Champions League quarter-final second leg preview: Benfica v Bayern Munich
Benfica coach Rui Vitória declared himself happy with a slim 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their quarter-final, with the reverse fixture held at Estádio da Luz on Wednesday.
Arturo Vidal put Bayern ahead in the first few minutes of the game but Bayern could not find a second goal as Benfica’s defence held firm following their early lapse.
Ahead of the game, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola had described Benfica’s back line as the best in Europe and the Primeira Liga leaders lived up to that lofty billing.
Bayern are in control of the tie as they seek to reach the last-four of the Champions League for the fifth year in a row, while Benfica are trying to make it to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 1990.
The head-to-head record does not look good for Benfica, who have been beaten by Bayern all three times they have previously played the Bundesliga league leaders. In fact, whenever Bayern have been drawn against Benfica in European tournaments, they have gone on to reach the final, so the omens are good for Guardiola’s side.
However, the last three times that Benfica have lost the away game in a two-legged tie they have managed to overturn the deficit to go through to the next round, so all is not lost for Vitória’s men.
Jonas a huge loss
If Benfica are to make it into the semi-finals of the Champions League, they will have to do so without their star striker Jonas, who is suspended after collecting a booking in the first leg.
Jonas has scored 32 goals for his side this season, with two of those strikes coming in Europe, and he had the best opportunities in the first leg but found his path to goal blocked by Bayern’s excellent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
The absence of Jonas means that Benfica will have to rely on Kostas Mitroglou for goals. The Greek international has scored 19 goals this season, including a brace in his team’s recent home thrashing of Braga. German-speaking Mitroglou had spells in the youth teams of MSV Duisburg and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier in his career, so will be familiar with opponents from the Bundesliga, although he is perhaps still best known for being an expensive flop at Fulham.
Benfica fantasy players to watch
Nicolás Gaitán was not at his best in the first leg of the tie, with the Argentinian playmaker struggling to make an impact against a Bayern side that seemed content with a 1-0 win. Benfica rely heavily on the creative talents of Gaitán, who has scored four goals and provided three assists in his side’s run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League this season. Gaitán is Benfica’s highest valued player on DraftKings at $6,400.
The absence of Jonas could free up a place in the Benfica front line for Mexican forward Raúl Jiménez, who has matched the two competition goals scored by Jonas and Mitroglou despite having limited opportunities to impress. Both of his goals came in a 2-2 draw at Astana in the group stage and Bayern represent a major step up in class from that moderate opposition.
Ederson Moraes is likely to continue to deputise in the Benfica goal for his compatriot, the experienced Brazilian Julio César, who missed the first leg due to injury.
Bayern fantasy players to watch
Daily fantasy football players who are backing Bayern in this tie are really spoiled for choice.
Robert Lewandowski lacked influence in the first leg but his season’s goal tally of 38 for club and country – eight of which have come in the Champions League – cannot be ignored.
Thiago Alcántara makes Bayern tick in their midfield and the Spaniard has been their best player in the competition this season according to WhoScored, who rate him at a whopping 8.36 for his European showings, which have yielded four assists and a solitary goal so far.
Franck Ribéry is just back to fitness but Guardiola was delighted with his first leg performance, the Frenchman’s prodigious work rate and ability on the ball causing many problems for Benfica.
At the back, Neuer is arguably Europe’s finest goalkeeper and David Alaba is once again expected to partner young Joshua Kimmich due to Bayern’s continued defensive injuries, although Javi Martínez is on his way back to full fitness.