What: Europa League Semi-final Second Leg
Who: Benfica (0) vs Fenerbahce (1) (First leg score in brackets)
When: Thursday 2nd May, 2013, at 20:05 UK Time
Where: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
Faltering At The Finish?
Benfica’s 1-0 defeat in the first leg to Fenerbahce in Turkey was remarkably only the club’s third loss of the season. It was the team’s first setback since October and while confidence is high that a place in the Europa League final will still be theirs, the result was still able to send some shockwaves through the club. The thinking has now turned to ‘what could be lost in a season that has promised so much?’
Will Jorge Jesus’ side, that have played such high quality football all season, now falter when it counts most? With a four-point lead over FC Porto in the league and a spot in the Portuguese Cup final along with the upcoming semi-final second leg still to contest in the Europa League, Benfica are club that are aiming for three trophies. The odds are that the red side of Lisbon will be celebrating titles in the next month, however the first leg loss was a reminder that things could still go awry in the final crucial set of matches.
Benfica have lost only once at home this season in all competitions and that was to Barcelona in the Champions League. They will have every expectation of beating Fenerbahce as they have also gone 13 Europa League matches unbeaten at the Estadio da Luz, winning 12 of those encounters. There will undoubtedly be an incredible atmosphere in Lisbon as Benfica try to earn a spot in the final. And the belief is building as evidenced by Eduardo Salvio’s remarks ahead of the return. “We cannot be happy with the result”, said the former Atletico Madrid man, “but we are confident we can change the course of this tie at home, in front of our own fans.”
Away Form Gives Hope
While Turkish clubs have a long history of being successful at home in European competitions thanks to the atmosphere the country’s supporters can create, Fenerbahce have come this far in this season’s Europa League with a fine away record. Four wins and two draws in their six Europa League fixtures away from home show that they are a club that do not fear leaving the cozy confines of their own Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
The Yellow Canaries will want to keep their away record intact in what will be their biggest test of the campaign in the second leg against Benfica. This will be one of Fenerbahce’s most important nights in club history with the hopes of supporters clinging to an away result which would lead to the team’s first ever continental final. Aykut Kocaman’s side were superb in the first leg, creating a whole host of chances that resulted in a missed penalty and hitting the woodwork four times with one of those finally ending in a second half goal.
The 1-0 win may look narrow, but this side’s away record and the momentum they currently have means that they will believe they can do the job in Portugal. A goal in the return leg would make things very difficult for Benfica and the hope is by night’s end, Fenerbahce will be celebrating a famous progression to the final in Amsterdam on 15th May.
Benfica 2-0 Sporting Lisbon (21/04; Portuguese SuperLiga)
Fenerbahce 1-0 Benfica (25/04; Europa League)
Maritimo 1–2 Benfica (29/04; Portuguese Liga)
Genclerbirligi 2-0 Fenerbahce (21/04; Turkish Super Lig)
Fenerbahce 1-0 Benfica (25/04; Europa League)
Fenerbahce 2-1 Kayserispor (28/04; Turkish Super Lig)
Benfica: Ola John (suspended)
Fenerbahce: Mehmet Topal (suspended); Pierre Webo (suspended)
Players to watch
Benfica – Oscar Cardozo: The Paraguayan frontman will be seeking to cement his status as a club legend with the goals to beat Fenerbahce in the second leg. Since his arrival at the Estadio da Luz in 2007, the 6 foot, 4 inch striker has been a goalscoring revelation for Benfica, scoring over 100 times in only 150 or so appearances. He is currently having one of the best seasons of his career, though the two-time Paraguayan Footballer of the Year would love to lead his team to a European trophy.
Fenerbahce – Volkan Demirel: This could be an evening where the Turkish goalkeeper will need to be at his best if his side are to advance. The experienced Demirel has been Fenerbahce’s number one since he joined the club in 2002, winning four league titles in just over a decade while also earning 57 caps for the Turkish national team. In arguably the biggest game in Fenerbahce’s history, the team will look to Demirel at the back to inspire what would be a historic trip to a European final.
This has all the makings of an incredible night at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. Benfica will undoubtedly attack from the start looking for an early goal that could unsettle Fenerbahce. With the attacking firepower of Jesus’ side it is almost inconceivable that they could go both legs without scoring. One thing is for sure and that is Benfica must manage a more complete performance at home if they are to progress.
Fenerbahce will like their chances after the first leg result. A goal away to Lazio sealed progress in the last round and the team will believe they can do it again in Portugal, meaning Benfica would need three goals to advance. A tough one to call as the Turks will battle to protect their slender lead, but Benfica should rise to the occasion and advance to the final. Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahce.
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