely push Benfica forward in this one, but winning the game might be difficult given the circumstances. Benfica 1-2 Barcelona.
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