TEAM NEWS: Alexis and Pedro partner Messi in attack for Barcelona against Benfica

Tito Vilanova hands a start to the Chilean and the 25-year-old Spaniard as the Catalans travel to Portugal, and Carles Puyol also returns from injury to make the first XI

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has named Alexis Sanchez and Pedro in his three-pronged attack as the Catalan side travel to Lisbon to take on Benfica in Group G of the Champions League this evening. The duo will partner Lionel Messi, who will start the match in the ‘false 9’ role.

The Spanish Primera Division side also receive a massive boost at the back as club captain Carles Puyol returns from injury to partner Javier Mascherano in the centre of defence. A trio of Xavi, Sergio Busquets, and Cesc Fabregas start for Barcelona in a strong midfield named by Vilanova.

Benfica also start the match fielding a 4-3-3 formation. New signing Lima has been handed a Champions League debut for Jorge Jesus as regular starting striker Oscar Cardozo is out injured. Bruno Cesar, Nemanja Matic and Enzo Perez start for the hosts in what is a competitive midfield trio.

Brazilian defender Jardel continues to partner Ezequiel Garay in the centre of defence, with Benfica captain Luisao currently serving a two-month suspension.

Benfica (4-3-3): Artur; Maxi Pereira, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo; Bruno Cesar, Matic, Perez; Salvio, Lima, Gaitan.

Subs: Paulo Lopes, Miguel Vitor, Andre Almeida, Nolito, Aimar, Carlos Martins, Rodrigo.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc; Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

Subs: Pinto, Adriano, Iniesta, Song, Sergi Roberto, Villa, Tello.