Benfica and Bayer Leverkusen both suffered 1-0 losses last time out in the Champions League, however Benfica’s proved more costly than their German opponents. The loss to Zenit St. Petersburg sent Benfica out of the competition, while Leverkusen’s had no consequence as Benfica’s defeat meant they were through to the next round. Despite both teams knowing their fates in the competition it doesn’t mean that this game means nothing, Leverkusen need a win to secure top spot in order for a potentially easier tie in the next round.
The last meeting between the two sides saw an entertaining match in which Leverkusen cruised to a 3-1 victory in front of their own fans. The win for the Germans set the ball rolling in this year’s Champions League, they recovered from the opening match day defeat to Monaco and the Benfica win was the start of a three match winning streak as they managed to do the double over Russian side Zenit. Benfica would’ve liked to have done much better in this season’s Champions League, however they find themselves bottom with four points after holding Monaco to a goalless draw before edging past them at home with a 1-0 win, unfortunately for their fans even if their side win they’ll finish in fourth place.
Benfica will have to face Leverkusen without captain Luisão and Andreas Samaris due to their suspensions, however they’ll be boosted by the return of Argentine defender Lisandro López, who’s finished his two-game suspension after his red card against Monaco in match day three. There are no fresh injury concerns for Benfica, the only injuries were the same ones missing from the previous meeting with Leverkusen. The three missing are Ljubomir Fejsa (Cruciate Ligament Surgery), Rúben Amorim (Cruciate Ligament Rupture) and Sílvio (Tibia Fracture).
There are no suspensions for Leverkusen, however they will be without four players. Lars Bender won’t be risked after he had to be brought off in Leverkusen’s league match with Bayern Munich, Simon Rolfes will take his place in the starting line up. The Germans are also without Stefan Reinartz (Eye Socket, Giulio Donati (Shoulder) and Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Shoulder).
Benfica have played eleven games since they last played Leverkusen and they’ve enjoyed a great run of results, which has only seen them lose twice, 2-1 away to Sporting Braga in the league and away to Zenit in the Champions League. Those eleven games has seen just one draw as well, with eight wins. Their last five league games saw the loss to Braga, however they go into this game with a four game winning streak. On the weekend they sent Belenenses packing after winning 3-0.
Since the 3-1 win over Benfica, Leverkusen have only lost three times in all competitions, that was against Hamburg in the league at the start of November, Monaco in the Champions League match day five and this weekends defeat to German champions Bayern Munich. In the league the last five games has seen the two defeats previously mentioned, one draw against Mainz and two impressive victories, 3-1 against Hannover and 5-1 against Köln.
“We expect Benfica will want to end on a high with a win. The group was very close and Benfica were unlucky and could, for instance, have won at Zenit. The fact is that in 15 European home matches they have only lost one, which shows their strength. All our players take great joy in playing and that desire is greater in Europe. They’ll take this match seriously and won’t take it easy. I plan to make a change or two because some players have played a lot, but still, the aim is to win.”
“The truth is that we have no chance of continuing in Europe. Still, we have a responsibility to win. Our Champions League record is always important – the points don’t count in terms of qualification, but they do for our identity, especially to those players that will be involved. There is no sporting risk because we are out, but we’ll try to be competitive against Leverkusen even using some players that don’t play often.”
This will be a very tough test for Leverkusen, their hosts have a very impressive home record. In all competitions they’ve won the last six games at home and that’s seen them scoring sixteen goals and conceding just two. Benfica’s home record in the league is even more impressive as they haven’t tasted a defeat since the 2nd of March 2012 when Porto won 3-2, good thing Leverkusen aren’t Portuguese.
In the past Leverkusen haven’t travelled well in the Champions League, before their win against Real Sociedad in last seasons Champion League group stage they suffered fifteen games without a Champions League away win, stretching from November 2002 to the win against Sociedad in December 2013, that run saw eleven defeats and four draws. The positive coming into this game with Benfica is that they gave Bayern Munich a great test on Saturday and that was just their third defeat in fifteen games.
Quotes from UEFA.com.
Article for VAVEL.