Benfica will be keen to get the job done when they welcome Club Brugge for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.
Portuguese giants SL Benfica will welcome Belgian counterparts Club Brugge to Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica with a two-goal lead to protect in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.
This puts the Eagles in a strong position as they chase a quarter-final berth in the competition for a second consecutive season. Having been knocked out of the Last Eight by Liverpool last season, Benfica will be keen to have another shot at going as deep as they can in the competition.
Scott Parker’s side are yet to hit top gear under his management and were defensively naive in their first leg loss. They now find themselves with a mountain to climb in an arena that is not traditionally kind to visitors.
Only once in 45 previous occasions in the UEFA Champions League has a side that has won the first leg away ended up losing the tie over two games. It should take a monumental collapse from Benfica or a scintillating performance from Brugge to upset the applecart.
While a 1-0 lead from the first leg was salvageable, David Neres’s late strike at the Jan Breydel Stadium more or less swings the tie massively in Benfica’s favour. Roger Schmidt’s side are in good form at the moment and have only lost to Bayern Munich and Liverpool at home in recent years.
Brugge will need to be more adventurous and have no option but to take the game to Benfica. This should leave an opening for the home side to exploit on the counter. It should be an open game with plenty of goalscoring opportunities at both ends of the table. The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they could employ.
Team News & Tactics
— SL Benfica (@SLBenfica) March 5, 2023
Roger Schmidt will be without Mihailo Ristic and Julian Draxler who are suffering from muscle and ankle injuries. Chiquinho continues to recover from a muscular issue and is a doubt for the game. Benfica have an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from.
Benfica come into the tie having won all three of their games since the reverse leg. They have conceded just once in that time and appear to be solid in possession. Schmidt and co also have an eight-point lead at the top of Liga Portugal, meaning they can afford to focus on the midweek fixture over the upcoming game against Maritimo at the weekend.
The home side are likely to be set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that will focus on retaining the ball. Odysseas Vlachodimos should start in goal behind the back four of Alexander Bah, Antonio Silva, Nicolas Otamendi and Alejandro Grimaldo.
Florentino Luís is likely to form the double pivot with Fredrik Aursnes in Chiquinho’s absence. The duo will provide cover for the defence and provide the trio of Joao Mario, Rafa Silva and David Neres to craft opportunities in the attack.
Goncalo Ramos scored twice against Famalicao at the weekend and is likely to hold onto the spot upfront ahead of Goncalo Guedes, who is nursing a sore knee. The Portuguese international is being scouted by several top clubs. and a strong showing in Europe’s top competition this season will do him favours.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vlachodimos; Bah, Antonio Silva, Otamendi, Grimaldo; Aursnes, Florentino; Mario, Rafa Silva, Neres; Ramos
The Belgian giants are decades off when they used to make European finals with regularity and are today minnows. The two-goal deficit does not help and Scott Parker has no option but to set his side up for the jugular.
Jack Hendry is unlikely to recover from his injury, while Adreas Skov Olsen will sit out following an appendix surgery. It is not all bad news as Raphael Onyedika will be expected to recover from his illness and feature for the game.
Parker has an uphill task ahead of him but is likely to set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that will mirror Benfica. Belgian ace Simon Mignolet should start in goal behind the back four of Clinton Mata, Abakar Sylla, Brandon Mechele and Bjorn Meijer.
— Club Brugge KV (@ClubBrugge) March 5, 2023
Raphael Onyedika and Denis Odoi are likely to form the doubt pivot, protecting the backline and also giving the visitors the jumpboard needed tokickstart attacks. Skipper Hans Vanaken is expected to feature as the number 10, with Noa Lang and Tajon Buchanan flanking him. Ferran Jutgla is likely to start upfront and lead the Brugge counterattack.
The Belgians won just one of their three games following the fast leg and are still smarting from a 3-0 loss to Oostende at the weekend. To call their task monumental in Portugal this week would be an understatement.
As long as Brugge gets the first goal on the night, the game is likely to be a close one. However, a lot will depend on the defence not shooting themselves in the foot.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Mata, Sylla, Mechele, Meijer; Odoi, Onyedika; Buchanan, Vanaken, Lang; Jutgla
- Benfica have not lost any of their previous ten games at home against Belgian opposition. Club Brugge have lost five of their seven trips to Portugal so far. This is their first-ever trip to Benfica.
- Benfica won the first leg 2-0. Only one time in 45 such occasions has a side thrown away a 2+ goal lead from an away win in the first leg.
- A win on the night will see Benfica make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League/ European Cup in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1967-68 to 1968-1969.
- Benfica have been knocked out of the competition on just three occasions when they have won the first leg. Benfica are currently on their best winning streak (3) in the Champions League since the 1989/90 season (6).
- The last time Club Brugge made it to the quarter-final of a European competition was in the 2014/15 UEFA Cup where they were knocked out by Dnipro in the last eight stage.
Player to Watch
The central midfielder will be one of Benfica’s most important players on the night and will be tasked with helping the home side win the battle in the middle of the park. Physically adept and in possession of excellent positional awareness, Mario is a difficult player to give the slip. If anything, his presence will restore calm in the Benfica backline.
The 30-year-old is also a threat on the other side of the field. He has scored in four straight UEFA Champions League games and could make it five later on Tuesday. Doing so will see him become the first Benfica star to score in five consecutive UCL games since the legendary Eusebio in the 1960s.
SL Benfica 2-0 Club Brugge
Club Brugge will want to put up a fight. But their form and lack of serial match winners put them at a considerable disadvantage. Benfica are no mugs at home and will be confident of their chances of putting the game to bed early. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 2-00 win for the home side.