Benfica - Celtic Preview: Hoops can qualify for knockout stages with first ever win at Benfica
Neil Lennon's side have lost on every single one of their visits to the Portuguese capital side, while the hosts are yet to taste defeat domestically this season
By Tim Poole
Pereira, Jardel, Garay, Almeida
Matic, Gaitan, Perez
Lima, Cardozo, Rodrigo
Matthews, Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew
Commons, Ledley, Lassad
Benfica welcomed skipper Luisao back into the fold against Moreirense at the weekend after a two-month suspension and the defensive stalwart may be in contention to replace Ezequiel Garay once again.
Coach Jorge Jesus has a wealth of attacking options to choose from, with Ola John, Eduardo Salvio and Melgarejo all having featured up front for the Portuguese side during the group stages.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon, meanwhile, will be without midfielder James Forrest for a game that could potentially send his side through to the tournament's knockout stages.
The Hoops will have Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras available, however, despite the pair making way during their side's 2-0 win against Aberdeen on Saturday.
Scott Brown, Gary Hooper and Joe Ledley are carrying knocks into the tie, while Lennon could well look to revelatory young striker Tony Watt if he chooses to utilise a more attacking approach.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Benfica are unbeaten domestically this season and have only lost twice in all competitions - at home to Barcelona and away to Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.
- The Portuguese outfit's star striker Oscar Cardozo (pictured right) is joint-second in the Portuguese Liga's top scorer charts with six.
- The Lisbon side come into the game on a run of form that has seen them win all but one of their last seven games.
- Celtic are currently top of the SPL, but have not run away with the league as many anticipated they might, currently sitting just a point ahead of Hibernian with a game in hand.
- The Glasgow club became the first British team to lift the European Cup 45 years ago in Lisbon.
- Hoops midfielder Victor Wanyama became the first Kenyan to net a Champions league goal when he headed home against Barcelona last time out.
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Top 3 Predictions
Benfica 1-2 Celtic
- 17.42 %
Benfica 1-1 Celtic
- 15.75 %
Benfica 2-1 Celtic
- 14.56 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||20 Nov 2012||Benfica 2 - Celtic 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||19 Sep 2012||Celtic 0 - Benfica 0|
|6 Dec 2013||Benfica 2 - FC Arouca 2||POR1|
|1 Dec 2013||Rio Ave 1 - Benfica 3||POR1|
|27 Nov 2013||Anderlecht 2 - Benfica 3||UCL|
|23 Nov 2013||Benfica 1 - Braga 0||POR1|
|5 Nov 2013||Olympiakos 1 - Benfica 0||UCL|
|35||Enzo Nicolás Pérez||Midfielder|
|33||Jardel Nivaldo Vieira||Defender|
|20||Osvaldo Nicolás Fabián Gaitán||Midfielder|
With six goals to his name in the Portuguese league and two in European competition, the experienced marksman is sure to cause a stir amongst the Celtic backline. Cardozo is not Benfica's only threat, yet how the Hoops contain the 29-year-old Paraguayan may well determine the outcome of the Scottish champions' fortunes.
Samaras has caused mayhem in recent European games against Barcelona and his danger from set-pieces will again be crucial. Whether the Greek striker is played as a lone frontman or alongside another of the Hoops' forwards, his ability to sneak a goal could be the difference between defeat and another historic night.
Benfica will be heavy favourites in their own backyard and coming off the back of four straight wins in all competitions, but the Hoops' penchant for great European nights may just see them earn a vital point.