Barcelona - Benfica Preview: Eagles may need to end 30-year drought against Spanish opposition to qualify
The Lisbon side last won across the border in 1982 and may well need a repeat of that success on Wednesday if they are to ensure their place in the last 16
By Tom Webber
Montoya, Pique, Puyol, Alba
Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta
Pedro, Messi, Villa
M. Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Melgarejo
Salvio, Matic, Gaitan, Perez
Benfica will need to at least equal Celtic's result against Spartak Moscow if they are to qualify from Champions League Group G alongside Barcelona, who have already been confirmed as group winners.
Yet Barcelona are expected to name a strong line-up, with Lionel Messi still expected to feature as he chases down Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year.
Martin Montoya may start at right-back as Dani Alves remains sidelined through injury, while Xavi is likely to be given a rest so Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta will line up in midfield. This will enable David Villa to move into the starting line-up, attacking from the left with Pedro from the right.
Knowing they may well need to pick up their first win against Spanish opposition in 30 years, Benfica will name their strongest possible XI. Oscar Cardozo will lead the line alongside Lima and Nicolas Gaitan will play at the tip of a diamond midfield between the duo.
Luisao will make just his second appearance in this season's competition following his two-month suspension for pushing over a referee in pre-season.
|DID YOU KNOW?|Whenever these two clubs have met the winners have gone on to be European champions, beginning with Bela Guttmann's Benfica side in 1961.
- The Eagles have won none of their previous 13 fixtures against Spanish opposition, not picking up a win since victory against Real Betis in the 1982 Uefa Cup.
- Ezequiel Garay (pictured, right) featured for Real Madrid as los Blancos defeated the Catalan side in the 2011 Copa del Rey final.
- After beating the Blaugrana in the 1961 final, Benfica retained their trophy the following with a 5-3 triumph over Real Madrid.
- Barcelona have emerged victorious in their previous 10 encounters at home versus Portuguese opponents.
- Lionel Messi's double on matchday 5 saw him equal Ruud Van Nistelrooy's 56 Champions League goals. Only Raul now lies above the Argentine with 71 strikes in the competition.
- Victor Valdes, Javier Mascherano and Messi are the only players to have featured for their side for every minute in Europe this season.
- Barcelona secured their place in the 1992 final with a 2-1 win over a Benfica side coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson.
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Top 3 Predictions
FC Barcelona 3-0 Benfica
- 20.18 %
FC Barcelona 3-1 Benfica
- 14.32 %
FC Barcelona 4-0 Benfica
- 10.04 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Dec 5, 2012||FC Barcelona 0 - Benfica 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Oct 2, 2012||Benfica 0 - FC Barcelona 2|
|Dec 6, 2013||F.C. Cartagena 1 - FC Barcelona 4||ESPC|
|Dec 1, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 1 - FC Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Nov 26, 2013||Ajax 2 - FC Barcelona 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||FC Barcelona 4 - Granada 0||LIGA|
|Nov 10, 2013||Betis 1 - FC Barcelona 4||LIGA|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|12||Jonathan Dos Santos||Midfielder|
|33||Jardel Nivaldo Vieira||Defender|
|20||Osvaldo Nicolás Fabián Gaitán||Midfielder|
Not much can be said about the mercurial Argentine that has not already. His unbelievable brilliance has put him in touch with Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a single calendar year and he will be desperate to match, and possibly better, that when the Eagles visit Camp Nou. He will certainly be on top of his game and extremely hungry to find the net, making him more of a nuisance than he would have already been. Few would bet against Messi being the decisive factor in any game, but with such a record on the line it is hard to see him shying away.
The Paraguay international has impressed in his debut Champions League campaign with some impressive performances at left-back. His rampaging forward runs could well be key to any joy Benfica can get, and he could exploit Martin Montoya at right-back. Not only is his pace blistering but his delivery has also proven to be of a consistently high quality and Jorge Jesus will be looking for him to supply ammunition to the target man up front - Oscar Cardozo.
It will be a tall order for Benfica to leave Camp Nou a positive result and having already been defeated by Celtic in the group stage, it is unlikely Barcelona will surrender willingly. Should the hosts chose to rest a few players then they still have enough quality to provide a stern test for the Portuguese side who may need their first win on Spanish soil since 1982. But with Lionel Messi in the side, looking for his 85th goal of 2012, it is hard to see past the Catalan giants as they look to step up their quest to regain the Champions League trophy.