Celtic - Benfica Preview: Hoops looking to continue 100% home record in Europe this season
The Old Firm club fell foul to St Johnstone in the SPL last time out, but the Scottish champions will undoubtedly step up their game against their Portuguese opponents
By Sion Cleaver
Lustig, Wilson, Mulgrew, Izaguirre
Forrest, Wanyama, Brown, Commons
Pereira, Vitor, Garay, Melgarejo
Salvio, Martins, Aimar, Nolito
Celtic will be without mercurial striker Georgios Samaras (thigh) for the visit of Benfica after the Greek forward pick up an injury on international duty.
Scott Brown (hip) has expressed his desire to step up his recovery in recent weeks but the clash at Parkhead is likely to come too early for him.
Thomas Rogne was recently fined by the Glasgow club after making comments on Twitter about his disappointment over his contract, and it is unclear whether he will be included or not.
The visitors may be without experienced defender Luisao. The Brazilian has been given a two-month domestic ban after an incident in pre-season and, while the suspension does not directly affect European football, he is unlikely to play.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Celtic are competing in the group stage for the seventh time and have made it to the last 16 twice before.
- Neil Lennon's side have already posted two victories at home in this season's competition, beating HJK Helsinki 2-1 in the third qualifying round and Helsingborgs 2-0 in the play-offs.
- Benfica reached the quarter-finals last season, their best campaign since 2005-06 and only the third time they have got beyond the group stage in seven attempts.
- The Lisbon club went five away games unbeaten from the third qualifying round through the group stage last season, but lost their knockout matches at Zenit St Petersburg and Chelsea.
- The two sides faced each other in the 2007-08 group stage, each picking up a 1-0 win.
- Celtic have recorded nine wins and one draw from ten home matches against Portuguese opponents. Their most recent visitors were SC Braga for a Champions League qualifier in 2010-11 but a 2-1 victory failed to undo the damage of a 3-0 away defeat in Neil Lennon's first European tie as manager.
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Top 3 Predictions
Celtic 1-2 Benfica
- 19.83 %
Celtic 1-1 Benfica
- 13.97 %
Celtic 2-1 Benfica
- 12.29 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 20, 2012||Benfica 2 - Celtic 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Sep 19, 2012||Celtic 0 - Benfica 0|
|Nov 26, 2013||Celtic 0 - AC Milan 3||UCL|
|Nov 6, 2013||Ajax 1 - Celtic 0||UCL|
|Oct 22, 2013||Celtic 2 - Ajax 1||UCL|
|Oct 1, 2013||Celtic 0 - FC Barcelona 1||UCL|
|Sep 18, 2013||AC Milan 2 - Celtic 0||UCL|
|33||Jardel Nivaldo Vieira||Defender|
|20||Osvaldo Nicolás Fabián Gaitán||Midfielder|
|35||Enzo Nicolás Pérez||Midfielder|
The former Nottingham Forest midfielder has a keen eye for goal and will look to break forward in support of Gary Hooper and Miku. The Scotland international has already scored five goals in eight appearances so far this term.
The Paraguayan striker is always one of Benfica's biggest threats and has already proved to be a match-winner in this fixture before, hitting the only goal of the game when the sides met in October 2007.
Celtic endured a disastrous afternoon against St Johnstone at the weekend, while Benfica have started the season in fine form, winning two and drawing the other of their three games so far this season. The Aguias are likely to continue their good run despite a boisterous atmosphere at Parkhead.